For a myriad of gift-giving occasions -- weddings, graduations, births, "29 again" birthdays -- a check is always appreciated. But if you want your money to have a lasting impact, there are a whole host of options you may not have considered. Here are a few ideas for presents that will continue to reward their recipients long into the future.
1. A plan for life. Few traditional gifts can pack a punch like the gift of time with a fee-only advisor. Whether it's a young person about to collect her first real paycheck, or newlyweds who will share finances for the first time, a fee-only planner can help them set goals, establish a budget, and get on the fast track to save for retirement.
Don't know where to find a fee-only advisor in your gift recipient's area? Check out the Find a Planner section of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) website. NAPFA-registered advisors must adhere to a stringent code of ethics and accept fee-only compensation (as opposed to collecting fees contingent on the sale of a financial product or service). The Garrett Planning Network is another resource for finding independent financial advisors who offer as-needed financial planning services with no minimum income or asset requirements.
2. A leg-up on saving for retirement. It may seem a bit extreme to help a twentysomething to plan for his retirement, but you'll be doing him a favor. Getting in the habit of socking money away from the first paycheck onward is invaluable. If you can swing it, offer to match your gift recipient's contributions to an IRA, anywhere up to the annual limit of $4,000. In addition to retirement, IRAs can be used for other things, including a first-time home purchase.
3. An ongoing financial education. We've all heard that couples fight more about money than anything else. Want to help your newly minted lovebirds communicate positively about money? Give them The Motley Fool's Guide to Couples and Cash, filled with practical suggestions for melding money-management styles and negotiating conflict. Follow it up by emailing a link to the Fool's free "How-To Guide: Manage Money With Your Mate."
4. A look ahead to post-graduate education. Does your gift recipient plan on furthering her education? If she has a Coverdell education savings account or a 529 savings plan, you can make a contribution that will help her reach her goal. You'll need to find out whether she has an account; if so, coordinate with the family to ensure that all guidelines regarding limits and such are met. (See our "60-Second Guide to College Savings Strategies" for more.)
5. A gift that keeps giving. Find a creative way to help your favorite young person pay down their debt. Credit cards like Upromise don't just offer rebates that can be funneled into college savings these days. Upromise's Loan Link Program allows you to use a portion of your everyday spending to help a college graduate you know pay down his Sallie Mae student loans. BabyMint, another option, will help pay off loans serviced by Collegiate Funding.