Shopping for a financially oriented gift is not much easier than trying find Little Timmy the hottest toy or Uncle Joe the right tie.

There are too many options to ponder and too few choices to fit most budgets. Buying a financial gift can require a large heart or wallet, since many investment-handling firms these days seem to shun the small saver. But those who look hard (or dip into their savings) can find something.Even with modest returns, a stock, bond or savings account can quickly grow. Imagine giving a newborn $100 twice a year - say, on each birthday and during the holiday season. Assuming a 7 percent annual return, 18 years later this fund would be worth $7,001.

Perhaps one of the most curious financial gifts to consider is Giftrust, a mutual fund-like investment from Missouri-based Twentieth Century Investors Fund ((800) 345-2021).

Giftrust is an irrevocable trust that requires deposits to stay in the fund for at least 10 years. After a predetermined period, chosen by the donor, Giftrust pays out the money to the gift-getter.

Although it is a trust, there is little paperwork associated with opening an account (outside of finding $250, the minimum starting investment). But with its trust status, no tax bill comes to the recipient as taxes are paid by the trustee.

The fund is popular with grandparents who typically open 18-year Giftrust accounts, says Twentieth Century spokesman Gunnar Hughes. Some donors have gone as far as setting up 65-year trusts for newborns.

Taking a cue from its long-term nature, Giftrust invests heavily in growth stocks. These volatile shares produce the best results when held for a lengthy period. And Giftrust performance confirms that notion, with the fund returning 52 percent in 1989 but losing 22 percent so far this year.

Financial planners love to remind savers that growth stocks are great investments for long-term holdings such as nest-egg stakes for babies.

But several major mutual fund companies report that many investors prefer more conservative routes. Boston-based Fidelity Investments, Vanguard Group of Valley Forge, Pa., and New York-based Oppenheimer Fund all report that between one-third and one-quarter of their Uniform Gift to Minors Account business is in money market fund accounts.

Mutual fund gifts typically require a deep pocketbook. Of the major fund groups, only Delaware-based Provident Mutual Funds ((800) 441-9490; 6 percent load) and Twentieth Century have no minimum starting balance. But Twentieth Century, a no-load fund, has a new $10 a year fee on gift accounts under $250, making the smallest holdings uneconomical.

Mutual funds are obviously not the only way to celebrate the holidays, birthdays or weddings with a financial gift. Here's a look at other options available:

Savings Bonds:

This may be the best options for those with a tight checkbook.

For as little as $25, Little Timmy's college fund can be started. The bonds, backed by the U.S. government, are currently paying 7.19 percent (a rate that varies twice a year) if held for more than five years. Income is free of state taxes.

This year a new college-education option was added to the bonds. If the bonds are held in the parents' name and future proceeds are used for educational purposes, income will be free of federal income tax for low- and middle-income savers. For more information, call (800) 872-6637.

Bank accounts:

Another conservative option but one that requires a reasonable sum of money to get a good rate. An extensive search is required to find a banker who will open a small-dollar certificate of deposit. For $2,500 or so, a CD is currently paying about 7.8 percent for a one-year account. For less, many institutions will put a saver in a passbook-like account, typically yielding around 5 percent.


Buying a handful of shares is a great way for a kid to learn about the market.

If you're already a stockholder, you can cut the transaction cost by transferring ownership of some shares you already own as a gift. Contact the company's shareholder relations office for information on how to handle such a swap. Remember that such a transfer is just like a sale for tax purposes.

Zero-coupon bonds:

A popular option for saving for a child's college education because of their low-cost and low maintenance.

These bonds are sold by stockbrokers at a deep discount to their face value and appreciate in price rather than paying out interest. A U.S. Treasury zero-coupon with a 18-year maturity cost about $220 last week (equal to a 8.4 percent yield when it pays out $1,000 in 2008.) Commission runs around $40.


For the recent college graduate or newlyweds, parents or friends might consider making a contribution to the young one's individual retirement account. Check first to see if the recipient has already made the maximum yearly contribution.