This story is part of a MarketWatch series, “Gifts that pay off,” gifts that have a larger impact long after the holiday season has passed.
This holiday season help others with three wise modus operandi: spend, save and invest wisely.
Americans are lagging when it comes to financial literacy, studies show, and very few high schools actually require any sort of classes about money. Managing money, knowing how to invest and steering clear of costly errors — such as taking out the wrong loan — can be difficult to navigate without any sort of education, so this holiday season, why not give the gift of financial education?
See: Should colleges require a financial literacy class?
There are a few ways to go about this
• Find a financial adviser to overhaul the giftee’s personal finances.
• Sign the recipient up for a workshop on personal finance — there are local organizations that host teachers, such as Brooklyn Brainery in N.Y., which has classes like “buying your first home.”
• Look for easy-to-read comprehensive guides to personal finance to get them started on their journey to stress-free, proper management of their money.
Why is financial education important?
Financial illiteracy may have cost investors $200 billion in the last 20 years, according to researchers from the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington School of Business and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. When people aren’t taught about personal finance, or don’t ask questions, they risk losing money from poor investments, choosing high-risk loans or racking up credit card debt.
The right financial adviser can help their clients pay off debts, reach their financial goals — buying a home or paying for their children’s college — and show them how to properly invest for the short or long term. But it’s important to know how to find an adviser.
How do you choose a financial adviser?
Firstly, know the differences between various financial professionals. Broker-dealers are professionals who buy and sell investments, whereas financial planners provide advice on big and small life events.
Secondly, ask if they’re a fiduciary and how they charge clients. Fiduciaries are legally required to act in their client’s best interests. (Non-fiduciaries make money from commissions, which means they have a vested interest in selling you financial products.)
Advisers typically charge a percentage of the assets they manage, but some may charge hourly or retainer fees. Fee-only financial planners charge somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000 for a financial plan, according to Money Under 30.
Also see: The 7 tough questions you need to ask your financial adviser
Because money management is so personal, this gift requires the recipient to be completely on board. It’s important the giftee feels comfortable with the chosen adviser. They’ll be sharing sensitive information, after all, said Eric Roberge, a financial adviser and founder of advisory firm Beyond Your Hammock in Boston. “Make sure the person you’re gifting it to will appreciate it,” he said.
So often, parents are secretive about their finances, partly because it’s a difficult topic to discuss, or because they don’t want their kids to expect much of an inheritance. It’s never too early for different generations of a family to have this conversation, said Charles Princiotto, vice president of wealth management at Battery Park Financial Partners.
What are the alternatives to a financial adviser?
Alternatively, sign up your loved one for a workshop at a local organization or library. Some financial advisers participate in workshops to help people who are too shy or nervous about money management to have a one-on-one meeting with an adviser, Roberge said. The Brooklyn Brainery’s class on buying a first home costs $8, but workshops can go from $25 up to $100 or more. CourseHorse provides a list of upcoming personal finance workshops.
Consider a personal-finance book: “Broke Millennial,” by Erin Lowry or Cait Flander’s upcoming book, “The Year of Less,” on how she threw away 75% of her stuff and went on a two-year shopping ban. Apps, including Mint and Digit, help make budgets and track spending. Financial education is empowering and can last a lifetime, Roberge said. Above all, it’s not the kind of gift that will end up in the bottom of a sock drawer.
Get a daily roundup of the top reads in personal finance delivered to your inbox. Subscribe to MarketWatch’s free Personal Finance Daily newsletter. Sign up here.