Want a challenge? Try coming up with gift ideas for a child.
You want to give a child something they’ll enjoy. But you also don’t want it to break after just a couple of uses. You’d probably also like it to be something educational. You might even want it to have real, lasting value over the years.
That’s a lot of boxes to check—but one particular idea can hit them all.
Financial gifts are a perfect idea for the babies, children, kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, and other youngsters in your life. Not only can they enjoy these kinds of gifts, but they’re also at the perfect age to benefit from them. What they learn now will grow over time through repetition and learned behavior. And financially, they can benefit more than most from compounding returns.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all money gift. So today, we’ll walk you through all of the various financial gifts you can give to babies, kids, and grandchildren—during their holidays, for their birthdays, heck, even for National Play Your Ukulele Day. (No, really.) But no matter which of these ideas you try out, you can feel confident knowing that a head start on growing finances and learning about money will make for a memorable gift.
Best Financial Gifts for Babies, Kids and Grandkids
Open a Fidelity Youth™ Account for your teen, and Fidelity will drop $50 into their account. Get $100 for yourself when you open a new Fidelity account and fund with $50¹.
$2.95/mo. for one child. $4.95/mo. for families with 2+ children.
What Is a Financial Gift?
A financial gift is simply a gift that deals with money or assets. It can be as simple as cash in an envelope or a birthday gift card, or as complex as a Roth IRA.
The IRS has a drier definition, but one that’s worth noting for tax purposes: “[A financial gift is] any transfer to an individual, either directly or indirectly, where full consideration (measured in money or money’s worth) is not received in return.”
Financial gifts are a popular way to provide support for children and grandchildren, as well as close friends or family members, whether they live next door or in another country. They also come in all shapes and sizes, so you always want to have the recipient’s needs in mind. If you’re thinking about financial gifts for kids, ask yourself questions such as:
- What kind of impact will this gift make?
- What is the child (and family’s) financial situation?
- Will this gift make a difference over time?
Like we said, financial gifts run the gamut—from a $5 bill to things like 529 college savings plans, donor-advised funds, life insurance policies, trust funds, and more! So let’s run through some of the most popular financial gifts for kids, and which ones make the most sense for certain situations.
Financial Gifts for Babies
Financial gifts for babies, believe it or not, include a pretty wide set of options.
Some people like providing immediate financial assistance for a newborn and their parents, like helping to pay bills or buying necessities such as diapers. But gifts can be as long-term in nature as setting up a 529 plan to pay for future tuition expenses or buying savings bonds so the child can eventually buy their first car.
Check out a few financial gifts for newborns below:
1. Baby Funds
A great gift for expecting parents involves setting up a baby fund.
A baby fund is basically just a savings account whose money will go toward baby-related expenses, before and/or after the child arrives. Some parents will set up these baby-specific savings accounts for themselves, but in some cases, interested family and/or friends will establish a separate account for gifting purposes.
Either way, this type of account acts like an added financial cushion for new parents hoping to avoid going into debt for making a purchase to support their newborn baby.
You could also open a money market account, which would allow more spending options from the account itself. Another idea is to get a certificate of deposit (CD), which would allow you to earn more interest on the baby fund’s dollars than a traditional savings account; however, CDs lock up the money for a set period of time, so you’d want to make sure the money could be accessed by the time the baby is born.
One last tip: If you’re looking to open a baby fund, keep an eye out for sign-up bonuses to jumpstart the savings. Every little bit counts.
2. 529 Plans (Best Investment for Education)
529 plans are a special savings vehicle that enjoys tax advantages meant to encourage people to put money away for their children’s (and other youths’) educational expenses.
Also commonly referred to as “529 educational plans” or “529 college savings plans,” these plans are a lot more versatile than they used to be. Previously, you could only use the funds in these accounts for qualified education expenses for college. But tax reform widely broadened the eligible universe of qualified expenses.
