What $1,000 Can Buy

Kyle McIntosh

FROM AN EARLY AGE, my son showed an interest in business and investing. As a toddler, he’d watch CNBC with me. When my wife and I discussed legal and accounting issues, he’d have his “listening ears” on. (Yes, our dinner table conversations are pretty exciting.)

By the time he was eight years old, he was giving me investing input. He thought Microsoft overpaid when it bought Minecraft maker Mojang for $2.5 billion in 2018. He’s always been bullish on Nike, given his affinity for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sneakers.

When he was age 11, we opened a Uniform Gifts to Minors Act account with $1,000, so he could put his investing ideas to work. He put $500 in two individual stocks and invested the other $500 in an S&P 500 index fund. While the account has grown nicely over the past three years, much more value has come from the lessons he’s learned, including these four:

1. A $100 stock isn’t necessarily better than a $10 stock. When we first looked at stocks, my son assumed that a stock with a higher share price was better than a lower-priced stock. I taught him instead to look at share prices based on various valuations measures and then make comparisons across companies.

To keep our analysis simple, we focused on two measures: price-earnings ratios and dividend yields. In addition to quantitative analysis, he put his personal viewpoint to work. Of the $500 earmarked for individual stocks, he invested half in Nike based on his views of the brand’s growth potential, and he invested the other half in ExxonMobil based on its dividend yield. You guessed it: He’s a value investor at heart.

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2. The power of compounding. Upon placing our trades, my son had an a-ha moment when he faced a simple question: “Reinvest dividends?” I explained to him that, when he answers “yes,” any dividends would be invested in additional shares of the company. That promoted him to ask, “Will the dividends I reinvest also have a dividend paid on them?” That was the day the power of compounding was ingrained in him.

3. The value of diversification. While Nike’s stock has climbed more than 75% since my son bought it, Exxon Mobil’s stock has slid roughly 25%. While a two-stock portfolio is by no means well-diversified, it’s been good for him to see how the poor performance of one stock can be more than offset by the strong performance of another. This divergence in performance has also highlighted for him that you can’t just focus on your winners in evaluating a portfolio’s performance.

4. The benefits of indexing. While the overall return of his two stocks has been decent, the S&P 500 index fund that he bought on the same day has performed far better. While he had reasonable ideas in making his initial investment selections, this outperformance by the broader market has taught him that selecting an index fund is a prudent approach to investing.

I’ve been able to explain to him that owning this index fund—which includes some Nike and ExxonMobil shares—allowed him to benefit from the strong results of many companies that we didn’t select. He’s also seen the benefits of the fund’s broader diversification, and how its performance has been far less volatile than his two-stock portfolio.

Kyle McIntosh, CPA, MBA, is a fulltime lecturer at the California Lutheran University School of Management. He turned his career focus to teaching after 23 years working in accounting and finance roles for large corporations. Kyle lives in Southern California with his wife, two children and their overly friendly goldendoodle. His previous article was Shifting Gears.

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1 year ago

Thanks for the nice article! My son is also interested in investing.

It started with a Boy Scout personal finance merit badge when he was 12. He loaded a stock simulator on his phone and still uses it. He “bought” crypto back then and is a multimillionaire in the app now, at least last time he mentioned it.

We started a custodial Roth IRA for him at 14. Contributions are limited to earned money. The long-term tax implications are great.

This past year, we opened a minor brokerage account. This account doesn’t have to be funded with earned money. So he can put birthday money, etc in this account. He completely manages this account. (I have a view screen in my account.)

I wholely agree with you on both points – the growth of his money has been nice. Even more importantly, learning financial life lessons so young will be so valuable to their future!

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
1 year ago

It’s impressive that your son has shown such an early interest in—and grasp of—investing. Good for you for fostering that (and glad he’s learned the value of indexing over stock picking—I wish I’d learned that lesson at his age!).

One question: Why a UGMA account instead of a 529?

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
1 year ago

529 accounts do not allow individual stock purchases.

Kyle Mcintosh
Kyle Mcintosh
1 year ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Sorry for not weighing in earlier. Thanks Andrew for your feedback. Rick is right that I could not buy individual stocks in the 529. We do have 529 accounts set up for our kids which have been a good “set it and forget it” type account for us.

1 year ago

Thank you for sharing this Mr. McIntosh. Your son has been given a rare gift of having started learning about and investing real money so early in life. The lessons will serve him well down the road. We did similar with our boys using their birthday & holiday gift money that had accumulated until they were 14. Perhaps one of their investments at the start should have been an index fund but we instead decided to divide the investments up so they would own individual stocks in various industries. For the most part it’s been very educational and I hope it bodes well by making future investing a priority. Only downside – one son decided to buy MSFT and TSLA and the other didn’t. So bragging rights have begun. Ouch!

Last edited 1 year ago by Guest

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