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3 ideas for financial holiday gifts

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM

Originally published: December 5, 2002

I always think about financial gifts during this holiday season. No, not envelopes that hold money or a check, but thoughtful money gifts that keep on growing long after the wrappings are thrown away. In that spirit, here are a few financial gifts for all age groups.

The gift of stock at

Here’s an easy, low-cost way to buy just a few shares of stock. At you can open an account for your child or yourself with absolutely no minimum investment required. Each transaction costs only $4. Or you can have unlimited purchases for a fee of $12 a month. You can choose from more than 4,000 stocks, index funds and closed-end bond funds for your investment.

This can be a one-time purchase, or you can sign up for regular monthly stock purchases with a fixed dollar amount automatically deducted from your checking account. You don’t specify the number of shares, only the dollar amount of your purchase. That means you’ll wind up with fractional shares held in your online account. keeps costs low by handling all accounts and orders online. That keeps costs to a minimum. The company has nearly 650,000 customers and says it’s profitable. But there’s one more catch that allows them to charge such low prices. bundles up all its small orders and executes the transactions once a week, on Tuesday. So no matter when you enter your order, it won’t be filled until Tuesday. You don’t get to pick a specific price. All the orders executed that day receive the same purchase price.

If you’re accumulating stock, you probably don’t care too much about timing the market or setting limit prices. Sales are made on a real-time basis, with a $15.95 commission. But the idea here is to keep buying a fixed dollar amount of stock on a regular basis and build a portfolio that you can track daily online. So now, with a $4 transaction cost, you’ve lost your excuse for not buying a few shares of corporate America as a holiday present.

The MoneySavvy Pig

One enterprising woman, Susan Beacham, aka “Mrs. Money,” has taken the old-fashioned piggy bank and turned it into a series of valuable lessons about saving and spending.

These translucent plastic piggy banks, available in several colors, have four separate chambers, labeled Save, Spend, Donate and Invest. The idea is to give children some control over their money and their choices. The pigs come with stickers so kids can label each sector with their goals. There’s even a teaching guide to help parents and grandparents explain the consequences of their choices.

The MoneySavvy Pig costs $14.95 plus shipping and is easily ordered online at (The Web site name is a tribute to Beacham’s desire to raise a money-savvy generation.

Mr. BigShot, the CD-ROM game

If you need a financial gift for someone too old for piggy banks and too smart for a few shares of stock, I have just the answer. In fact, I ordered a few myself for gifts. It’s a CD-ROM game called Mr. BigShot. It gives you a random chance to go back in history to one specific year going back to 1967. The financial highlights of the year and the Dow Jones industrial average figures provide a great history lesson.

Then you’re asked to pick between two unnamed stocks in different industry groups. While you don’t have stock names, you do get lots of information about price history, earnings, ratios, and valuations from ValueLine research as of that year. And there are definitions of all these key investment criteria so you can learn how to pick stocks. So could you pick the winner?

You play against three computerized challengers, deciding how much to invest and whether to buy or sell. Along the way, you get a statement of your gains or losses. At the end of the round, the actual company names are revealed. OK, it won’t replace the Chartered Financial Analyst exam, but if you take your time and do the research from the numbers provided, you can test your investment analysis style.

Mr. BigShot is available online for $19.95 plus shipping at, or by calling 866-MR BIGSHOT.

All of these financial gift suggestions are both fun and educational. And they’re more useful by far than toys that break, or clothes that are outgrown. That’s The Savage Truth.

Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser and is on the board of directors of McDonald’s Corp. She appears weekly on WMAQ-Channel 5’s 4:30 p.m. newscast.

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