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My wife and I started investing for our two children within days after we brought them home from the hospital.

I know, I know. That makes it sound easy. But the only reason we were able to put our money to work so soon was because of the hours and hours of research we put in before our babies were born.

“What are the best investments for kids?” “What kind of investment account is best for a newborn?” “How can we maximize tax advantages for our children as they invest?” These are just a handful of the questions my wife and I sought to find out—and truth be told, many financial sites only provided partial answers, while others even provided downright inaccurate information.

This frustrating search is why I started Young & The Invested (now WealthUp), and why I’m writing this article (and many other related posts).

Investing for kids is a difficult subject, and parents aren’t exactly flush with time to bounce from site to site, trying to get a complete picture of how to ensure a financially sound future for their children. So my goal is to give you what I could have used back then: a treasure trove of trustworthy information and useful resources that you can use, from birth until well after your children have gone off to college.

We’ll start with one of the most important topics: the best investments for kids. Once we’re done with that, we’ll also tell you which of the best investment accounts for kids can hold these different assets, and where you might be able to find some tax advantages that will further put your children ahead of the curve.

Let’s get started!

Investing for Kids: How Can I Invest for My Child?


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The Best Investments for Kids


Here are seven popular, typically easy-to-access assets you can hold for your children, or that they can hold in their own investment account.

1. Stocks


young man woman smartphones apps
Stocks are one of the best investments for kids for a number of reasons. Among them:

  • They have higher rates of returns than just about any other asset class.
  • They can be held in numerous types of investment accounts.
  • They can be relatable.

In my opinion, the best stocks for kids come from companies that kids are more likely to interact with and/or understand. In short, a stock is simply a piece of ownership in a company. It allows you to profit from a company’s success—most commonly, from price appreciation in shares of the stock, but in several cases, also from cash distributions (dividends) the company makes to shareholders.

When it comes to investing for kids, stocks that can both grow and pay dividends are the ultimate holding given just how much in additional returns they can generate over the long term.

Here’s a look at the return someone could expect if they received just the price returns from the S&P 500 over the past 25 years:

S&P 500 return 25 years 082422

Now look at how much better the return is when you factor in dividends (if you had reinvested the dividends back into the S&P 500):

S&P 500 total return 25 years 082422

The price return is about 4.5x. The total return (price plus dividends) is more than 7x!

All of the child investment plans mentioned throughout the article will allow you to hold stocks in some form or fashion, whether that’s through individual stocks, or mutual or exchange-traded funds.

Fidelity Youth™ Account (Top Investing App for Teens)


fidelity youth account art 2024

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Price: No account fees¹, no account minimum, no trading commissions*
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Is your teen interested in jumpstarting their financial future? Do you want them to build smart money habits along the way?

Of course you do! Learning early about saving, spending and investing can pay off big when you start on the right foot. And one tool that can help your teen get that jump is the Fidelity Youth Account—an account for teens 13 to 17 that’s designed to help them start their money journey. Teens own the account themselves and can start investing in most U.S. stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and Fidelity mutual funds for as little as $1!³

Your teen will also get a free debit card with no subscription fees, no account fees, no minimum balances, and no domestic ATM fees². And they can use this free debit card for teens to manage their cash and spend it whenever they need.

And as for building smart money habits? You and your teen can access the account through the Fidelity Youth™ app, which has a dedicated Learn tab packed with materials developed specifically to help teens develop good financial habits. Not only will Fidelity’s interactive lessons, videos, articles, tools, and calculators accelerate their learning—but for every level they complete, reward dollars will be deposited into their account to use however they want.

Controls parents want and need

A parent or guardian must have or open a brokerage account with Fidelity® to open a Fidelity Youth Account. For new Fidelity® customers, opening an account is easy, and there are no minimums and no account fees.

Having a Fidelity account gives parents and guardians access to plenty of tools they can use to monitor their teen’s activity: They have online account access, can follow monthly statements and trade confirmations, and can view debit card transactions made in the account.