“Qualified expenses range from tuition, fees, books, supplies, certain room and board expenses, in addition to several other costs,” says James Colavita, Senior Wealth Advisor at wealth management firm GenTrust. That’s not just for post-secondary schools. Funds can also be used for elementary and secondary expenses—up to $10,000 per year—regardless of whether the school is public or private. You can also pay off existing student loans for not just the 529 beneficiary, but even the beneficiary’s siblings. (This has a lifetime maximum of $10,000 for each person.)
The plans themselves are pretty simple. You open a 529 plan and fund the account, then make investments with those funds. Those investments are allowed to grow tax-deferred through the years until the student needs to withdraw the money. That money can then be withdrawn tax-free as long as they’re spent on qualified educational expenses like those listed above.
So if you want your financial gift to go specifically toward schooling (whether that’s, say, private school soon, or college down the road), a 529 plan is one of the tax-friendliest ways to do that.
In fact, 529s also have one of the biggest tax breaks for givers, too. In 2022, you can give a person up to $16,000 without owing taxes, but 529s have a special exemption.
“Givers can gift five years’ worth of the $16,000 (annual gift exclusion) in a lump sum,” says David Pappalardo, SVP, Advisor Solutions Group at Segal Marco, a large U.S.-based investment consultancy. “So they can give $80,000 to a 529 plan per person all at once, rather than doing it over the span of five years … and if they’re married, their spouse can do the same.”
529 plans are offered at the state level, and thus they have different rules depending on where you live. So you’ll need to do your research on which specific plan will work best for your needs.
But those looking to open an account should consider doing so through Backer, where you can enable the initial financial gift as well as ongoing contributions to the account from yourself and others. Simply share the account’s referral code and people can make contributions into the account toward investments held for the child’s educational expenses.
Backer keeps it simple for savers, letting account holders invest in low-cost index funds to hold different asset classes, including stocks and bonds.
Related: Best Investments for Kids
3. Savings Bonds (Great for Babies and Young Kids)
Savings bonds—a classic financial gift that’s particularly popular among grandparents—are basically loans you make to the U.S. government.
Like all bonds, savings bonds come with a promise that, in time, you’ll be paid back your initial investment, plus interest. But unlike most other bonds, you don’t collect that interest until you cash in the bond. You can’t hold savings bonds in a brokerage account. And you can’t sell savings bonds to other investors; only a bond’s owner or beneficiary can cash it.
If you want to buy a savings bond, under 99.99% of cases, you’ll need to go to the U.S. government’s TreasuryDirect website. Both you and the recipient will need a TreasuryDirect account; a child’s parent or adult custodian can set one up for them. You can then gift the child (or anyone) an electronic savings bond if you know the person’s full name, Social Security number or Taxpayer Identification Number, and TreasuryDirect account number. Just note that you have to hold a bond in your account for five business days before you can gift it to someone.
And yes, electronic savings bonds are now the gold standard. With one exception, which we’ll get to here in a moment, you can no longer buy paper savings bonds.
You have two options when buying a savings bond for a baby, kids, or even adults: Series EE savings bonds, and Series I savings bonds.
→ Series EE savings bonds
Series EE Bonds earn fixed interest rates for 30 years, and they offer a return of double the value initially purchased if held for at least 20 years.
In other words, if you hold a Series EE savings bond for at least the next 20 years, the bond will either earn enough in interest to double its initial value, or the federal government will make a one-time adjustment to the price (adding money) to honor its guarantee.
But remember: The Series EE savings bond will accumulate interest for up to 30 years. If your child doesn’t immediately need the money after 20 years, they could benefit from waiting even longer.
You must spend at least $25 when buying Series EE bonds. Above that, you can spend any amount down to the penny. (Example: You could buy $152.57 worth of EE bonds.)
→ Series I savings bonds
Series I savings bonds have both a fixed interest rate, as well as an inflation-adjusted interest rate that’s calculated twice each year. The reason? Series I savings bonds are designed to protect your savings from inflation (rising prices).
Like with EE bonds, Series I savings bonds require a minimum $25 purchase, but you can select any amount over that down to the penny. But while Series I bonds also accumulate interest over 30 years, there is no 20-year value guarantee like with EE bonds.
