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“What is the best way to invest $1,000 for a child?”

This is a difficult question for many people to answer. What’s best? A savings account or college fund? The stock market or real estate? The answer depends on the person, but there are some common sense guidelines that you should follow when considering investment options for your child.

In this article, we will take a look at the best way to invest $1,000 for a child, considerations to make and examine several of the different investment opportunities available.

Best Ways to Invest $1,000 for a Child’s Future—Top Picks

Custodial Account
Best 529 Plan Option with Gifting
Personal: $3/mo. Personal Plus: $5/mo. Premium: $9/mo.
$1.99/contribution, $1.99/gift
Custodial Account
Personal: $3/mo. Personal Plus: $5/mo. Premium: $9/mo.
Best 529 Plan Option with Gifting
$1.99/contribution, $1.99/gift

Why You Should Invest While Young

parents son kid online debit credit card account

Investing isn’t just for adults. Many often say youth is wasted on the young. In the case of investing, this isn’t the case. Compounding returns can differentiate a portfolio significantly in terms of performance. To illustrate, let’s consider two simple examples of the power of compounding.

→ Compounding Example 1:

Imagine a parent who invests $1 per day from birth until the child’s 18th birthday into a low-cost S&P 500 index fund that averages an annual return of 8.5%. The child never invests another dollar in this account from then until retirement at 68. The child would have received $6,574 in contributions before reaching 18.

After 68 years of compounding at that annual return, the child would become a millionaire on this account alone by having a total wealth of $1,068,540.

→ Compounding Example 2:

Now imagine another person who never saved a cent until their 18th birthday. From that day until retiring at 68, this person also invests $1 per day and receives the same 8.5% annual return.

This adult would have contributed $18,262 to the retirement account. In return, this retirement account balance would only amount to $293,072.

The second example didn’t do anything different beyond waiting longer to invest. This speaks to two things: first, the power of compounding. Second, the efficiency of tax-advantaged retirement accounts.

Best Investment Accounts for Kids

teen girls phones

Kid investment accounts span across a few different areas and depend on your investment objective. For example, if the goal is college savings or paying off student loans, 529 plans might work best. If you are looking for a retirement account to fund your child’s future needs, then go with an IRA.

And if you want a way to teach kids about investing and have fun doing it at the same time, you might consider a UGMA/UTMA custodial account to do that.

Best Investment Plans for a Child’s Future

1. Custodial Accounts (UTMA vs UGMA)

senior grandparents grandson tablet retire

Custodial accounts act as a great means to provide long-term investing options for your child. These are perfect for you to teach topics on investing for kids.

You can contribute money to the account and manage it with their ability to see how you handle the investments together. A single adult can contribute up to $17,000 per year ($18,000 in 2024) in 2023 to the custodial account while a couple can contribute up to $34,000 per year if they file taxes jointly ($36,000 in 2024).

Custodial accounts come in two flavors:

  • UTMA (Uniform Transfer to Minors Act) – These accounts allow a custodian to invest in traditional assets like stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds and related securities.
  • UGMA (Uniform Gifts to Minors Act) – This type of custodial account can be used in a variety of ways, which include alternative investments. Along with their traditional uses like financial assets and investment vehicles, UGMA custodial accounts can also be used to store items such as property deeds, automobiles and valuable art collections.

A parent, guardian or other individual (the custodian) opens an account in the child’s name and contributes money irrevocably into the account. That means money placed into the account cannot be taken back. It remains the property of the minor.

The account then transfers ownership when the child reaches the age of majority in his or her state of residence.

Custodial accounts are often used as a means of investing money that you want to remain with your child until they come of age, or when they graduate from high school.

If you can only invest $1,000 at your child’s birth in a custodial account, you’ll have an ending account balance of $317,227 in retirement. That’s over 300x on your $1,000 contributed at birth under the same 8.5% average annual return scenario.

If you contribute $1,000 every year from your child’s birth until they turn 18 and let the money compound until turning 68, they’d have $3,236,705. That’s a fantastic return any kid would be grateful to receive.

Custodial Accounts With Acorns ($20 Bonus)

acorns signup

Acorns offers a custodial brokerage account for parents interested in opening an investment account for their child called Acorns Early, which is available by subscribing to Acorns Premium.

Acorns Early offers investment portfolios of various risk levels for kids, so you can feel confident in the account you’re opening up for your little one. And thanks to a library of financial literacy content, this micro-investing app can be a great way to teach minors how to invest money.

