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3 financial gifts that are more fun than cash

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Consumers are in the thick of gifting anxiety. And every year, they may face the same predicament: What is the best gift for the friend who has everything?

After all, millennials have a reputation for treating themselves (without an occasion). Even if they do have something new on their wish lists, it might break the bank ($1,000 iPhone X, anyone?).

So, this year, why not ditch the material stuff and dabble in a few alternative investing ideas? Keep in mind that these are not for the faint of heart and there’s absolutely no guarantee of return on investment. To be clear, Yahoo Finance is not offering investment advice, just some alternatives to the conventional gifts you may be considering.

Buy bitcoin

2017 was the year of mainstream cryptomania. Whether during heated holiday dinners or group text threads, bitcoin was the conversation of the year.

Though it’s been a volatile journey for bitcoin owners (it’s up more than 1,300% this year) my colleague Rick Newman can attest that owning bitcoin has been fun. The first step is to download a bitcoin wallet that stores your private string of numbers and letters that give you access to your coins.

Not all wallet providers allow you to buy bitcoins on the site, as our crypto reporter Dan Roberts points out in his handy guide. A company called Blockchain (not to be confused with the bitcoin blockchain) lets you download a free bitcoin wallet, or you can get one from sites like Electrum, Keepkey, Mycelium, BitGo and BitPay.

Then, you can choose from several holiday-themed wallets on Bitcoin Paper Wallet. This involves you printing out the physical paper with a slightly tacky (but fun) design.

If you know the recipient already has bitcoin in her portfolio, you can also consider one of the hundreds of other digital currencies on the market.

Buy a share of their favorite public company

How about giving someone a piece of their favorite company? You know that your daughter’s favorite song is “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana,” her favorite food is a Shake Shack burger and her favorite gadget is an iPad. StockPile is a company that lets you gift stock — Disney (DIS), Shake Shack (SHAK), and Apple (AAPL) perhaps — to anyone within a matter of minutes. You can send an e-gift or a physical gift card to your loved ones. From there, the recipient can open an account with Stockpile and redeem the money for fractional shares of stock.

For e-gifts, Stockpile charges $2.99 for the first stock, plus 99 cents per additional stock and a 3% credit/debit card fee. Physical gift cards come in three amounts — $25, $50 and $100. The buyer has to pay between $4.95 and $7.95 (which covers fees, trading commission and the cost of the plastic card). Most traditional brokers won’t allow you to do this, so this is a fun, exciting alternative to teach children about investing and help them take part in the growth of their favorite brands. 

Save, donate or splurge

iSow is a platform that strives to help kids spend, donate and save money wisely. Essentially, it’s an interactive online savings account that gives people the chance to dictate the kinds of presents they want to receive. Kids can “sow” their money in three ways: save for college or an investment account; donate to a specific cause or charity; or spend it on something on their wishlist. Though founder Tanya Van Court said she is targeting children and young adults, “sowers” range in age from 14 months to 42 years old.

Help your kids set up iSow accounts and give them a seed funding of $20 or $50 dollars that they can allocate for something they really want — a new bike, for instance. In a sense it’s crowdfunding for big-ticket items that will last a while.

BONUS: Get into real estate

If you’re feeling a bit more generous, you can always consider real estate. Fundrise is a crowdfunding platform for anyone who wants to invest but doesn’t have the know-how or capital to do it solo. It offers a starter portfolio for just $500. And you can work with your loved ones to help set up their accounts. The company focuses on midsize assets, which they claim provide opportunities and better risk-adjusted returns (and are less competitive than large institutional properties).

The huge upside? You don’t need to be an accredited investor to get in on the action, thanks to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)’s Regulation A+, which allows small companies to offer and sell up to $50 million of securities over a year to non-accredited investors. Fundrise is on track to raise $250 million from individual investors in a little over a year.

Bitcoin, stocks and sowing your money may not offer you a tangible item to hand to your spouse, child or friend, but you’ll bestow them with the best gift of all — opportunities for wealth creation.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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