To make it even easier, you can set up alerts to notify you of your teen’s trades, transactions, and cash management activity, keeping you firmly in the loop on actions your teen takes across the Fidelity Youth Account’s suite of products.

If your teen has an interest in learning about investing, becoming smarter about money, and taking their first steps toward building their financial journey, you should consider downloading the Fidelity Youth app and opening a Fidelity Youth Account. The account comes custom-built for their needs, which will help them become financially independent and start investing for their future.

Read more in our Fidelity Youth Account review.

Related: 11 Best Commission-Free Stock Trading Apps & Platforms

2. Mutual Funds for Kids


mutual fund etf cef pie chart child
Stocks are great, but you can put yourself at great risk if you spread your investment money across just a handful of them. Think about it: Companies do fail, and when they do, their stocks can go to zero. Well, if you have $10,000 invested evenly across just four stocks, and one of them goes to zero, your whole investment account has just lost 25% of its value! When it comes to investing for kids, we also suggest mutual funds.

Mutual funds are a pool of money, gathered from a large group of investors, that is invested in a large group of assets—typically stocks, bonds, or a combination of the two. A mutual fund might have a portfolio of dozens or even hundreds of stocks, so by investing in the mutual fund, you’re investing in that wide portfolio of stocks.

This can provide an important attribute called “diversification,” in which you reduce your risk by spreading out your money across many different investments. And you can diversify in a number of ways, such as holding:

  • Different stocks in one area of the market (say a sector, such as technology)
  • Different stocks across different sectors
  • Different stocks across different countries
  • Even different assets (say, stocks, bonds, and commodities like gold or oil)

Here’s how it works.

When you buy a mutual fund, you do so at a given price. That price is based on the net asset value (NAV) of the fund, which is the value of all the securities (stocks, bonds, etc.) held by the fund. When the value of those securities changes (when stock or bond prices go up or down), the NAV is adjusted accordingly. This price changes at the end of each market trading day.

Also, be aware that there are two primary types of funds: actively managed and passively managed.

Most mutual funds are actively managed, which means that one or more human investors are buying and selling investments based on their stock research and the investment strategy of the fund. Portfolio managers typically are trying to outperform a comparable benchmark (say, the S&P 500 Index, or the Bloomberg US Aggregate Bond Index).

However, some mutual funds are passively managed, and these are often referred to as index funds. As the name suggests, rather than trying to beat a benchmark like the S&P 500, index funds typically follow all the rules a particular index does, providing you with similar investment returns. Because they’re usually run by computer algorithms, rather than human managers, investing in index funds provides similar diversification with typically lower expenses.

You can hold a mutual fund in a number of investment accounts, including individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 529 plans, and education savings accounts (ESAs). (We’ll talk more about this in detail down below.)

529s With Backer


backer sign up

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Price: $1.99 per gift or contribution

A great option to consider is Backer. Backer, a hassle-free 529 Savings Plan where your family and friends can play a role, has helped families save over $20 million towards college in just minutes.

You can use the 529 plan to put your child on track to afford college; all while remaining invested in an asset class that will grow over time.

You are able to invest using Backer’s portfolio of low-cost index funds including: large company stocks (S&P 500), small cap stocks (Russell 2000) international company shares (MSCI EAFE Index), U.S. government bonds (Barclays Aggregate Bond Index).

Related: 10 Best Debit Cards for Teens [Reviewed by a Father + CPA]

3. Exchange-Traded Funds


pie chart mutual fund etf cef index
If you’re investing for kids, you might also want to consider exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

ETFs are similar to mutual funds in that they hold a typically diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, and/or other investments. But ETFs have become much more popular over the past couple decades because of how they differ from traditional funds.

For one, ETFs don’t settle just once a day—instead, they trade on the stock market exchanges during regular trading hours. This makes them popular among people who want to trade them quickly in a brokerage account.

Also, unlike their mutual-fund brethren, which are primarily actively managed, most ETFs are index funds. ETFs tend to be much cheaper on average as a result. (However, even actively managed ETFs can be cheaper than comparable mutual funds.)

