Smart Financial Gifts for New Grads

Your new grad can stash up to $5,500 a year in a Roth as long as she earns that much from a job, and the money she uses to fund it can be your gift.

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Question: My granddaughter is graduating from college, and I want to give her a generous gift that helps her build her financial future. Any ideas? --D.L., San Francisco

Answer: One suggestion is to give your granddaughter money to contribute to a Roth IRA. She can stash up to $5,500 a year in a Roth as long as she earns that much from a job, and the money she actually uses to fund the account can be a gift. Starting her on the savings habit early can make a huge difference in her future, says Mari Adam, a certified financial planner in Boca Raton, Fla., who is helping her adult children fund their Roths. If your granddaughter contributes $5,500 every year to a Roth starting at 22, then bumps up annual contributions to $6,500 at age 50, when she becomes eligible for catch-up contributions, then she’ll have $1.5 million in tax-free money by age 65 (assuming a return of 7% per year). She can withdraw contributions without taxes or penalties at any time if she needs the money for, say, a house down payment. All withdrawals, including earnings, are tax-free after age 59½. You can open a no-fee Roth at Schwab (opens in new tab), TD Ameritrade (opens in new tab) or Fidelity (opens in new tab).

Other ideas: Some grandparents (and parents) pay off a chunk of student loans. Or you could give her a “professional-start package,” says Adam—a lump sum she can use to cover a professional wardrobe, travel costs for job interviews or a car.

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Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.