Whether high school or college, graduation marks the end of a years-long accomplishment, but it also launches students into all the financial responsibility of adulthood. This milestone accomplishment is the perfect opportunity to help the graduate in your life get started on the road to successfully navigating their own finances.
“The biggest hurdle to get anybody going on their personal finances is to just get it started,” according to Shaun McGee, vice president of financial services at AAA Northeast. “Once that initial step is made, then you need to help [the students] understand that it’s up to them to continue it.”
Let’s run through some of the most practical graduation gifts to consider.
Life Insurance Policy
Contrary to what you may believe, it’s actually never too early to start thinking about life insurance. Although young people might not be worried about starting one just yet, they may find themselves missing out the benefits of having a long-term policy plan in place.
Consider the value in investing in their future family during their 20s and 30s, when health concerns are typically not much of a factor. Moreover, since they’re unlikely to look that far ahead, this is one gift they most likely wouldn’t have thought to get themselves.
CD or Savings Bond
These two are classic graduation gifts for a reason. A certificate of deposit (CD) or savings bond makes an ideal starting point for a young adult still trying to get their financial bearings. Both contribute positively toward your graduate’s more immediate savings goals, though a savings bond retains its value regardless of inflationary rates and — unlike a CD — remains free from taxation. In the end, either gesture gets your graduate thinking more practically about their financial future, and ultimately, that is the bottom line when it comes to any gift on this list.
Online Savings Account
You’d be surprised how many graduates don’t even take the seemingly simple step of creating a savings account. Opening an online savings account is one of the most important ways in which you can aid a recent graduate, McGee believes. “Once you learn to pay yourself first, you’ll really be able to watch your money grow,” he said.
To get the most value out of their burgeoning savings accounts, graduates should also set up an automatic payroll deduction directly into their savings. This inherently makes future saving a priority and establishes smart financial habits.
Unless your graduate is particularly precocious when it comes to the financial world, they may not realize the value in wisely investing their money. That’s where you can come in with an initial investment of your own. Stocks may be the first thing you think of, but the risk involved makes them a poor choice for a graduation gift. Instead, you might opt for a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund, which presents a crash-course in investing and plants the seeds for long-term investment plans. Over time, this seed investment provides a solid foundation upon which your grad can build.
Like a life insurance policy, retirement planning isn’t typically top of mind for recent graduates. But it certainly ought to be, at least if they’re earning an income. After all, Roth IRAs are tax-free, and a contribution to this forward-looking account — no matter how generous — can go a long way toward getting your graduate set up for his or her golden years.
Likewise, this can draw attention to their 401k plan, which is a cornerstone of retirement planning when a company match is available. Anything you can do to get your graduate to maximize their savings now is a win.
All the above suggestions help graduates to consider how their money can flourish in the years ahead. But if you’d rather not commit to a specific graduation gift, you could always present a more general way to emphasize the importance of their personal finances.
Perhaps you could set up a consultation with a financial advisor, who can guide your graduate to establish a financial plan that works for their specific goals. Even a gift as simple as a top-rated finance book or a subscription to budgeting software is incredibly valuable in the long run.
In the end, what your graduate needs most is an education in the financial realities they’re about to confront. Whatever form that takes will inevitably put them in better shape to make informed decisions with their money, and with any luck, your graduation gift could even play an integral role in their future.
Learn more about savings accounts through the AAA Deposit Program at AAA.com/Deposits.