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IRAs for Your Children

Selena Maranjian
March 25, 2009

So Junior has a paper route, you say? Sweet Pea is bagging groceries at the local supermarket? Well, then, I've got to ask you ... they've begun investing in a Roth IRA, right?

In case you weren't aware, minors can contribute to IRA accounts -- as long as they do so with earned income. A $500 birthday check from Uncle Lenny won't cut it.

This might seem a little ridiculous, to think of youngsters who make very little each year sacrificing a chunk of that pittance to retirement savings. But think again. If you're 45 now, you have about 20 or so years until you hit a typical retirement age. Money you invest now for that day will have 20 years to grow. If it does so at an annual average rate of 10% (the stock market's historic average), each dollar will become $6.73.

Meanwhile, if Junior socks away $1 at age 15 and it has 50 years to grow until he hits 65, that dollar will become $117! So a mere $500 invested in an IRA can turn into more than $58,000. If by age 20 Junior has managed to save $2,500, and it has 45 years to grow, it would become $182,000, growing at 10%. (If he manages to average 12% growth, it would become a whopping $410,000!)

I hope you're beginning to appreciate the power of time -- young people have much, much more of it than adults do, and it's a powerful tool to make money grow.

It gets better
But wait -- there's more! If your kids invest in Roth IRAs, odds are they'll be able to withdraw their entire nest egg tax-free! (Unless the current rules change, which could happen by the time they retire. Fair warning.)

Finally, note that your children don't even need to be working for someone else. You can employ them yourself, and have them fund their IRAs from earnings they receive from you. This is a little trickier, though, and might raise eyebrows at the IRS. So if you're going to do it, do it right. It needs to be real income for real work. File a Schedule H with your tax return and issue your kids W-2 forms. You might even need to apply for an employer tax ID number. If this sounds too complicated, just tell them to look into getting that paper route.

But don't shortchange the power of an IRA. Effective investments there can yield powerful growth. Even after a horrible 2008 for the stock market, stocks such as Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , General Dynamics (NYSE: GD  ) , and Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN  ) -- all of which have average annual returns greater than 20% over the past 20 years -- could help your kids' retirement money grow quickly.

Some successful long-term performers are already household names to your kids, providing a great and easy way to help them learn about investing. Take a look at how these kid-popular companies have done over time:


10-Year Average Return

5-Year Projected Earnings Growth

Marvel Entertainment (NYSE: