Advice for young adults on getting started with investing

An excellent article in today’s newspaper (ref. 1) presented clear advice on how to become wealthy without paying hefty fees:

  • Begin by finding good, free financial advice in the internet.  Search for tools and advice on creating a budget, finding affordable housing, building a financial plan, and saving for retirement.
  • Build the foundations of a budget, rainy-day savings, and retirement savings.
  • Invest money you won’t need for 5 years.  
  • Begin investing as early as possible and compound your interest.  

Numerous writers and seasoned investors offer the same advice.  Find more useful information in references 2-6.  

References

  1. Ny Anna-Louise-Jackson. Make your money grow before hiring an advisor. The Columbus Dispatch, November 4, 2018, page H7.
  2. Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack. The Index Card. Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated. Penguin Random House, New York, 2016. 
  3. Do-it-yourself investing- Introduction.  Small Trades Journal, 2013.
  4. Warren Buffett’s advice to nonprofessional investors. Small Trades Journal, 2014.  
  5. My Money Five. MyMoney.gov.
  6. Overview. RaisingInvestors.blog, 2018.

Helping grandchildren invest in college and retirement. A 2018 workshop for Otterbein University’s Lifelong Learning Community.

Moderator’s Introduction, Douglas R. Knight

The goal of this workshop is to discuss ways of helping grandchildren invest for college and eventual retirement. Grandparents have the time, experience, and resources to help those investments.  

My role as moderator is to introduce today’s topics.  Mr. Eric J. Robbins will then describe ways of investing in your grandchildren’s future.  Eric is a senior investment advisor at Buckeye Wealth Management with over 30 years of experience in the financial services industry.  Finally, Mr. Jefferson R. Blackburn-Smith will suggest ways of preparing grandchildren for college.  Jefferson is Otterbein University’s Vice President for Enrollment Management. 

1 moderator
chart 1. basic concepts

The reinvestment of stock market returns is the preferred method of saving for college and retirement (chart 1).  “College” is any certified program of higher education at trade school, the 2-year Associates degree, the 4-year Bachelors degree, graduate school, or professional school.  Family savings, student scholarships, and financial aid are principal sources of funding to pay the cost of college. There are also ways of reducing the cost of college. Paying for college deserves early planning.  

2 moderator
chart 2. The column headings identify 3 training goals, each of which progress through 6 stages of educational development identified by the row headings. Suggestions for grandparents’ goals are printed in blue font.  Topics surrounded by red borders are the focus of today’s workshop.

Chart 2 shows 3 goals for gradually improving children’s knowledge of personal finance.  

  • The first goal, financial training, is an important program which is best taught at home by parents. The topic of money for pre-school children is an ideal place to start. Proper management of money will become the child’s most important skill for personal finance and college preparation. 
  • The second goal, “college” graduation, is headed for success when parents start saving for college early-and-often in a 529 plan. Grandparents can contribute funds to the 529 and also help nurture the lives of their grandchildren. Grandchildren thrive on dreams, experiences, and skills to help prepare for college. Well prepared students are those most likely to graduate from college with a useful education. “College prep” refers to the high school student’s tasks of choosing colleges, obtaining scholarships, and reducing the costs of college; guidance counselors and librarians are excellent resources.  Negotiation is the process of comparing college acceptance letters and seeking the best financial terms of paying for college. Excessive student loans can be a disturbing financial burden after graduation.  
  • The third goal, secure retirement, begins when grandchildren start saving for expensive things; those things become more expensive as a child’s interest shifts from toys to stylish clothes, electronic devices, and cars. Bank accounts offer security to a child’s savings. A grandparent can help grandchildren buy a stock and then periodically review its performance; it’s an excellent introduction to the world of finance. Jobs help grandchildren form entrepreneurial ideas. The taxable earnings can be deposited in a custodial Roth retirement account. Grandchildren need to be encouraged to save taxable earnings in the Roth account as a matter of habit. All children need safety lessons to avoid truancy, cyber attacks, gambling, credit card debt, and other risks to their wealth and health.

After college, young adults should enter the workforce even if their first job is not a ‘dream job’.  Job success will enhance their future workforce mobility.

