Buying shares for kids: A gift that keeps on giving

Many parents and grandparents worry about how to help the children in their lives achieve financial independence. But the value of long-term investment can seem like a dry and complicated idea for kids to get their heads around.

In fact, many young people would like to know more about money, according to a Young People and Money survey by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission MoneySmart website. The survey found more than half of the 15-21-year-olds surveyed were interested in learning how to invest, different types of investments and possible risks and returns. What’s more, almost all those young people with at least one investment were interested enough to regularly check performance.

One way to introduce investment to children may be to begin a share portfolio on their behalf. The child can follow the progress of the companies they are investing in, understand how the market can fluctuate over the short- and long-term, as well as learn to deal with some of the paperwork required, such as filing tax returns.

How to begin

Setting up a share portfolio doesn’t need to be onerous. It’s possible to start with a minimum investment of around $500, using one of the online share trading platforms. Then you could consider topping it up every year or so with a further investment.

Deciding on which shares to buy comes down to the amount you have available to invest and perhaps your child’s interests.

If the initial investment is relatively small, an exchange traded fund (ETF) may be a useful way of accessing the hundreds of companies, bonds, commodity or theme the fund invests in, providing a more diversified portfolio.

ETFs are available in Australian and international shares; different sectors of the share market, such as mining; precious metals and commodities, such as gold; foreign and crypto currencies; and fixed interest investments, such as bonds. You can also invest in themes such as sustainability or market sectors such as video games that may appeal to young people.

Alternatively, buying shares in one company that your child strongly identifies with – like a popular pizza delivery firm, a surf brand or a toy manufacturer – may help keep them interested and excited about market movements.

Should you buy in your name or theirs

Since children cannot own shares in their own right, you may consider buying in your name with a plan to transfer the portfolio to the child when they turn 18. But be aware that you will pay capital gains tax (CGT) on any profits made and the investments will be assessable in your annual income tax return.

On the other hand, you could buy the shares in trust for the child. While you are considered the legal owner the child is the beneficial owner. That way, when the child turns 18, you can transfer the shares to their name without paying CGT. Your online trading platform will have easy steps to follow to set up an account in trust for a minor.

There is also some annual tax paperwork to consider.

You can apply for a tax file number (TFN) for the child and quote that when buying the shares. If you don’t quote a TFN, pay as you go tax will be withheld at 47 per cent from the unfranked amount of the dividend income. Be aware that if the shares earn more than $416 in a year, you will need to lodge a tax return for the child.

Taking it slowly

If you are not quite ready to invest cash but are keen to help your children to understand share investment, you could consider playing it safe by playing a sharemarket game, run by the ASX.

Participants invest $50,000 in virtual cash in the S&P/ASX200, a range of ETFs and a selection of companies. You can take part as an individual or a group and there is a chance to win prizes.

Another option, for children able to work independently, is the federal government money managed website. This is pitched at teens and provides a thorough grounding in savings and investment principles.

Call us if you would like to discuss how best to establish a share portfolio for your child, grandchild or a special young person in your life.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal circumstances, financial needs or objectives. Before acting on any of the information you should consider the appropriateness of the relevant product having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. In particular, you should seek independent financial advice and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or other offer document prior to acting on any financial product or implementing any financial strategy.

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