Series I also includes the lone exception to the paper-bonds rule. Specifically, you can use your IRS tax refund to buy Series I paper savings bonds, and you can do so in five denominations: $50, $100, $200, $500, and $1,000. While paper bonds are a rarity, financial institutions still allow you to redeem them.
Why buy a savings bond?
A savings bond is more flexible than it seems. While Series EE and I bonds collect interest for up to 30 years, a person can cash in a bond as soon as 12 months after purchase. You do take a small penalty for cashing out “quick,” however—if you cash it in less than five years, you lose the last three months’ worth of interest. (So, if you held a bond for 24 months, you’d only get 21 months’ worth of interest.)
Savings bonds are among the safest investments on the planet, however, and they can grow substantially if given enough time. So savings bonds are best as financial gifts that have the very long term in mind.
4. Custodial Brokerage Accounts (Best Investment for the New Baby)
Another great idea for starting a baby off on the right financial foot is through a custodial brokerage account. These accounts allow minors to invest money through a custodian who manages the account on their behalf.
Custodial accounts allow you to put investments in a special account for a minor child or grandchild. As the account’s custodian or trustee, you have control of it until your child reaches adulthood—typically 18 to 21 years old. Once your child reaches adulthood, they become the owner of their individual account and can do whatever they want with the funds.
There are two main types of custodial account: Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). Let’s quickly look at the two main differences between UGMA and UTMA:
- A UGMA custodial account can be used to hold only strictly financial assets, including (but not limited to) stocks, bonds, mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and insurance products. UTMA accounts can hold those assets, but also any property—say, real estate or cars.
- The UGMA custodial account structure has been adopted in all 50 states. However, only 48 states have adopted the UTMA custodial account. (South Carolina and Vermont are the exceptions.)
Parents, grandparents and other loved ones can make sizable contributions to these custodial accounts by giving up to $16,000 per year per individual ($32,000 per married couple) without triggering the gift tax.
If you are concerned about the impact of your child’s assets on their eligibility for federal financial aid, then a custodial account might not be right. Students are expected to contribute a higher percentage of savings versus what their parents might be able to, usually 20% versus a maximum 5.6% of savings for the parents.
Custodial Accounts With EarlyBird
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: $2.95/mo. for one child, $4.95/mo. for families with 2+ children
EarlyBird is a mobile app that allows parents and guardians to set up a Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) account (more on those below) to gift money for investments to their children. This app provides a convenient and inexpensive way to gift money, with funds available to go toward any expenses that will benefit the child.
When opening an account to invest for your children, EarlyBird allows you to choose from five strategic ETF-only portfolios, with investing goals ranging from conservative to aggressive, based on your stated risk tolerance and overall investor profile.
Do family and friends want to provide a gift, but think money is too impersonal? With EarlyBird, they can record a video to go along with their financial contribution, personalizing these moments which last a lifetime. And if you’d like to give but the recipient doesn’t have an EarlyBird account, you can text them a link from the app to the recipient’s phone number. EarlyBird also has a “Moments” feature that allows parents to begin to save and share special milestones and memories alongside their investments.
When parents or guardians set up a new custodial investment account through EarlyBird, they must start with a $15/month recurring contribution minimum. However, you can change that recurring contribution amount higher or lower as your budget allows or necessitates.
Consider opening an EarlyBird account today and receive $15 to get you started after opening your account.
Financial Gifts for Children and Grandchildren
Of course, kids can always use money—not just when they’re crawling around in diapers.
Older children, even teens, can use money, both now and in the future. On top of that, at a certain age, you’ll probably want your financial gifts to have another purpose: education.
Unlike monetary gifts for babies, gifts for older kids and grandchildren might also help them begin to learn about the world of money. So the financial gifts below reflect not just the financial needs of older-aged children, but also the opportunities to develop their monetary know-how.