Investing for Your Grandchild’s Future. It’s Never Too Early to Start, Eric J. Robbins

The key points of my talk are:

  • college is an expensive investment that often incurs debt
  • grandparents’ financial assets are not detrimental to student eligibility for federal financial aid
  • families have many ways of saving for college; among them are several tax-advantaged savings programs
  • parents and grandparents should avoid making 4 big mistakes when paying for college
  • careful planning will reduce expensive mistakes

The average cost of college tuition and fees in 2017-18 varied from $9,970 [for in-state public schools] to $25,620 [for out-of-state public schools] and $34,740 [for private colleges].  To cover these costs, my recommendation is to start a college payment plan early!  Otherwise, a large debt from student loans could cause significant financial distress after graduation from college.  The average cost of student-loan debt is $351/month (chart 3).

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chart 3.

In general, students use loans to pay for 19% of college costs and parents borrow an additional 8%.  Grandparents typically pay no more than 4% of college costs (chart 4)

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chart 4.

College students are required to submit a FAFSA form (chart 5) to the college admissions office when applying for federal financial aid.  High-income families with large savings accounts (“assets”) receive less federal financial aid than low-income families with small accounts.  For a given amount of family assets, larger portions of student savings attract less federal financial aid.  Grandparent-owned assets are invisible and have no effect on federal financial aid (chart 5).  

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chart 5.

Families have many ways of saving for college (chart 6)

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chart 6.

 

Qualifed series EE savings bond, 529 savings plans, Coverdell IRAs, and Roth IRAs are protected from federal taxation of investment returns.  Chart 7 offers a useful comparison of these tax-advantaged plans with taxable custodial accounts.

7 investing
chart 7. Four savings accounts (column headings) are compared by a list of important variables (row headings).

Several comments about chart 7: Investment returns are not taxed except in the UGMA/UTMA accounts; annual income limits may restrict participation in the Roth and Coverdell accounts; contribution limits to all accounts are regulated by the government except for the UGMA/UTMA; untaxed returns can be withdrawn for qualified educational expenses (UGMA/UTMA returns are always taxable); account owners are allowed to change the student beneficiary in all but the UGMA/UTMA accounts;  account owners or custodians are generally allowed to control the account with some exceptions; non-FDIC investments are not guaranteed (but why invest in a low-return FDIC account for long-term growth of savings?) 

The reason for having a college savings plan is avoid mistakes that lead to unnecessary personal losses.  The biggest mistakes that parents and grandparents make are shown in charts 8-11.  

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chart 8.

If a parent waits 5 years before starting to invest $200/month, the $17,380 opportunity-cost of waiting to invest would decrease the final savings balance to $13,680 instead of $30,998 (chart 9).  If the parent initially invested $10,000 and then waited 5 years before investing $200/month, an opportunity cost of $29,885 would reduce the final balance to $64,906 instead of $94,791.

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chart 9.
10 investing
chart 10.
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chart 11.

Additional mistakes are: failing to plan for college; allocating college savings and other financial assets to the student instead of the parent; and, no planning for possible investment losses.

Families can reduce financial mistakes for college by gathering useful information (chart 12), selecting a suitable investment return (chart 13), and seeking alternative sources of funding (chart 14).  

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chart 12.
13-investing1-e1523979884578.jpeg
chart 13.
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chart 14.
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chart 15.
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chart 16.

Helping Grandchildren Invest: Strategies for College, Jefferson R. Blackburn-Smith

The agenda for my talk:

  • some truths about college
  • savings strategies
  • controlling cost

Many families aren’t prepared for college.  Here are four ‘truths’ that college-student families need to know:

Truth #1: College is worth the effort of careful planning (chart 17).  Grandparents can help by promoting the opportunities of a college education.  

17 college
chart 17.

Truth #2: College is expensive but few students pay the full price (chart 18).  For example,  students can seek grants and scholarships that reduce their payments.  

18 college
chart 18.

Truth #3: The student debt crisis needn’t be as bad as reported by the media (chart 19).  Low-income students tend to borrow more carefully, high-income students less carefully.  

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chart 19.

Families can shop for government and private student loans with the best interest rates and repayment plans. College graduates might choose to participate in debt-forgiveness programs by seeking employment in certain public service programs.

 Truth #4: Cost, quality, and educational outcomes are important factors to consider in selecting a college (chart 20).  

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chart 20.

One way of paying for college is to distribute the expenses equally among 3 financial accounts (chart 21).   

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chart 21.

Among ways of paying for college, an educational savings account works best when started by an adult early in the grandchild’s life.  Grandparents can encourage their family to open a savings account and then make contributions to that account (chart 22).

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chart 22.

There are many advantages to using a 529 college savings account owned by parents (chart 23).

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chart 23.

