How to Make Investing a Family Affair

Bush family photo
Bush family photo

There's nothing out of the ordinary about teens talking about video games. But what makes the conversation that Aaron Bush, 16, and his younger brother had during a dinner out with the family so amazing was how quickly the banter turned from which games were cooler to which gaming companies were succeeding and why.

That table talk was a result of years of family conversations about stocks and investing. Their induction into investing started when Aaron was just 10, says his mother, Joan. Aaron immediately latched on to the topic and began researching and learning everything he could.

Today, between high school homework and extracurricular activities, Aaron still keeps up with stocks -- and even influences the rest of the family's investment choices. "He can be rather convincing when he's researched a stock in depth," Joan says. "He's passed me up now, which is fine by me."

Tips On Having "The Talk" -- The Investing Talk, That Is

Joan says that Aaron seemed to have a natural bent toward investing, and "by accident I got him started early." Aaron is fascinated by the number-crunching side of investing. Her other son was less enamored with the balance sheets and income statements.

"In my case, I've found that one son thinks compounding and financial figures are fun. The other does not. Instead, he shows more interest when the learning relates to a company he likes or knows about," Joan says.

She says that using what already interests her boys helps them learn. "I've taken a totally different approach with my youngest son. I've guided him into investing in businesses we experience, like Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), Activision (ATVI), Ford (F), Pepsi (PEP) and Procter & Gamble (PG). For example, a couple of years ago, we chose Sysco (SYY) after seeing the trucks make deliveries every Wednesday morning at the middle and elementary schools the boys attended. Instead of getting mad when the Waste Management (WM) truck blocks us in the alley, we cheer because that trash is helping the stock."

After the family visited all of the Henry Ford sites in Dearborn, Mich., her younger son did a report on Henry Ford at school. "He was a Henry Ford fan and scolded us for having Toyotas in the garage. So when Ford gotten beaten down with the auto crisis, he eventually added it to his little portfolio."

Your Teen Can Teach You, Too

Joan's father was an investor, but he didn't explain much about his process and investing approach when she was a child. "I didn't start investing until I was in my 40s. I wanted my sons to start much younger. I think investing should be taught like any other life skill," she says.

But like every life skill, sometimes the teaching goes both ways. "In fifth grade, Aaron did a school project on investing that included explaining compounding, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and so forth to his classmates. Even his teacher learned from him," Joan says. "The positive reactions from that presentation and the fun he had preparing it made him even more inspired to keep learning."

Make Learning About Investing a Family Affair

When Joan's father learned his daughter and grandsons were interested in stocks, he was inspired to make investing a three-generation family affair.

"He had the idea for the entire family to set up play portfolios. We all chose 10 stocks for a familywide contest," Joan says. "Aaron beat us all by choosing Apple. My husband lost by choosing companies that had the biggest ads in a magazine he was reading. It was hilarious. For my sons, this increased their confidence and quest to know more. My father later gave the boys some money to invest for college."

The Lasting Dividends of Investing Young

The family's investing education has become a legacy that Joan hopes will be passed along to future generations: "The main thing I've told my guys is that it's important to know how to invest well so they can take care of their families some day and teach their own kids. I remind them that they don't want to be like their dad and me who knew nothing and would be living much more comfortably if we had been educated in this area early!"

Have you had "the talk" with your teen? Do you talk finances at the family dinner table? What's worked in your household? Share your secrets in the comments area below.

Robyn Gearey does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford, Waste Management, Apple, Activision Blizzard, and PepsiCo.