The best part about Acorns is that it doesn’t require any minimum deposit to get started and allows you to contribute money on a regular basis. With Acorns Smart Deposit, you can automatically invest part of your paycheck each pay period and allocate it to Acorns Early, Invest, and Later accounts.

Learn more in our Acorns review.

Related: Best Trading Accounts for Minors

2. Joint Brokerage Account

The standard type of brokerage account is an individual brokerage, in which one person’s name is listed as the account owner.

A jointly owned brokerage account, however, allows two or more people to sit on the account’s title and act as owners of all assets within the account.

These accounts most commonly exist between spouses, but they can also be opened between multiple family members (say, a parent and child) or two or more individuals who share financial goals (say, unmarried partners or business partners).

When a parent and child have a jointly owned brokerage account, they can share in the decision-making of what to buy and sell. Many investing apps for kids allow you to open a brokerage account with joint ownership.

Related: Best Debit Cards for Kids

3. 529 Plans

education graduation 529 esa college teen young adult

For those lucky enough not to have noticed, college now costs a small private fortune to attend. If the trend continues unabated, you can expect the cost for your child to attend college to become even more unaffordable by the time they’re ready to pack up and move into the dorm.

Fortunately, the tax law allows for you to save for college expenses in a tax-smart way with 529 plans.

These plans allow you to save after-tax money in suitable investments which you can sell to pay for qualified educational expenses. If used for this purpose, you won’t need to pay taxes on any realized gains from the account.

They are relatively easy to establish and offer some of the great returns on your investment when compared with other ways to invest $1,000 for a child.

For example, if you invest $1,000 per year for your child in a 529 plan and receive the same 8.5% annual return as above, you can expect to make $18,000 worth of contributions and have an ending balance of $46,866.

That’s a major step toward paying for college expenses, especially if your child can earn scholarships and consider attending an in-state school.

529 plans have evolved to include more than college expenses, however. After tax reform in 2018, the plans now can be used to:

  • Pay for qualified expenses relating to K-12 public, private and religious schools.
  • Pay for college and other post-secondary education expenses like for professional school or graduate school

Most withdrawals count as tax-free and:

  • Single parents can contribute up to $85,000 per year
  • Married couples can contribute up to $170,000 per year.

529 plans technically invest in plans organized at the state level, meaning each state has its own set of rules tied to 529 plans and the investment options available.

The best 529 plans allow funds contributed from an individual, couple, or family members (up to the annual gift exclusion).

529 Plans With Backer

backer sign up

A great option to consider is Backer. Backer, a hassle-free 529 Savings Plan where your family and friends can play a role, has helped families save over $20 million towards college in just minutes.

You can use the 529 plan to put your child on track to afford college; all while remaining invested in an asset class that will grow over time.

You are able to invest using Backer’s portfolio of low-cost index funds including: large company stocks (S&P 500), small cap stocks (Russell 2000) international companies shares (MSCI EAFE Index), US government bonds (Barclays Aggregate Bond Index).

In sum, 529 plans offer a narrow set of uses on qualified education expenses. They can provide a means to avoid having your children take on costly student loans and offer tax incentives to do so.

For financial needs outside of schooling, you might consider opening an investment account like a UGMA/UTMA custodial account, joint brokerage account or custodial IRA.

Related: 5 Best Under-18 Investment Accounts

4. Custodial IRAs

mother daughter teen smartphone app online

Retirement accounts might seem like an odd choice for a teenager to trade stocks because retirement is over 50 years away for them.

But recall the example from above and how the one child who only invested $1 a day from birth until turning 18 became a millionaire through compounding. Now, imagine investing more and then continuing to invest past becoming an adult.

The money in the account would swell over time, securing their retirement just from a few actions taken very early on in the child’s life.

But, children can’t open an investment account by themselves. They need to make use of a custodial account. You’ll serve as a custodian until your child turns 18. When they reach adulthood, the account ownership reverts to their hands.

Though, be warned, when you or others make contributions to a custodial account, these funds become irrevocable, meaning they legally belong to the minor investing in the account, both the contributions and gains.

Securing those gains from above from taxes means you’ll want to invest in a tax-advantaged account. That means they need to open an IRA.

In their case, that means needing earned income and also contributing their tax-advantaged retirement savings into a custodial IRA at that.