You can also see what an ETF holds on any given day (versus just a quarterly snapshot for mutual fund holdings), and ETFs also boast certain tax advantages that also help their returns versus similar mutual funds.

Custodial Accounts With InteractiveBrokers


interactivebrokers sign up

  • ​​Available: Sign up here
  • Price: IBKR Lite: Commission-free trading. IBKR Pro: Minimal commissions*

InteractiveBrokers is a well-known and well-respected brokerage company providing services across multiple asset classes, countries and account types. Widely regarded as a leading brokerage for advanced traders, the service also extends its investing chops to minors through their UGMA/UTMA custodial accounts at a price point many have become accustomed to in the discount brokerage world: free.

These products hold assets in a single account and have them be managed by a custodian on behalf of the account owner (the minor beneficiary). The individual custodian has access to all functions within the account, including making investment decisions, withdrawals and how the account is managed. The account carries no trading commissions nor ongoing account fees.

Custodial accounts through InteractiveBrokers are only available cash accounts and cannot use margin. To get started with opening your InteractiveBrokers custodial account, visit their site here.

Related: 11 Best Stock Portfolio Tracking Apps [Stock Portfolio Trackers]

4. Savings Bonds


us savings bonds
When my parents invested for me in the 1990s, they did so by purchasing savings bonds in my name. My parents used these savings bonds so I would have money set aside to pay for education expenses.*

Parents, grandparents, family friends and anyone else interested in investing for kids still have access to these virtually zero-risk financial products. But the process is a little different.

Previously, you would buy and sell physical savings bonds at a financial institution. Now, you buy savings bonds online through TreasuryDirect.gov. You can still sell these bonds at some financial institutions (just make sure to ask your bank if they offer the service), or you can sell them online at TreasuryDirect.

A savings bond is a great investment because it’s allowed to grow tax-free. However, you still must pay federal income tax on the bond when you redeem it.

The rates on these bonds have fallen dramatically in the last decade. However, if you buy Series EE savings bonds, the U.S. Treasury guarantees that your investment will at least double if you hold it for a full 20 years.

Consider investing in savings bonds if you plan to start at least 20 years in advance and want a virtually riskless investment for your child’s future. Otherwise, the investment options above are better options if you’re less concerned about risk and want to maximize upside potential.

Also, parents might be wondering whether other types of bonds, such as investment-grade corporate bonds, are right when investing for kids. While these are good investments that can offer less risk than stocks but more yield than basic savings accounts, it’s typically difficult to invest in them individually. So if you want to invest in bonds, it’s typically best to do so through a mutual fund or ETF.

* Thankfully, once I reached college, I had earned enough scholarships and found enough financial assistance that I didn’t need the money. However, I still used the savings bonds—I cashed them out and began investing in the stock market as a teenager. And in fact, I did well enough that I used the proceeds to buy my first condo after graduate school!

5. Cash


superhero cash dividends income
Cash has perhaps the least upside of any investment. It won’t grow (unless it’s invested or put into a savings account), and in fact, it will actually lose purchasing power thanks to inflation.

But it’s the most flexible gift you can give—cash can be used for virtually anything.

There are limits if you’d like to stay within bounds on the tax implications. You can gift up to the annual gift tax exclusion per person, an amount that currently stands at $18,000. You can give up to this limit to as many people as you want annually without needing to pay the gift tax.

Married couples can combine their annual exclusions to give up to $36,000 ($18,000 x 2) to as many individuals as they like per year—tax-free in 2024.

As a parent, you can provide a financial gift for a child up to the annual exclusion each year without paying taxes. These gifts can help to pay for education expenses, a car, wedding or even a home down payment.

If you gift in excess of the annual exclusion, that value counts against the lifetime exemption from estate taxes, which comes to $13.61 million per individual and $27.22 million per couple in 2024.

6. Annuities


european money growth eggshell

Annuities are insurance contracts that make a series of payments at regular intervals.

