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  • Nick Burgess

The Youthful Investor: How Old Can You Be to Trade Stocks?

The following article is for entertainment and educational purposes only, and should not be considered financial advice. Please contact a licensed financial professional for individualized advice. Some links below may be affiliate links that generate a small commission for the site at no cost to you.


Do you have an enterprising child looking to take maximum effictiveness they can on compounding interest? First of all, good for you. Second, your child is going to be a virgin forever.

a child saving coins in jars

But does this have you wondering about the age restriction for trading stocks in the United States? I get this question all the time: "How old do you have to be to trade stocks?" Well, you're in luck because we're diving into this topic today. Let's get started!

How Old Do You Have To Be To Trade Stocks?

Good news for you young investors out there! While the legal age to trade stocks independently is 18, that doesn't mean you can't get a head start with the help of a parent or legal guardian. Enter the world of custodial brokerage accounts - Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) accounts and Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) accounts. These types of accounts let a family member or guardian manage investments in a child’s name.

The ABCs of UGMA and UTMA Accounts

So, what's the deal with these types of custodial accounts? UGMA and UTMA accounts are a great way for young people under the legal age to start dabbling in the stock market, mutual funds, or even exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and index funds. These accounts are opened at a brokerage firm, and managed by a custodian (typically a parent or legal guardian) until the child reaches the age of majority, usually 18 or 21, depending on the state.

Related: The Secrets of UTMA's

The Perks of Starting Young

Why bother starting at such a young age? Well, getting into investing early can be a phenomenal way to build a substantial investment portfolio over the long term. Thanks to the magic of compound interest, even small amounts invested early can grow significantly over the long haul. It’s a lesson in financial literacy that no high school class can quite match.

Choosing the Right Investment Route

Now, let's talk about choosing the type of account and investment strategy. The choice between UGMA and UTMA accounts, a custodial Roth IRA, a traditional IRA, or even a direct stock purchase plan can depend on your investment objectives and financial goals.

For instance, if your goal is long-term growth, you might consider index funds or ETFs. These are often seen as some of the best ways to invest over the long run, given their diversification and historical track record. Remember, past performance isn't a guarantee of future results, but it's a useful gauge.

The Importance of a Solid Strategy

While you might be tempted to dive head-first into individual stocks, penny stocks, or common stocks of public companies, always remember the importance of a diversified investment portfolio. It’s easy to get attracted by soaring stock prices, but keep in mind that the stock market can be volatile, and prices can also fall.

And let's not forget about fees. While many online brokerage firms like TD Ameritrade offer zero trading commission, full-service brokers might charge for their services. Be sure to consider this when making your investment decisions.

Putting Your Money to Work

With a custodial account, young investors can put their own money to work. Whether it's from a savings account, bank account, or even a debit card, you can start investing with your own hard-earned cash. It might not be as exciting as getting a credit card or driving, but trust me, your future self will thank you.

The Future Is in Your Hands

Once you hit the age of majority, you’ll gain full control over your account. This means you can start trading stocks, buying and selling shares of stock, using stock screeners, reading the annual report of the companies you invest in, and making your own decisions. It's like owning your own brokerage account but with a few extra years of experience under your belt! So, while you might not be old enough to have your own standard brokerage account, you can still be in the driver's seat of your financial journey.

The Role of the Custodian

Let's not forget the crucial role of the custodian in a custodial brokerage account. A custodian is not just a silent partner but an active guide, helping young investors learn the ropes. They can provide investment advice, help in understanding the influence of market orders and interest rates on stock investments, and even share insights on reading an annual report.

Trading Stocks vs. Other Types of Investments

Now, let's take a step back and ask: Is trading stocks the best investment for a young investor? Well, it depends. While buying stocks of companies can be exciting and potentially profitable, there's a world of other types of investments out there.

Real estate, for instance, can offer an alternative investment strategy. Mutual funds, ETFs, index funds, and even bond funds can add diversity to your investment portfolio. Then there's the whole universe of retirement accounts like the traditional IRA, the Roth IRA, and 401(k)s.

Learning Through Investing

One of the best parts about starting investing at a young age is the educational purposes it serves. It’s a practical course in financial literacy. You'll learn about the importance of diversification, the power of compound interest, the influence of interest rates, and the ups and downs of the stock market.

A Note on Risk

Before we end, let's talk about the elephant in the room: risk. Investing in the stock market isn't a guaranteed path to riches. Stock prices can go up, but they can also go down. So, while you might be eager to start trading, remember the importance of diversification, patience, and long-term perspective.

Prepping for the Future

Starting early with a custodial account can set you up for financial success in the long run. By the time you're a legal adult, you'll have a solid understanding of the stock market, be comfortable with different types of investment accounts, and have a head start towards achieving your financial goals.

Your Path to Financial Independence

So there you have it, folks! Even if you're under the required age to have your own account, you can still start your journey in the world of finance. With a bit of guidance, patience, and a long-term view, you can navigate the complex world of trading stocks, mutual funds, and more.

Remember, every investor's journey is unique. What works for one might not work for another. But the most important thing is to get started. And what better way than to start while you're still young, right? So, here's to your future financial independence. Happy investing!


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