by Stacy Francis, CFP®, CDFA
When should I start saving for my children? a thirty-something mother of two asked me today. Right now, I suggested. She looked puzzled. Wasn’t it a little early? They are, after all, only two and four. I told her that if she is serious about their financial futures, the first couple of years are key.
The answer is, of course, time. $100 in a savings account is – as long as you invest it sensibly – going to be worth a lot more in 20 years. For adults, this can be the time left until retirement. For an infant, 20 years is the time left until college. Then they have 40 or so more years during which the money can accumulate. Take a look at the numbers below, and it won’t be hard to see why $100 in a child’s account is worth many times $100 in a thirty or forty-something’s account.
Assuming a 10% average yield per year,
$100 in 20 years=$673
$100 in 40 years=$4,526
$100 in 60 years=$30,448
The problem is, when we’re young, retirement is as distant a concept as, say, cancer, or politics. And it should be. But if you implement the following strategy, and teach your children about finances early on, chances are by the time they’re thirty, their gratefulness will see no end.
During your child’s twelve or so first years, save half of everything he or she receives. Whenever a well-meaning aunt, grandparent, or friend gives your child $20, let him or her have $10 to spend, and set the other $10 aside in an investment account. By the time your child becomes a teenager, you can cut the savings back to 10%. But throughout high school and college and entry level job years, keep preaching the importance of saving 10% of everything they earn or receive. Not only do many people find themselves millionaires in their early thirties this way, but your children will be in much better financial shape than their peers once life really starts to get expensive.