Depending on the annuity, payments can start immediately or sometime in the future. However, when it comes to investing for kids, our suggestion is deferred annuities, which are better long-term investments because there’s ample time for the money to grow.

When you invest in annuities, you have several decisions to make. For instance, you must decide whether you want the annuity to pay out in a lump sum or a series of payments. You also can choose between fixed annuities, which pay a guaranteed interest rate, or variable annuities, which are riskier but can provide higher overall returns.

7. Insurance Policies


yellow umbrella standout unique different

If you want a child to receive your life insurance after you die, make sure you arrange your policy in a way that will avoid attorney and court fees from cutting into their benefits.

You can designate that the proceeds from a life insurance policy are paid to a custodian who will hold it in a custodial account for the child. The custodian is required to distribute the funds to the child as per your wishes.

Money in a custodial account can only be used to directly benefit the child. The adult in charge of the account can’t spend the insurance money on themselves.

Your Gateway to Investing: Open a Savings Account for Kids


Starting to save can seem daunting, but parents can address this and other good money habits head-on by making it an easy task for kids through repetition and understanding.

And what better way of doing that than opening a savings account?

If you want to help your children build a savings balance or even help them open an account through a banking app for minors to handle money from their allowance or a part-time job, you’ve got numerous options. And doing so will provide your child to earn some interest while also learning how to bank.

And when they’re ready to upgrade, teen checking accounts even come with debit cards for kids and teens that allow parents to monitor spending and set guardrails for how they spend.

When choosing among youth savings accounts, pay attention to the following characteristics:

  • Interest rate (Generally, the higher the interest rate, the better)
  • Fees (Generally, the lower the fees, the better)
  • Minimum balance requirements (low minimum balance requirements are good for young children, who have little to no income)
  • How your child can access the funds
  • How the savings account will grow with them as they mature

Related: Best Prepaid Debit Cards for Teens & Families [Reloadable]

Investment Accounts for Kids: Which Assets Should You Put in Each?


kid investment father son saving piggy bank

1. Joint Brokerage Account

When you open a brokerage account for yourself, you open an individual brokerage account. Only your name will appear on the account title as the owner. Conversely, if you decide to open a brokerage account jointly with two or more people who share in account ownership, you’re electing to open a joint brokerage account.

Brokerage accounts typically exist between spouses, and can even be opened by two or more individuals who share financial goals (say, unmarried partners or business partners). But to the point of investing for kids, joint brokerage accounts also can be opened between multiple family members (say, a parent and child).

When a parent and child have a jointly owned brokerage account, they can share in the decision-making of what to buy and sell. And opening one is easy: Many investing apps for kids allow you to open a joint brokerage account.

Financial assets you can hold within a joint brokerage account:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Cash

2. Custodial Account

Custodial accounts allow an adult to maintain financial assets for another person, usually a child. The assets held in the account are owned by the beneficiary but managed by the custodian. Parents with interest in investing on behalf of their children often use a custodial account to invest for their kids.

When the child reaches the age of majority, generally 18 or 21, but sometimes as old as 25, the assets held in the custodial account revert to the owner’s control. The account owner can withdraw money from their custodial brokerage account for any needs they may have.

Custodial accounts come in two types: Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) accounts and Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts. You can check out the full breakdown of UGMA vs. UTMA, but most important is that UGMA accounts can be used to hold financial assets. UTMA accounts can hold financial assets, too, but also any property—say, real estate or cars.

Financial assets you can hold within a custodial account:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • ETFs
  • Mutual funds
  • Cash
  • Annuities
  • Life insurance policies

Related: Best Bar Mitzvah Gift Ideas [Financial Gift Ideas That Last]

3. Individual Retirement Account (IRAs)

Individual retirement accounts allow you to set aside earned income toward your retirement savings in a tax-smart way. These accounts come in two primary forms:

  • Traditional IRA: If you contribute to a Traditional IRA, you set aside pretax dollars that invest over time, allowing you to take a tax deduction now. However, you will have to pay taxes when you withdraw money later.
  • Roth IRA: A Roth IRA allows you to invest after-tax dollars. By contributing to this tax-advantaged savings account, your Roth IRA contributions can grow tax-free. You can also withdraw from your Roth IRA without paying taxes.