5. Joint Brokerage Accounts (Best for Teens)
The standard type of brokerage account—the one most people think of—is an individual brokerage. With an individual brokerage, one person’s name is listed as the account owner, and that person has full control of the account.
But a jointly owned brokerage account (or joint brokerage account) allows two or more people to sit on the account’s title and act as owners of all assets within the account.
These accounts most commonly exist between spouses, but they can also be opened between multiple family members (say, a parent and child) or two or more individuals who share financial goals (say, unmarried partners or business partners).
When a parent and child have a jointly owned brokerage account, they can share in the decision-making of what to buy and sell. Many investing apps for kids allow you to open a brokerage account with joint ownership.
Fidelity Youth™ Account ($50 bonus for teens, $100 bonus for parents)
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: No account fees, no account minimum, no trading commissions*
- Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)
- Promotion: Teens get $501 on Fidelity® when they download the Fidelity Youth™ app and activate their Youth Account; parents get $100 when they fund a new account
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 owned by teens 13 to 17 that’s designed to help them start their money journey. They can start investing by buying most U.S. stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and Fidelity mutual funds for as little as $1!⁴
Your teen will also get a free debit card with no subscription fees, no account fees³, no minimum balances, and no domestic ATM fees⁵. 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 your 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.
Parents and guardians have 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 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 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: Best Investment Accounts for Kids
6. Custodial Roth IRA (Best for Kids Who Earn Money)
If you have a child (or are close with one) who has earned income, they can qualify for a custodial IRA. There are two types, but one typically makes much more sense for children than the other:
- Traditional IRAs allow you to claim a tax deduction now and pay taxes later—valuable if you have higher tax rates now than you anticipate paying in retirement.
- Conversely, Roth IRAs lock in your lower tax rates now and withdraw money in retirement when you might earn more money later.
A custodial Roth IRA makes much more sense for youngsters. That’s because a Roth IRA for kids allows you to pay taxes on income earned now, when the child likely has a low tax rate. They can then withdraw those funds in retirement completely tax-free!
Kids can make contributions into these tax-advantaged retirement accounts up to the lesser of their amount of earned income for the year or $6,500.
Roth IRAs are like traditional IRAs and brokerage accounts in that you can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, and a few other investment types. That gives children a variety of ways to grow their money, tax-free, over the next few decades.
If your child is a minor (under 18 or 21 years old, depending on your state of residence), many of the best stock investing apps for beginners will let you set up a custodial IRA.
E*Trade (Our Top Pick for Custodial IRAs)
- 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.
7. Debit Cards (Best for Educating Older Children and Teens)
Learning about personal finance is a journey that starts with simple steps and becomes more difficult over time.
And one tool that can help throughout most of that journey is the humble debit card.
Most debit cards are designed with adults in mind. They’re straightforward. They’re useful. They’re pretty simple for adults who are familiar with banking. And you’d almost certainly not want your 8-year-old to get their hands on one.
But a new generation of debit cards for kids and teens has changed the discussion.
Kids’ debit cards now come with a host of features that both improve the experience for them and give parents peace of mind.
On the parental front, account controls allow parents to oversee their kids’ activity, receive instant notifications, limit spending amounts, and even limit where their children can spend, whether that’s across certain categories of merchants or even individual retailers. Meanwhile, prepaid debit cards for teens allow parents to limit how much their children to spend without worrying about things like overdraft fees and minimum account balances.
Meanwhile, kids’ debit cards feature simple, engaging interfaces; rewards for good saving behavior; and even educational resources.
Our favorite paid debit card: Greenlight
- Available: Sign up here
- Price: Free 1-month trial. Core: $4.99/mo. Max: $9.98/mo. Infinity: $14.98/mo. (All plans include cards for up to 5 children)
The Greenlight debit card allows kids to begin spending but provides parents with peace of mind by giving them control over where their kids can spend money. Parents also can choose to receive alerts that tell them when, and how much, money is spent on the Greenlight debit card.
Greenlight works like a prepaid debit card, allowing you to transfer money onto the card for your child to pay for expenses at approved locations. You can choose how much money to load onto the card, and your child will be cleared to make approved purchases so long as a money balance backs up the card.
