How to invest for a kid

5 October 2021

When we think about taking steps to secure our family’s future, often our minds go to diligently saving in our children’s names. But is this really the best way to invest?

Financially, the very best thing we can do to secure our children’s futures is to look after ourselves. To make good decisions balancing the short and long term, to have a robust protection plan, to reduce debt and to live within our means. 

We’re inherently emotional when we think about our kids, and more often than not, when we think about our money. If you’ve firstly looked after yourself, then these next steps will help you to get ahead, and give you the confidence you’re on the right track.

Consider your timeline to invest for your child

Selecting an appropriate strategy for your child will depend heavily on the age of your child, and the goal that you have in mind.

The goals and support we want to provide our children may look similar, from a family holiday, private education, tertiary support, buying their first car, contributing to their wedding or helping them get into the property market. 

However, depending on how far away this is for your child, will have a significant impact on the best way to get there. 

If you’re investing for less than three years – Cash 

If your goal is less than three years away, we really don’t want to take on any risk for this objective, because we haven’t got sufficient time to ride out any volatility (changes in the value of our money or investment). 

What does this mean? It means sticking with cash. If you’ve got a mortgage, the best value for you will be to save cash for your goal, directly into your offset account. 

If you don’t have a mortgage, a high-interest savings account (without any fees) is your strategy.

Cash right now isn’t seen as an exciting asset – it’s slow, and feels like we’re not doing much. But, that’s the reality for short term goals, we must accept a low (or no) return, in exchange for not taking on any risk. 

Set up an automatic savings plan, with direct debits, to ensure you’ve got the cash you need building up.

Investing for three to ten years – Investing in ETFs

When our horizon extends beyond three years, we can and should be considering investment strategies. This is because we’ve got time to account for any volatility, and taking on a bit of additional risk will likely be compensated by higher returns than saving cash. 

Investments such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or listed investment companies (LICs) will give us an opportunity for growth, and diversification, at a reasonably low cost. When assessing your options, the level of “growth” (such as balanced, growth, high growth) will line up with how much time you have until you plan to reach your goal. The shorter the timeline, the less growth (and therefore less risk). The longer the timeline, the higher growth you might be open to. 

A portfolio of ETFs or LICs can be an excellent way to save for your goal regardless of your starting balance. It’s also particularly well suited to building up over time with regular contributions from your cash flow. So essentially you can “save” for this goal, using investments, the same way you would contribute to a bank account. 

Compare Online Share Trading Accounts with Canstar

If you’re comparing online share trading companies, the comparison table below displays some of the companies available on Canstar’s database with links to providers’ websites. The information displayed is based on an average of six trades per month. Please note the table is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest), followed by provider name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s Online Share Trading comparison selector to view a wider range of online share trading companies. Canstar may earn a fee for referrals.

Investing for 10 years plus years – Long term shares

If you’re getting in nice and early, and you’ve got 10 years or more until your goal, an insurance bond is likely a great solution. Insurance bonds are an investment structure, like your superannuation, that allows you to invest in a really tax effective way. So you can invest in the same or similar assets as above (exchange-traded funds, managed funds, property funds) but underneath an investment structure that will save you tax. This option will also work well for most starting balances (normally $1,000 is the minimum initial contribution) and you can “save” into this over time. 

Alternatively, if you’ve got a reasonable chunk of change right now, and lots of time before you need the funds, then property might work for you. This might be the case if flexibility is less important, and perhaps your goal directly links to the property itself, like giving your kids a leg-up on entering the market when they are older. 

Investing as a parent 

Whatever your goal is, you need to be clear and intentional on how you’re going to get there. Hope and love is not a viable financial strategy. 

Parents (or future parents) with time on their side, need to shift their mindset away from piggy banks and cash if they want to reach their goals.

The decisions we make now, compounded over time, make the world of difference. What we’re all trying to create for our families is choice. To be in a position where we’re making decisions based on what is best for our children, not what we can afford. Start early and start with what you have, and you will create those choices. 

Compare Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) with Canstar

The table below displays some of the International Broad Based ETFs available on Canstar’s database with the highest three-year returns (sorted highest to lowest by three-year returns and then alphabetically by provider name). Use Canstar’s ETFs comparison selector to view a wider range of products. Canstar may earn a fee for referrals.

Cover image source: nikkimeel/

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