Both accounts come with annual contribution limits equal to the lesser of your earned income or $7,000 per year in 2024. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute an extra $1,000.

When investing money in an IRA, you’ve got several types of investment strategies you can utilize for securing your financial future. IRAs offer access to assets extending beyond just traditional classes, such as alternatives.

Financial assets you can hold within an IRA:

  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Exchange-traded funds
  • Mutual funds
  • Cash
  • Alternatives

4. 529 Plans

529 plans are special tax-advantaged investment accounts for kids and adults saving for education expenses. The account allows you to contribute after-tax dollars that grow tax-free if used to pay for qualified education expenses for a designated beneficiary.

These investment vehicles are set up to defray the costs of formal education (keeping your child from piling up student loan debt) and have minimal impact on your financial aid eligibility. You’ve got two types of 529 plans:

  • College savings plans: These accounts work much like a Roth IRA or 401(k), allowing you to invest after-tax dollars into mutual funds and other investment options. Your contributions grow tax-free, but how much they grow will depend on the performance of the investment options you choose to hold in your account.
  • Prepaid tuition plans: Prepaid tuition plans allow you to pay all or a part of your public in-state college education costs. Generally, you can also convert the money to go toward a private or out-of-state college as well.

529 college savings plans offer a more limited universe of investment options as compared to joint brokerage accounts, custodial accounts, or IRAs. Most offer access to mutual funds administered at the state level, meaning each state offers different investment options. However, you can choose to invest in one state’s funds and still use the proceeds to send your child to a college in a different state.

Financial assets you can hold within a 529 plan:

  • Mutual funds
  • Cash

5. Coverdell Plans

A Coverdell education savings account (ESA) is a custodial account or trust created to pay for a designated beneficiary’s educational expenses. Coverdell ESAs are lesser-known than 529 savings plans, but work similarly.

They also offer tax-free earnings growth and tax-free withdrawals, as long as the funds are spent on qualified education expenses.

However, the benefit doesn’t apply only to higher education expenses. Qualified elementary and secondary expenses count as well.

The account must be established prior to the beneficiary becoming an adult, unless the recipient has special needs. Contributions must be made in cash and aren’t deductible. Total contributions to the beneficiary can’t exceed $2,000 in any given year.

Financial assets you can hold within Coverdell plans:

  • Mutual funds
  • Cash

Where to Open Bank and Investment Accounts for Children


Now that you know a little more about the types of child investment plans and accounts available for you to open on behalf of your children, you might want to consider which investment options to pick.

Thankfully, there are many all-in-one money apps for kids, allowing your kids to start saving, learn about spending and also how to invest money for the first time.

Fidelity Youth™ Account (Our Top Teen Investing App Pick)


fidelity youth account art 2024

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Price: No account fees¹, no account minimum, no trading commissions*
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Related: Best Investment Apps for Beginners

E*Trade (Our Top Pick for Custodial IRAs)


etrade signup invest

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Most people know E*Trade as one of the leading providers of individual brokerage accounts, but you can also put the powerful platform to work saving for your child’s future.

E*Trade’s IRA for Minors offering allows you to open up a traditional custodial IRA or a custodial Roth IRA for children under age 18 who have earned income. Within the account, you can build a personalized portfolio through thousands of stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds, or you can have E*Trade select your holdings for you through its Core Portfolio robo-advisory service.

Just like with its individual brokerage accounts, E*Trade custodial IRAs offer zero-commission stock, ETF, and options trading. It also has a leg up on some platforms by offering $0-commission mutual fund trading.

And if you want to learn more about investing—or want your young one to learn alongside you—E*Trade also boasts educational resources, including articles, videos, classes, monthly webinars, and even live events.

Visit E*Trade to learn more or sign up today.

