If you have children or grandchildren and want to give them a head start, get investing early on their behalf.
Looking back, I believe I was quite a good father to my three boys when they were growing up in the leafy suburbs of Hertfordshire in the 1990s and 2000s.
During their teens, I encouraged them to enjoy sport – participating and watching – as well as study hard and be kind to others. All-rounders rather than child geniuses.
Now in their twenties, I am mighty proud of them as, post-university, they tread tentatively along their respective career paths in football coaching, IT and journalism. They all seem to be doing pretty well and care about others.
You would probably think that, as a financial journalist, I also automatically instilled good money skills in them as children, sitting them down and giving them personal finance lessons.
But they never seemed that interested. I had more luck talking tax-friendly Individual Savings Accounts (Isas) to Tara, the family lurcher, than to Matt, Mark and James. At least she listened.
The boys were more interested in either swinging a cricket bat or playing football on Watford Heath with Dad in goal rather than learn about the value of compound interest or dividends.
Their school, a good comprehensive, never ran any personal finance lessons to help them, but that was par for the course at the time.
Rather than preach the virtues of Isas and the vices of unauthorised overdrafts, I decided on a different money tack.
Without them knowing, I would try and build mini investment portfolios for them, so that when they left the family home they had some money put away – to help them through further education or a little later in life.
I flirted with various long-term savings strategies. Initially I put money aside for them in savings accounts but the interest was quite desultory so I abandoned them.
I then bought them investments in a child-friendly fund that permitted you to make small deposits – either on a regular or irregular basis. Whenever I had a little spare cash, I would invest a bit more for them (as I did for various nieces and nephews too).
This was a strategy that worked reasonably well, providing them with half-decent sums when they left home. They appreciated the money.
I also bought Premium Bonds for them. To this day, my middle boy has held on to his and is disappointed if he does not win a tax-free cash prize at least once every other month. In the last couple of months, he has won prizes totalling £100. He would not give them up for the world.
Invest regularly, even if it’s only small amounts
It would be wrong of me to take all the glory for building them financial war chests to take into adulthood. My mother-in-law has also been marvellous.
Rarely a Christmas or birthday went by when they were growing up without her investing another lump sum in an investment trust-based savings scheme she had set up for the three of them. With the investment growth the trusts have enjoyed, the schemes now have meaningful value.
Indeed, the boys have all kept these investments and are only planning to use them when they need a deposit to put down roots in their own home. The middle boy looks like he will be the first to do so, with girlfriend in tow. He is currently making offers on homes.
Maybe the boys would be in a better financial position if they had enjoyed the personal finance education that is now available on the national curriculum to children at both primary and secondary school.
But between us – me and the mother-in-law – I think we have taught the boys a few key personal finance lessons that they will take with them through adulthood.
Namely, that long-term investing, rather than cash savings, can be especially rewarding and does not have to be hard on the purse (invest regularly, even if it’s only small amounts). And that it pays not to have all your eggs in one basket.
Hold broadly diversified investment funds or investment trusts rather than shares. And do not forget Premium Bonds.
The fact that my eldest is now eagerly investing into an Isa – without too much prompting from me – indicates that lessons have been learnt.
So, if you have children or grandchildren and want to give them a head start, get investing early on their behalf. I can think of no better starting point than to open a Junior Individual Savings Account (Jisa) for them. You can invest up to £4,260 in the current tax year, which will grow free of tax.
At age 18 or beyond, your children or grandchildren can then enjoy the fruits of your generosity. They might even thank you. (I am still waiting.)
JEFF PRESTRIDGE is the personal finance editor of The Mail on Sunday. He won the Contribution to Personal Finance Education category at the Santander Media Awards 2016. Email him at email@example.com.