Help Us Give Away $1,000

You read that right. We want to give some money away. Sure, we're a company all about financial education and we believe in making as many dollars as possible grow into as many more dollars as possible. But that doesn't mean that we don't spend a little here and there. We're currently looking to line the pockets of a clever young person -- perhaps we can plump up his or her college fund, or at least contribute toward a used car or 22 pairs of Creeper Sneakers. Or better yet, we can help him or her begin a lifetime of investing in companies such as Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) , and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) .

First, the details
Here's the scoop -- in our 2002 book, The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens: 8 Steps to Having More Money Than Your Parents Ever Dreamed Of (check it out on Amazon or at your local bookstore), we announced an ongoing contest, saying:

"We've decided to launch a $1,000 annual grant for the next five years for the most eloquent and effective advice on personal finance, investing, or business offered by a teen submitted to our teen discussion board. It could come from you, could it not? If you'd like to compete and learn from others, then contribute (as many times as you like) your best financial thoughts on the Teens board and take a chance at winning $1,000 for being a talented communicator of financial advice. (Remember, we offer a 30-day free trial to check out our boards. So don't delay. This could be the first $1,000 you invest for your future.)"

The deadline for our 2003 contest was slated to pass at midnight on December 31st. But we're extending that to February 29th. (Contest details)

Calling all parents, teachers, and friends
If you know any teenagers, I invite you to forward this article to them, or at least tell them about our contest. (You can forward this or any Fool article by clicking the "email this page" link in the box to the right.)

Our 2002 winner's entry was one of many received from teacher Christine Kervian's students at Holyoke High School in Holyoke, Mass. Teachers might get a little extra mileage out of a homework assignment if there's a possibility of winning $1,000 attached to it.

How to enter
Entering is simple. You can email your entry to us at this address. Or better still, post it on our Teens and Their Money discussion board, so that others can read it and react to it. You can also see what other teens are saying about how they manage their money.

The financial advice or ideas you submit might be about:

  • saving money
  • earning money
  • starting a business
  • investing in the stock market
  • avoiding financial mistakes
  • or something else -- perhaps something we haven't even thought of!

Last year's winner
Tim Cavanaugh won the 2002 contest, when he wowed us with some pretty savvy advice. Here's what he wrote:

If there is one thing that all teens have in common, it is an insatiable desire for money. Being 16 myself, I know how it is: Kids always want new clothes and toys, and those things cost money. So the realization must be present that kids need to be smarter with their money. And there are rules.

1. Invest.Be it in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, or what have you, put your money into the markets.

2.Along with investing comes the proverbial diversify. When investing, try not to put all of the principal into one entity, because if that goes belly up, so do your savings. Make sure you get creative with your money.

3. Make your money grow.Don't just keep it in the piggy bank under your bed; if you're reluctant or unable to invest, then buy a CD (that's certificate of deposit, not the music kind) or at least open a savings account. Though interest rates may seem infinitesimally insignificant, it will build up over time. Besides, you won't earn anything by keeping your money at home.

4. Don't get in debt.In fact, don't get a credit card at all. You're just asking for trouble, and you'll end up paying more in the long run than you would with cash. It may seem easier, but you won't think so when the bills are piled up in a few years. And checking accounts will only encourage you to spend.

5. Don't become a slave to trends. Even if all of your friends are out buying the hottest fashions or music CDs, try to resist, or spend in moderation. Pretty soon, you won't want those clothes anymore and you'll be stuck and out of money.

6. Plan ahead.You may be only a teenager, but if you start saving and investing now, you'll be able to retire earlier. Open an IRA if you have a form of compensation (it's never too early), and you'll be reaping the benefits in your 50s and 60s.

7. Budget.Set a monthly limit and make sure you adhere to it. Try to curb any reckless spending habits.

8. Read up.Make use of books, periodicals, and, above all, the Internet. The Web has some great sites to learn about investing or even practice with using the stock market. Fantasy investing games can get you accustomed to how the market works.

9. Don't get caught up in a car.Cars are expensive. Keeping cars is expensive. Gasoline is expensive. Walking is free. Get the picture?

10. Work for your money.Learn what it's like in the real world; don't rely on your parents for money all the time. Get a job, but don't become consumed by it.

Well, those are the top 10 pieces of advice I can offer. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to plan for my financially independent future.

Read the entries of the runners-up in our 2002 contest.

More resources for teens
You can also help teens get a financial head start in life by pointing them to some other helpful resources. Here are a few, starting with a book and a nook:

The best gift that the teens you know will receive this holiday season might be a nudge toward financial independence. If they don't thank you now, they'll surely do so some years down the road. Go ahead -- help make someone a millionaire!

Selena Maranjian is no longer a teenager and regrets that she didn't start investing until her 30s. At least she'll never have to take another gym class, though.For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested inThe Motley Fool Money Guide, a book she wrote. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.


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