Related: How to Open a Bank Account for a Minor: Steps, What You Need

How to Gift Investments for Kids


teenager teen daughter parent mother finance bank account online

You can either donate shares without first selling them, or gift the shares straight to your kids. If you want to invest for your children, there are lots of different options.

Now that you’ve reviewed some of the best money apps for teens and kids above, you may want to supercharge their investment account balance by gifting stock.

Transferring stocks from your account to theirs requires additional steps and considerations that may not be obvious beforehand and require additional steps than simply depositing cash.

Capital Gains Taxes

You are on the hook for capital gains taxes when you sell your stocks and make a profit. If you transfer appreciating assets like stock at a gain, neither party will pay any capital gain at the time of transfer. Your basis and holding period transfer with the stock position.

This can be a way to show your kids how to increase net worth.

Gift Tax Rules

Next, as we’ve covered a few times above, you should also understand gift tax rules. For most individuals, this won’t pose a problem so long as the annual amount of gifted stock falls below $18,000 per person (or $36,000 per married couple filing jointly) in 2024.

Financial Control

Finally, you’ll also want to consider how to maintain control over these positions. Giving stocks as gifts means that you surrender control of the stocks to those who receive them.

One way to invest for your children or grandchildren is through establishing a trust. Limitations can be put on the funds given in this type of investment.

Consider this resource for learning more on how to gift stock.

Related


Terms and Conditions for Fidelity Youth™ Account

The Fidelity Youth Account can only be opened by a parent/guardian. Account eligibility limited to teens aged 13-17.

* $0.00 commission applies to online U.S. equity trades and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) in a Fidelity retail account only for Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC retail clients. Sell orders are subject to an activity assessment fee (from $0.01 to $0.03 per $1,000 of principal). Other exclusions and conditions may apply. See Fidelity.com/commissions for details. Employee equity compensation transactions and accounts managed by advisors or intermediaries through Fidelity Clearing & Custody Solutions® are subject to different commission schedules. 

¹ Zero account minimums and zero account fees apply to retail brokerage accounts only.  Expenses charged by investments (e.g., funds, managed accounts, and certain HSAs) and commissions, interest charges, or other expenses for transactions may still apply. See Fidelity.com/commissions for further details.

² Your Youth Account will automatically be reimbursed for all ATM fees charged by other institutions while using the Fidelity® Debit Card at any ATM displaying the Visa®, Plus®, or Star® logos. The reimbursement will be credited to the account the same day the ATM fee is debited. Please note, for foreign transactions, there may be a 1% fee included in the amount charged to  your account. The Fidelity® Debit Card is issued by PNC Bank, N.A, and the debit card program is administered by BNY Mellon Investment Servicing Trust Company. These entities are not affiliated with each other, and Fidelity is not affiliated with PNC Bank or BNY Mellon. Visa is a registered trademark of Visa International Service Association, and is used by PNC Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.

³ Fractional shares quantities can be entered out to 3 decimal places (.001) as long as the value of the order is at least $0.01.  Dollar-based trades can be entered out to 2 decimal places (e.g. $250.00)

Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Member NYSE, SIPC 900 Salem Street, Smithfield, RI 02917

About the Author

Riley Adams is the Founder and CEO of WealthUp (previously Young and the Invested). He is a licensed CPA who worked at Google as a Senior Financial Analyst overseeing advertising incentive programs for the company’s largest advertising partners and agencies. Previously, he worked as a utility regulatory strategy analyst at Entergy Corporation for six years in New Orleans.

His work has appeared in major publications like Kiplinger, MarketWatch, MSN, TurboTax, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, The Globe and Mail, and CNBC’s Acorns. Riley currently holds areas of expertise in investing, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies and personal finance where he has been cited as an authoritative source in outlets like CNBC, Time, NBC News, APM’s Marketplace, HuffPost, Business Insider, Slate, NerdWallet, Investopedia, The Balance and Fast Company.

Riley holds a Masters of Science in Applied Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Centenary College of Louisiana.