Graduation is one of those truly great milestones for both kids and parents. The graduates, whether in high school or college, are moving on to exciting new life adventures. And the parents are often heaving a sigh of relief at successfully nudging their kids into a new era of independence.
To commemorate this traditionally momentous occasion, the first thing most of us do is pull out our checkbooks. And while that's not a bad idea - everyone appreciates a little extra money - helping kids learn how to handle money might be an even greater gift in the long run.
Of course, you have to have a light touch here. After all, graduation is supposed to be a time of celebration, not another lesson. But there are a few nontraditional ways you can honor graduates that might subtly increase their practical knowledge, enhance their financial education and potentially add to their bank accounts.
- Gift cards for everyday expenses. That check you write may go for the latest CDs or a new video game, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if you want to help graduates deal with some of the practical expenses that may be new to them, consider a gift card. Whether it's for groceries, gas or to help furnish a dorm room or apartment, a gift card that has a practical focus may help the new grad look at the "money" in a different way and make some wiser purchases.
- Contribution toward a savings goal. How well do you know the graduate? Is he or she saving for a personal dream: a special trip, a car, a musical instrument? Make your gift reinforce and support the savings habit. For example, you could earmark cash toward a specific goal as your primary gift. Then, as an added bonus, you could offer to match their savings until the goal is reached. Or you could cover the shortfall to make their dream a reality.
- A subscription to a financial magazine. This might be a good accompaniment to a cash gift, such as funding a savings account or helping to reach a specific goal. It may inspire some ideas on what to do with the money and open the door to greater financial awareness. And if it's a magazine that you also receive, it's a chance to have an ongoing discussion and present ideas with each issue.
- A share of stock. This is a great way to get young people interested and involved in investing. Pick a company that your graduate knows personally - an entertainment, sports or clothing company for instance. Owning a piece of a company can be an inspiration to follow its progress and a motivation to learn more about the market.
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