E*Trade (Our Top Pick for Custodial IRAs)

etrade signup invest

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Best for: Intermediate investors
  • Platforms: Web, mobile app (Apple iOS, Android)

Most people know E*Trade as one of the leading providers of individual brokerage accounts, but you can also put the powerful platform to work saving for your child’s future.

E*Trade’s IRA for Minors offering allows you to open up a traditional custodial IRA or a custodial Roth IRA for children under age 18 who have earned income. Within the account, you can build a personalized portfolio through thousands of stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds, or you can have E*Trade select your holdings for you through its Core Portfolio robo-advisory service.

Just like with its individual brokerage accounts, E*Trade custodial IRAs offer zero-commission stock, ETF, and options trading. It also has a leg up on some platforms by offering $0-commission mutual fund trading.

And if you want to learn more about investing—or want your young one to learn alongside you—E*Trade also boasts educational resources, including articles, videos, classes, monthly webinars, and even live events.

Visit E*Trade to learn more or sign up today.

Related: Best Investments to Buy for Kids

Custodial IRAs come in two flavors: Traditional vs. Roth.

Traditional vs. Roth

traditional vs roth IRA chalk

Every individual with earned income can contribute to an individual retirement account, or IRA. These accounts come in multiple flavors depending on your needs, but most commonly as standard Traditional and Roth IRA types. These two accounts essentially mirror each other with how they handle taxes.

  • Traditional IRAs allow you to deduct your contributions from your taxable income in the year of contribution. This defers taxes until you withdraw them in retirement.

For example, if you have a taxable income of $50,000 and contribute $1,000 to your traditional IRA, you’ll only have a taxable income of $49,000. This means you pay taxes at the 22% rate and you’ll pay $220 less in taxes that year, all else equal.

  • Roth IRAs differ because they don’t offer any upfront deduction for contributions like a traditional IRA does. Instead, you contribute after-tax money into a Roth IRA and can withdraw it tax-free in retirement.

You would contribute to a Traditional IRA if you think your income tax rate will decline in retirement compared to now. Conversely, if you think you will have more income in retirement than you do now, you will want to contribute to a Roth IRA.

Kids who have earned income likely want to contribute to a Roth IRA because they only stand to earn more money after finishing school and working full-time. Further, they probably don’t need to lower their taxable income to fall into a lower tax bracket now like they would with a Traditional IRA later.

Therefore, opening a custodial Roth IRA for a child who earns income makes the most sense. A custodial Roth IRA allows your child to make tax-free withdrawals on their account’s earnings when they retire.

One important rule to know about Roth IRAs, however, is that you may encounter a 10% penalty for making an early withdrawal. Certain use cases allow you to withdraw contributions the account owner has made into the account like buying a first-home. The trick will become convincing your child to leave the money in the account once they legally gain access upon turning 18. This way, they reap compounding returns while also avoiding a nasty penalty.

What is the Kiddie Tax Rule?

tax due date calendar 2023

One area you’ll need to be aware of for custodial accounts is the kiddie tax rule. People took advantage of the loophole from gifting shares of stocks to their kids and the government caught notice.

The federal government passed the kiddie tax, preventing people from abusing this loophole. This tax requires parents to pay the marginal income tax rate on all unearned income realized in the account. This rule applies to all investment income for kids under 19 or full-time students under 23.

This doesn’t make the child pay higher taxes than their current wages. The IRS allows the first $1,250 of unearned income to be tax-free ($1,300 in 2024), the second $1,250 to be taxed at the child’s rate and then any balance above that at the parents’ rate ($1,300 in 2024). This means that if you put $1,000 into an account each year for your teenager and they earn under $1,250 ($1,300) in dividends, it’s tax free. However, if it’s $1,700, there will be taxes due on $400 of that amount.

If the account has $2,800 in dividends, $1,250 ($1,300) will be untaxed, $1,250 ($1,300) will be at the child’s tax rate and $300 ($200) at the parents’ rate. If your child takes this income out of the account, this could be a good way to teach teenage money management.


What is Micro-Investing?

european money growth eggshell

A powerful tool to get your kid to start investing early is something called micro-investing. Micro-investing is a method that allows you to invest small sums of money, which can be as little as $0.25 per day. A micro-investing platform is a type of investing where the individual invests in stocks or other assets on an ongoing basis over time, with each investment being very small and thus low-risk because it will take years to grow in value.

