And The Children Will Teach

And The Children Will Teach

At age 15, Ionnie McNeill is a shrewd investor. Before she was old enough to talk, Ionnie tagged along with her mother, Ann McNeill, to weekly investment meetings given by the National Association of Investors Corp. (NAIC) and the Mastermind Women Investment Club, where they would set a particular goal and then discuss their progress at the meetings. “When Ionnie became old enough to read and write, she would sit there and map out her own goals,” recalls Ann. Then, at age 7, she joined the Future Investors of America youth investment group. The young investor has been hooked ever since.

“During the first meeting, the [moderator] explained that buying stock would be like owning a piece of the company,” Ionnie remembers. “He used McDonald’s as an example — when you’re [7 years old], you feel important knowing you [can] own a share of McDonald’s.” Her first stock purchase was 10 shares of Citrix Systems Inc.

Today, the high school freshman owns shares of several companies including Nike Inc., Kellogg Co., Pfizer Inc., and The Home Depot Inc. Instead of giving her high school friends “frivolous” birthday and Christmas gifts, she buys them shares of stock. The young McNeill has become so adept at investing that she was asked to lead a seminar for teens last fall by the NAIC. “I introduced the lingo to them: things like PE [price-to-earnings] ratio, what a stock is, and I talked about the NAIC low-cost investment plan to get them started,” she explains.

Ann, who is CEO of MCO Construction Co. in Miami, says that Ionnie’s knowledge increased as she herself learned more about investing. When Ann bought stock-tracking software four years ago, Ionnie was actually the one to use it. The process helped expand her expertise beyond buying stock to following a company’s performance.

Ann cites an incident when Ionnie was 12 and attended a youth investing seminar in Philadelphia sponsored by Yum! Brands, the parent company of Kentucky Fried Chicken. At the end of the session, she was the only youth to ask a question. “There was a rumor circulating that KFC was using artificial chicken,” recalls Ann, “and Ionnie asked what they were doing to counteract the impact that this was having on their stock. I don’t remember what the response was, but the blood drained out of [the moderator’s] face!”

Ionnie plans to work at her mother’s company during the summer, earning money to contribute annually to a Roth IRA (currently valued at $3,000). The savvy teen’s early introduction to investing demonstrates the power of DOFE principle No. 6: to teach business and financial principles to my children. Here are some simple steps parents can use to help children develop money management and investment skills:

Ionnie’s parents began by instilling some basic financial principles, such as saving money, before making the leap to investing. “My husband, Daniel, is very frugal, so Ionnie’s big on saving because of him,” says Ann. As a young child, Ionnie saved coins in a piggy bank and