In comparison, student-owned savings accounts may be taxable and could reduce the student’s eligibility for financial aid (chart 24). 

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chart 24.

Student performance and lifestyle have a signficant impact on the cost of college.  Roughly  half of Ohio’s 4-year college students graduate on time, which means that the other half are either dropping out or paying much more to graduate.  In chart 25, “Lifestyle” borrowing refers to students paying for unnecessary college expenses such as extravagant vacations.

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chart 25.

 

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chart 26.

WORKSHOP CONCLUSIONS

  1. Grandparents have the time, experience, and resources to help prepare grandchildren for college and retirement.
  2. Continual reinvestment of stock market returns is recommended for college and retirement savings plans that are started early in the grandchild’s life.
  3. Protect college and retirement savings in a tax-advantaged education account (e.g., 529 plan) and retirement account (e.g., Roth IRA).
  4. Help grandchildren acquire the lifetime habit of saving for retirement
  5. Help grandchildren channel their dreams and experiences into goals for careers and adult life; college could help them achieve those goals.
  6. Many families are unprepared for college. Early planning and careful preparation will reduce the cost of graduating from college.
  7. Minimize student-loan debt by starting a 529 plan early. Other ways of minimizing student debt include grants & scholarships, work-study programs, reduced college expenses, and loan forgiveness programs.

[additional references are listed in the LITERATURE page of this blog]

Copyright © 2018 Douglas R. Knight, Eric J. Robbins, and Jefferson R. Blackburn-Smith

 

Overview

Education and Investing are the best ways for young people to develop their future. Their success is measured in terms of personal security for a lifetime rather than in millions of dollars. Investing starts with learning how to save for future wants and needs despite many distractions. Family teamwork is an invaluable aid. This Overview is aimed at helping families build a tradition of raising young investors.

Teamwork

Journalists and educators agree that children learn about spending, saving, and sharing money very early in life. Whether their money habits become useful or futile depends on the examples and coaching of trusted adults. Financial education starts at home where family traditions of money management set the standard. If there is no family tradition, then start one. Young investors need a team of parents and trusted adults to provide,

  • guidance
  • inspiration
  • experience
  • funding

Money Management

Money management is essential to investing and protecting financial assets such as stocks, bonds, and savings. Building good habits can be a family tradition or a new family experience. Either way, children start forming money habits early, before entering school. Many families teach the wise management of money by encouraging their pre-schoolers to store money in jars (chart 1). Any container would work -envelops, cartons, bowls, socks, etc.- but transparent jars are the favorites.

RaisingYoungInvestors.003
chart 1, money jars
  • Spending Jar teaches decision-making and accountability. Children love money and never have enough to pay for everything they want. They should learn to spend wisely, track their expenses and accept the consequences of their choices. Learning to spend wisely can help them avoid future financial insecurity due to fluctuating income and overwhelming debt.
  • Saving Jar teaches investing. Saving leads to investing and the funding of financial goals. Start by helping children save for short term goals, then encourage them to gradually save larger amounts over longer time periods. Introduce them to the stock market by explaining that their favorite businesses sell shares of ownership. Consider helping them buy stock in their favorite company.
  • Sharing Jar helps build relationships. Expose children to the needs of their community. Community engagement will cultivate relationships and humane values.
Resources:

Dreams

Dreams are gateways to an exciting and prosperous life. Teamwork can help turn those dreams into financial plans for earning and protecting money. The earlier your child’s team begins the process, the better the chance of success.

Dreams can become realistic financial goals. Younger children dream of becoming grown-ups. For example, they wonder what adults do for a living and how parents earn incomes. Older children are inspired by classmates, role models, field trips, activities, etc.

childhood dreams
chart 2, dreams

Chart 2 shows examples of goal-starters:

  • teenagers want expensive things like cars and computers; they should save for it!
  • young adults think about weddings and buying a home; they should invest in it!
  • children dream of becoming millionaires; they could invest in a retirement account!