Greenlight boasts numerous other features, too. For instance, parents can open an investment account for kids to get their children investing in stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for the first time.
Greenlight also offers monthly savings rewards based on your tier: 1% per annum for Core members, 2% per annum for Max, and 5% per annum for infinity. You may set up “Parent-Paid Interest” between you and your child. This allows you to foot the bill and pay interest on accounts for up to five kids.
Read more in our Greenlight Card review.
8. Bank Accounts (Best for Basic Functionality)
In the same vein, another great financial gift for children are more traditional bank accounts for kids: specifically, checking and savings accounts.
Kids savings accounts can teach a child the basic ins and outs of receiving and saving money to reach goals down the road. You can take the education a step further with a basic checking account, which adds spending—whether that’s with checks or a debit card—to the money management curriculum.
Many banking apps add another dimension to these accounts. At the very least, they’ll help your children manage their money digitally. But they often include financial education content and other important features that add to your child’s money education.
Want your child to value money, save for priorities, and invest in their future? Most of these lessons start with opening a basic bank account, such as our top banking pick for kids: Chase First Banking. The account is free and comes equipped with useful financial literacy resources meant to teach kids about money while providing powerful parental controls and alerts.
Related: Best Bar Mitzvah Gift Ideas
9. Investing Books (Best for Young Readers)
A great way to learn about everything financial—from the importance of saving money to investing in the stock market—is through investing books for kids.
Books like Blue Chip Kids by David Bianchi or I’m a Shareholder Kit: The Basics About Stocks by Rick and Erin Roman are excellent options that aptly explain investing concepts and even allow kids to interact with the material.
Investment books teach children how to understand vital concepts, including:
- Saving money (and why it’s important)
- How to measure risk and reward
- What they can invest in (and why)
- The importance of investing more money over time
Even a few investment books at an early age can root kids in personal finance know-how, giving them a better chance to be financially savvy adults.
10. Piggy Banks (Best for Young Children)
Perhaps the best gift you can give to children that aren’t quite old enough for complex financial concepts, but are out of diapers and really starting to learn about the world, is one of the oldest gifts in the book:
A good, old-fashioned piggy bank.
A piggy bank teaches kids the concept of money in one of the most tangible ways possible: letting a child add coins and bills to the bank, and having that collection of money grow over time. It also creates a barrier between them and spending the money, because it requires them to break the piggy bank open—something they won’t want to happen if they grow attached.
The famous marshmallow test, conducted by Stanford University psychologist Walter Mischel, offers insight into another valuable piggy bank lesson.
In the marshmallow test, a child is given one marshmallow and told that if they can wait 15 minutes without eating it or giving in to their urges of wanting it right away, then they will be rewarded with two instead. Kids who could resist temptation were more likely to have better grades, higher SAT scores, and even a lower likelihood of being arrested for committing crimes.
A piggy bank helps teach this virtue of resisting temptation and becoming less impulsive, which could help them avoid all sorts of situations that lead them into trouble.
By the way, if you want a twist on the classic, newer piggy banks are a far cry from the simple ceramic pigs that used to sit atop our bureaus as children. Some, like the Fishboy ATM, will even count your child’s total deposits and keep their funds secure with a safe-style combination lock. Others, like the Moonjar Moneybox, actively teach your children about money.
What Is the Best Financial Gift for a Kid?
At the end of the day, the best gift you can give to a child is—hokey as it might sound—the gift of financial literacy.
And most of the financial gifts for kids we’ve already listed speak to that very need.
Even if you can’t afford to spend a dollar building up a child’s savings or contributing to your grandkid’s account, anything free that can help a child develop financial know-how will pay off in spades in the long run. Not only is the child more likely to lead a financially secure life, but that confidence and know-how will allow the parents to worry less about how their kid will fare in the real world.
That kind of present might not get oohs and ahhs at their sixth birthday party. But down the road, what those presents represented—and what they led to—will be more cherished than any toy.
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