Give the Gift of Education This Christmas

A few days ago I wrote a blog post about how hard it can sometimes be to know what to buy everyone on your Christmas shopping list, and have since had a conversation with some of our family and friends about just that. What came up surprised me!

While I find that the kids on my list are the easiest to buy for (all of them are aged 7 or under), not everyone feels that kids are so simple to cross off their lists. Be it either that they don’t know what they like and are into, or that kids can seem hard to buy for now a days since they seem to have a lot of toys and games already.

Something that I hadn’t really thought about for Christmas, but is a gift that really keeps on giving, is the gift of education. While I always love to give my kids books at special occasions and our book shelves are plentiful, it is not books that I mean here. It is giving a child a gift of education now, that helps them in the future – RESP’s. This is a perfect gift for grandparents or aunts, uncles or close family members that want to give something to a child but may not know exactly what to give.

My daughter is 7 years old and in school they are learning about currency and the value of money and is beginning to understand the concept of money more. So while gifting RESPs or money to put towards education may seem like something that they may not appreciate until they are older, it is a perfect way to talk about the value of money, and learn important financial habits while they are young. Also, if it is an annual tradition, it is something that can lead to more complex conversations down the road about budgeting, investing and more!

I did a little bit of research on giving RESP’s and money for education as Christmas presents and I found some tips from TD Canada Trust’s vice president Linda MacKay that might be helpful in determining if this is the right gift to give and how to give it for specific age ranges:

  • Under 6 years old: Keep it really simple. Give a child some shiny coins they can put in a jar or piggy bank to watch their savings grow. Make the experience of adding to the jar a big deal and as the number of coins grows, swap them occasionally for the equivalent amount in crisp bills. This helps the child understand the value of different denominations of coins and notes and develop a sense of pride in their savings habit.
  • 6 to 10 years old: Start introducing more complex ideas, such as how long it will take to buy something a child really wants if they save a certain amount of money every week. The financial gift can be used to help them get closer to that goal. This is also a good age to help children open their first bank account so they can learn to make deposits, withdrawals and watch their funds grow.  The importance of money and saving can also be reinforced through things like a small allowance, perhaps earned through set chores.
  • 11 to 15 years old: The gift of a contribution to a child’s Registered Education Savings Plan creates an opportunity to talk about how investments like a Registered Education Savings Plan work, the importance of investing early to take advantage of interest and why saving for post-secondary education is also an investment in a child’s future. Your children might also be earning a little money through odd jobs or baby-sitting so it is a perfect time to talk about goals, budgeting and saving for something they’d really like including university or college.

We have family members that have given money as birthday gifts with notes to say to put it towards their RESP’s as we have had ours set up for the kids since they were toddlers. Gifting RESP’s and money to put towards them for Christmas is really only a natural extension of the birthday gift giving. It seems that I am not the only one with that thinking as a poll that was done by TD earlier this year showed that 17% of Canadian parents and grandparents in Ontario who have purchased financial products for children say it was given as a holiday gift at the end of the year!

So what say you?

What do you think about gifting the gift of education for Christmas in means of RESP’s (or money towards one)? Would you choose this option for your holiday gift giving?

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For more information on how to start a RESP or give the gift of an RESP for the child in your life, please see TD Canada Trust’s RESP information found here!