– My granddaughter read a story in The American Girl magazine about saving to become a millionaire. She was ‘hooked’. I discussed the article with her and asked her mother (my daughter) if I could provide some seed money to open an investment account. A year or so later, my granddaughter started earning money as a tutor and used her earnings to open a Roth IRA. She enjoys reading her financial statements and watching her investments grow in value. –

Starting a Roth IRA:  www.irakids.com

Earned Income

Chart 3 outlines the sources of income for children.

childhood income
chart 3, income
  • Unpaid chores are work assignments needed to run an efficient household.
  • Allowance is a regular gift of money that ‘allows’ young children to practice spending, saving, sharing, and budgeting money.
  • Jobs are types of labor performed by older children to earn money without a work permit. Not only do jobs enhance wealth but they also improve social skills and help children make decisions about future vocations.
  • Those who chose to turn a job into their own business are called Entrepreneurs. A successful business matches the skills of the child with the type of job; it also requires planning, organization, perserverence, and reinvestment.
  • Employment for wages in a regulated business requires children to have a work permit issued by the State.
Job suggestions:
50 small business ideas: https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/11/business-ideas-for-kids.html

Saving

Investments are a good way to save money for future use. Children have a BIG OPPORTUNITY to create wealth by reinvesting stock returns that will multiply the value of their investment. Chart 4 shows the future value of $1 invested in the stock market when all dividends and capital gains are reinvested in stocks. This mechanism of growth is called “compound interest”.

Compounding Interest
chart 4, growth of compounded stock returns

Dividends and capital gains are types of interest called “stock returns”.  The colored dots in chart 4 represent values of compounded returns at selected time intervals. One application of a growth curve is the use of time intervals to help plan big projects.  For example, childhood goals of saving for college and retirement fit into uniquely different time intervals:

  • The growth of $1 to $3 in 18 years is a realistic expectation of saving for college.
  • The growth of $1 to $30-$114 in 50-70 years is a nice investment for retirement.
More information:

‘Minor’ Requirements (‘red tape’)

Young investors need trustworthy adults to help navigate the red tape of opening a banking or investment account (chart 5). Minors (those youth under the age of 18 or 21 years depending on the state where they live) are unable to open the account without the written consent of an adult parent, guardian, or acceptable attorney. Full control of the account reverts to the young person at the age of majority (age 81 or 21 depending on the state).

family teamwork
chart 5, requirements

Big Projects

Big projects require saving thousands of dollars.

  • Short term projects include saving for a computer, car, vacation, or wedding.
  • Long term projects include saving for college, a house, or retirement.

Planning a big project requires setting the goal, estimating the deposits of money, overriding the obstacles, and occasionally reviewing the plan. A simple Retirement plan might be the following:

  • goal, save a million dollars [this may change later]
  • deposit 10% of earned income [this will change later]
  • override obstacles with frugal investing (chart 6) and other protections (chart 8)
  • review the plan when there are substantial changes of income, expenses, or personal life.

Frugal Investing

Brokerage firms charge fees for professional advice, trading services, accountants, and safekeeping of securities. The fees are inescapable, but they can be minimized by frugal investing (chart 6).

RaisingYoungInvestors.007
chart 6, frugal investing
  • Automatic reinvestment: Ask your broker to automatically reinvest cash payments from stocks and investment funds.
  • Infrequent trading: Otherwise, frequent trading (especially small amounts of money on a daily or weekly basis) will dilute investment returns.
  • Low trading fees: Consult online ratings and reviews of brokerage firms to assess their trading fees.
  • Dollar cost averaging: The best way of compensating for fluctuations of market prices is to make monthly contributions to the investment account which will then purchase varying numbers of investment units (i.e., shares) depending on the market price. Dollar cost averaging requires a dependable source of money (e.g., payroll deduction, bank account) and a receptive account (e.g., direct deposit plan, 401-K, brokerage).
  • Taxes reduce the profits from investing. Here are several ways of protecting the profits from taxes:
    • The Kiddie tax defers some of a child’s investment returns from taxes.
    • Tax-efficient investments reduce the capital gains & dividends taxes (e.g., growth stocks) or state taxes on bond interest (e.g., muni-bonds).
    • Federal taxes are not charged on the profits from Roth retirement and Education Savings accounts.
  • Long term investing: stock prices rise and fall frequently during the short term, but in general the price of a stock will gradually rise in the long term. The young investor can expect a rise in stock price over 30-70 years.
  • Diversified investments: Some stocks fail to earn returns for the investor. Consequently, it’s a good idea to own several different kinds of stocks to protect the total investment.

“College” is a Big Project

“College” is defined as any 2-year, 4-year, or career school after high school graduation. College prep is a family enterprise that prepares the high school student to negotiate their admission to college. Negotiation is the bargaining process that occurs between the student who wants to attend a desirable college and the college who wants to admit desirable students. The student’s ideal financial goal is to balance the cost of college with family savings and scholarships. Financial aid is only used if needed (chart 7).

