My stock market summer school (and why I’m paying my children to do it)
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The scarcity of holiday camps for children this summer has left many UK working parents with the double worry of how to manage their hours while occupying their children.
Like many working families, we are willing to spend money on a useful and age-appropriate activity. So, I’m going to pay my bored children to learn about the stock market.
Should I be paying them? According to the Halifax Pocket Money Survey, one in four parents admits to using pocket money as an incentive to reduce children’s screen time. I’m prepared to use it to lay the foundations of an investment education (and they are saving up for bicycles).
This project will not be an easy sell to my stakeholders, even though they have expressed an interest in my work in the investment industry. But here’s my pitch.
Average pocket money a week is £5.25, according to Rooster Money’s Pocket Money Index, with 14-year-olds paid an average of £8.03. The top paid-for chore is mowing the lawn at an average £2.86.
While children up to age 15 do not qualify for the national minimum wage, young workers aged 16 to 17 are entitled to at least £4.55 an hour. That seems reasonable — plus the resources I will use for their Stock Market Summer School are (mostly) free and I’m only aiming for two to three hours a day.
Payment will create awareness of the value of their time. But more importantly, it will keep them occupied and stand them in good stead for the future. In two years, my 14-year-old will be able to operate her own Junior ISA and she needs to know the terminology of stock market, shares, funds and compound interest.
Plus, it’s not going to cost me much to do this as there are many free or low-cost resources — all of which I’ve linked to in the online version of this article, which you can read for free via FT.com/summerschool.
I’m going to ask them to do a structured serious activity every day, something “fun”, correctly identify the money lesson from a well-loved and well-watched movie, and watch a new film about business.
Serious: Watch the London Stock Exchange’s videos for children. These are neatly divided into primary and secondary school ages. But there’s no harm in a secondary school child watching something simple on this topic to build their interest.
Fun: Read about stock picking animals Lusha the chimpanzee and Orlando the cat. My children then got our two guinea pigs to pick a stock each too. You might want to cut up pieces of paper with some names they recognise from the FTSE 100 (the UK’s 100 biggest listed companies), see which ones they run to, and then track the company’s progress. Could your pet prove a better stock picker than your parents?
Spot the money lesson: Watch the Disney Pixar film Up (2009) where Carl takes his house on the adventure of a lifetime. Moral: save up for the things in life you want to do.
Business movie: Older children will enjoy watching the biopic Walt before Mickey (2015) which is currently free on Amazon Prime. Moral: if at first your business doesn’t succeed, try again.
Serious: Check out Money Saving Expert’s Academy of Money with the Open University — if your children complete Session 5 on saving and investing they will get a digital badge.
Fun: Search Instagram for influencers on money and investing. Find five that you like and put them in order of preference. Search YouTube and find five videos of kids who invest. Which is the weirdest/funniest?
Spot the money lesson: Watch Home Alone (1990). Moral: keep your money in a safe place (Kevin steals the “life savings” from his brother Bud).
Business movie: Becoming Warren Buffett (2017) is £3.49 to rent on Amazon and tells the story of the legendary investor.
Serious: Look at the FTSE 100 risers and fallers page of the LSE. Find out what five of these companies do and see if you can find one that you buy things from.
Put the companies that you think have the strongest growth prospects in a sweepstake for your family. We each pick one, and the winner (the person whose share has risen by the most by a set date) gets a day out of their choice at Christmas.
Fun: Create an investment quiz for a Zoom family session this evening. You can include money riddles too (what kind of food is nuts about money? A cash-ew). There are lots of online resources on websites such as Grow Acorns and Boring Money.
Spot the money lesson: Watch Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). Moral: the importance of saving up for children (Harry’s parents have died) and money management (he resists splurging the fortune in Gringotts).
Business movie: Watch Panorama’s Can You Trust the Billion-Pound Investors? (free on BBC iPlayer). Made in the aftermath of Neil Woodford’s empire collapsing, this hard-hitting documentary examines the world of fund managers.
Fun: Have a scavenger hunt for 10 items in the home that are made by companies that you can buy shares in. Are they ethical?
Spot the money lesson: Watch The Hunger Games (2012). Moral: prioritise acquiring skills, and not material things (Katniss was forced to rely on her skills to survive and not on the things found on the Cornucopia).
Business movie: Watch The Founder (2017), currently free on Amazon Prime, which tells the story of how McDonald’s was founded.
Serious: Ask your children to research and pick a share that they want to invest in. Get them to list the reasons they have picked the investment, and the reasons they might sell it. Plus, I want them to work out what it could be worth in 10 years’ time if it grows at 5 per cent a year after charges.
Fun: Check how the guinea pigs’ stocks are performing.
Spot the money lesson: Watch The Princess Bride (1987). Moral: follow your passion (revenge) but get a side job (kidnapping) to pay the bills.
Business movie: Watch Pepsi vs Cola: The Marketing Battle of the Century (2014) currently free on Amazon Prime.
Based on successful completion of the course, I’ve said I will put £50 each into an investment of my children’s choice, or they can combine forces and put in £100. You may decide to invest more. In pre-coronavirus days, UK residential summer camps cost anything from £350 up to £1,500 a week.
My programme above is not only cheaper, but teaches children a valuable life skill that could pay dividends in the future.
Moira O’Neill is head of personal finance at Interactive Investor and a former winner of the Wincott Personal Finance Journalist of the Year award. @MoiraONeill