However, by regularly contributing money over time, these wealth building habits can quickly lead to turning money into more money and growing account balances. Remember the example above about investing $1 per day every day? That small, steady progress reaps huge gains over long enough periods of time.

What are the Best Ways to Invest $1,000 for a Child?

One of the best ways to invest $1,000 for a child includes buying stocks through joint brokerage accounts and custodial accounts. The best ones include the following stock investing apps for beginners.

1. Greenlight App

greenlight sign up new
  • Available: Sign up here
  • Price: Free 1-month trial, $9.98/mo after for Greenlight Max

Greenlight Max is an investment account for kids that comes paired with a debit card for teens.

It’s easy to use and can double as a savings account and banking app for teens. The app will teach the basics of investing, how to invest money in stocks and ETFs, etc.

It works best if parents and/or grandparents are involved in the process because it requires linked accounts from the custodians’ banks or brokerages.

The all-in-one plan teaches them important financial skills like money management and investing fundamentals — with real money, real stocks and real-life lessons.

You can use the investing feature to:

  • Buy fractional shares of companies your kids admire (kid-friendly stocks)
  • Start investing with as little as $1 in your account (with fractional shares)
  • No trading commissions beyond the monthly subscription fee
  • Parents approve every trade directly in the app on individual stocks and ETFs with a market capitalization of $1 billion+

Consider opening a Greenlight Max account to start investing in a custodial brokerage account for your kids today. The first month is free to trial the product and see if it meets your needs for giving one of the best investments for kids.

Read more in our Greenlight Card review.

Related: 9 Best Fractional Share Brokerages to Buy Partial Stocks & ETFs

2. Acorns Early ($20 Bonus)

acorns signup

Acorns offers a custodial account for parents interested in opening an investment account for their child called Acorns Early.

Acorns Early offers investment portfolios of various risk levels, so you can feel confident in the account you’re opening up for your little one. This app can be a great way to teach teenagers how to invest money. The best part about Acorn is that it doesn’t require any minimum deposit to get started and allows you to contribute money on a regular basis.

One of the best ways for parents to invest $1,000 for their child’s future is in a custodial account like Acorns Early, which you can access by subscribing to Acorns Premium.

Learn more in our Acorns review.


How Do I Talk About Investing With My Kids?

mother father daughter child credit debit card

Broaching the subject of investing can be a tricky topic with kids, especially when they have so many competing priorities in their lives. But that’s nothing to worry about because having patience and showing them the importance of investing as a long-term endeavor go hand-in-hand.

Start by talking about investing regularly and like it’s a normal part of life. Demystify the topic and make sure it does happen as a one-off conversation. Continue to nurture their interest in the area by talking about stocks, the market or economic events at least weekly.

By making it a recurring subject of discussion, your kids will eventually take the bait and ask questions. If nothing else, they know by showing genuine interest in learning what you’re talking about, it’ll get you to quit mentioning it all the time!

Most kids want to engage and understand more about what you say. Therefore, emphasizing it regularly will lead to more fruitful conversations. From there, you can talk about companies and the importance of investing in good ones you think will succeed.

To give you ideas about good companies to follow, consider subscribing to or using:

These will all be good places for them to start and learn about exciting companies making the news. You might also break down their favorite companies through focusing on the best stocks for kids. Avoid using jargon where possible and instead speak to them with direct language they can understand.

By painting a full picture for them, you kids might have an easier time engaging in the conversation and following your overarching ideas. With enough time, repetition and excitement, you can start to lure your children into the world of investing with ease and interest.

Related: Best Investments for Grandchildren to Own

About the Author

Riley Adams is the Founder and CEO of Young and the Invested. He is a licensed CPA who worked at Google as a Senior Financial Analyst overseeing advertising incentive programs for the company’s largest advertising partners and agencies. Previously, he worked as a utility regulatory strategy analyst at Entergy Corporation for six years in New Orleans.

His work has appeared in major publications like Kiplinger, MarketWatch, MSN, TurboTax, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, The Globe and Mail, and CNBC’s Acorns. Riley currently holds areas of expertise in investing, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies and personal finance where he has been cited as an authoritative source in outlets like CNBC, Time, NBC News, APM’s Marketplace, HuffPost, Business Insider, Slate, NerdWallet, Investopedia, The Balance and Fast Company.

Riley holds a Masters of Science in Applied Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Centenary College of Louisiana.