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chart 7, college prep

TIMELINE FOR COLLEGE PREP

  1. Family starts saving for college 15-18 years early with a “529 Plan” or “Coverdell account” owned by the parents. Grandparents can help fund the plan.
  2. Family has early discussions about college and the opportunities offered by a college education.
  3. Student starts seeking scholarships during the freshman year of high school. Start with the school guidance counselor and librarian. The family can help with the research, proof-readings, practice interviews, travel costs, etc.
  4. Student reduces the cost of attending college by earning college credit during high school.
  5. Family applies for financial aid during the senior year of high school.
    • FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is required by all colleges.
    • CSS Profile (College Scholarship Service Profile) is required by colleges that award non-federal aid
  6. Student negotiates the terms of college admission.
Quick references:

Protect them

In the event of a catastrophe, every household should have an emergency fund to sustain their budget for at least 3 months, preferably 6-9 months.

protect
chart 8, protect
More information:

In closing:

conclusions

 

Copyright © 2018 Douglas R. Knight

Personal investments

 

personal investments

Borrow:

Secured loans are based on a collateral asset such as the borrower’s property or financial account. The lender can take ownership of the collateral asset if the borrower fails to repay the loan.
Unsecured loans are based on creditworthiness of the borrower. Lenders usually rely on credit reports to assess creditworthiness. Credit card accounts and student loans are unsecured loans. Beware: Students can incur high debt by borrowing for extra years of college or to attend an expensive school.

Short-term ownership:

The short-term investor typically lends money to an investment fund (money market fund), bank (certificate of deposit) or government (Treasury Bills) on the condition that the borrower promises to pay it back with a small reward (called “interest”) at a specified time no longer than 1 year.

Long-term ownership:

Stocks are certificates of part-ownership in a company. Stockowners earn returns from dividends and capital gains. The expected long-term rate of return is an average annual rate of 7%.
REITs are real estate investment trusts that distribute 90% of the annual profit to shareholders. REITs earn profits from rental fees and real estate investments.
Bonds are contracts that guarantee scheduled payments of interest and repayment of the invested money. The expected long-term return is an interest rate of approximately 4%.
Investment funds are pooled investments, typically in stocks or bonds, which are owned by a group of investors. Shareholders earn profits from cash distributions by the fund and by selling shares of the fund at a higher price.  Shareholders lose money if they sell shares at a lower price than paid to make the investment.
Mutual funds and ETFs are registered investment funds governed by the Securities and Exhange Commission (SEC.gov) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS.gov).
529 Plans, Coverdell ESAs and Roth accounts are portfolios of government-regulated, tax-deferred investments.
Homes are illiquid assets, meaning that they are difficult to sell quickly for cash. Owners earn a profit or loss at the time of sale.

Reference: http://www.finra.org/investors/types-investments

 

Retirement savings

Retirement savings plans are increasingly used to supplement Social Security pensions. The 401(k) is the most common retirement savings plan offered by employers. What will happen to the future retirement income of young employees if their Social Security benefits are reduced or their employers suspend 401(k) matching contributions? The employee will then have to make up the savings deficit. It would help if they have their own long-term investing plan for retirement.

Imagine an investment in stocks that grows by multiples of 3, 30, and 90 times the original value during successive time periods of 18, 50 and 67 years. Helping a child make such an investment would help them retire in comfort IF that child learns how to manage the investment throughout adulthood. Homeschooling will help determine how well the youngster ultimately manages the investment.

Many of today’s retirees worry about a shortfall of lifetime savings. Children could avoid this future worry by starting a long-term investment in stocks that accumulates more than two million dollars.  Today’s formula is simple: Start early to make regular deposits in a Roth IRA that invests in a broad-market, stock-index fund. Then build the fund with payroll deductions.

Why aren’t there more millionaire retirees? Because of obstacles along the way; college, debt, taxes, and low income to name a few. Dedication and planning are needed to circumvent the obstacles. And here’s an idea for low income families: Help your child open a custodial savings account to accumulate sufficient funds for starting an investment account. Irrespective of family income, parenting skills can instill motivation, participation, and the investment habit in a growing child.

References

  1. Retirement plans for children: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/06/retirementforminors.asp
  2. Roth IRA for Kids: http://www.irakids.com
  3. Facts about retirement savings plans: http://www.pensionrights.org/factsheet-topic-areas/retirement-savings-plans
  4. IRS retirement plans: https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans

Copyright © 2018 Douglas R. Knight