“I wish I didn’t start investing so early,” said absolutely no one ever.
Teaching kids how to invest early can be a game-changer, but it’s not the norm. In fact, just 65% of kids get some money lessons from their parents, and only 22% learn about investing, according to a 2019 CreditCard.com survey. I hate to admit it, but I was in the latter group. My parents didn’t teach my siblings or me anything about money, let alone about investing. I want to do better with my kids.
Before you teach kids how to invest, it’s important to make sure you have the basics covered. As parents, we are always looking for smart ways to save money. That’s where money education should start for kids too. A strong foundation in earning, saving, spending, and generosity set the stage to open up conversations about investing and putting money to work for them.
Get Their Interest
Countless sources suggest buying a kid-friendly stock like Disney or Nike to teach kids how to invest. However, after spending the summer learning about alternative investments to diversify our personal portfolio, my husband and I opted for a different teaching method. We decided to purchase collectible LEGO sets.
With collectibles, the idea is simple: You buy something, it goes up in value (hopefully), and then you sell it for a higher price than you bought it. This is easier to understand for our young kids. Many kids have also heard about collectibles like classic cars, comics, and trading cards, so the concept is a little more familiar than buying stocks. Besides, LEGO makes it fun!
If there is anything I’ve learned from our unexpected homeschool experience during the global pandemic, it’s that making a topic interesting and relevant to kids is the key to getting them interested in learning. Stocks will definitely come later on. First, I want to get them hooked on investing. Making it fun makes it easier to get the kids on board, and more likely that investing will become a long-term interest.
LEGO as an Investment Vehicle & Teaching Tool
Why invest in LEGO sets? My kids are crazy about LEGO – that was the main draw. Luckily, in terms of a financial tool, some LEGO sets also fit the bill for strategic investments.
Firstly, LEGO investments outperform large stocks, bonds, gold, and other alternative investments. They yielded an average return of around 11% in the sample period 1987-2015, according to the National Research University Higher School of Economics. So, by the numbers, it’s a smart investment.
Secondly, LEGO matters to kids. Actually, I should say LEGO matters to lots of people. Many sets start at $50, $70, $200, and more. These are purchased by AFOLs, adult fans of LEGO, not kids saving their allowance for the latest set. One of my friends started building huge LEGO sets during this shelter-in-place summer. We’re talking Architecture and Star Wars sets that are complex builds with thousands of pieces. She has no kids. She and her husband just like building with LEGO. And it doesn’t stop there.
There are LEGO movies, games, competitions, hotels, and amusement parks. In 2015, LEGO replaced Ferrari as Brand Finance’s “world’s most powerful brand.” LEGO was named “Toy of the Century” in 2000 by both Fortune magazine and the British Association of Toy Retailers. In short, there is a huge demand for LEGO bricks.
Third, LEGO doesn’t overproduce its sets. Sets are retired eventually, and some are launched as limited editions. People search out collectibles and pay big bucks for them. Supply is reasonable with low chances of over saturation.
Finally, like other alternative investments, LEGO investing doesn’t correlate to the public markets. With this in mind, these toys may be another way to diversify our portfolio a little bit further. At the very least, this experiment would be a fun part of our investing education – for the kids and adults!
Teach Kids How to Invest with Our LEGO Strategy
The strategy was simple. Identify LEGO sets that we think will go up in value, buy them, store them in a safe spot, and in a few years sell them for, hopefully, a profit. This was an easy concept for the kids to grasp, and they were excited about researching all the different options.
As a family, it was an absolute blast perusing all the LEGO sets together and debating which could/would/should go up in value.
Our 12-year-old took the lead in true research. He’s been a LEGO enthusiast for a decade and spent much of our socially distanced summer teaching his little siblings how to build LEGO sets. He’s analytical and math-minded, so he dove right into the reports and insights on all of the LEGO investing sites we discovered. Our 5-year-old was most interested in looking through the countless sets on the market and how they’ve changed through the years. Our 3-year-old was less engaged with the process but was happy to hang out and build with LEGO while the rest of us researched. All in all, I think normalizing conversations about money and investing is important, so even though the two younger kiddos were less involved than the pre-teen, it was valuable to have everyone hear about it.
We looked through tons of LEGO toys that appreciated in the past to understand what sets them apart from the rest. Talk about fun research! We learned that the LEGO Castle introduced in 1981 is part of the “primary” Castle theme, the third longest-lived theme in LEGO history. Although it may not be considered complex by today’s standards, it was awe-inspiring for its time. It originally retailed for $48, and today it’s worth just over $4,500!
The LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon, with 5,197 pieces, has been one of the most valuable LEGO sets of all time. Its retail price was $499.99. At a Las Vegas auction, a first edition, in an airtight case, scored $15,000! A new version was released in 2017 with even more pieces! There are plenty of other cool examples – just check out the super rare unreleased LEGO Architecture Skylines Las Vegas that’s currently valued around $900. I could go on, but back to the “lesson plan.”
Here is the specific approach we used. The kids helped every step of the way.
What to Look for in a LEGO Investment:
- Buy retail. Do not buy a set on the secondary market that has already appreciated in value. If possible, try to find a deal, promo code, or sale price.
- Purchase fully packaged sets that build something specific, preferably limited editions, or have some other unique aspect.
- Go for big, complex builds with lots of pieces and detailed instructions.
- Choose niches (movies, franchises, seasonal) and avoid generic builds (the stuff you find in the LEGO City series).
Do Your Due Diligence
- Make a list of which sets meet the above criteria and then look up each one on Brick Economy (LEGO economics, market values, and trends guide) and Brick Picker (LEGO pricing and investing guide).
- Based on the information you find on those sites, decide whether or not a set has the potential to increase in value.
Rules to Keep in Mind:
- Do not open the LEGO set!
- Keep your investment sets in a safe, dry spot. Do not stack the boxes (to prevent them from getting crushed or damaged).
- Secure the sets from the temptations of bored kiddos and/or adults.
- Expect a holding period of about 5 – 7 years.
Making the Investment and Tracking Appreciation
After weeks of research, we came up with five options that we thought checked off all the boxes we were looking for.
- A massive, gorgeous architecture set of the Taj Mahal
- A fun Friends set (the tv franchise)
- An Audi race car
- A beautiful Disney castle
- An old school black and white Mickey Mouse set
Each one was available as a retail purchase, had a unique theme, had detailed instructions with lots of pieces, and fit a “niche” category.
Since we thought all five were strategic options, choosing one came down to preference. We took a vote and ended up going with… (drum roll please) …the Disney castle and the race car.
We shopped around to get the best price and ended up purchasing from lego.com and Target.
Now that our investment is made and our LEGO sets are stored, the next step to teach the kids how to invest is about monitoring our “portfolio.”
You can keep an eye on the value of your investment(s) by doing quick searches on eBay or using a tracking tool like the one found on Brick Economy. Our kids look this up all the time.
At the end of every quarter, as a family, we will look up the prices of the set and track our investment value in our Money Minx account. With the colorful visuals and tracking options in Money Minx, we’re hoping our monthly check-ins feel like keeping score in a game. We’ll try and make that fun too.
I hope that our LEGO experiment is the start of a lifelong interest in money management and smart investment for our kids. Lessons in delayed gratification, research, return on investment, and self-control are all baked into this experiment, and we’ve all learned quite a bit already. Hopefully, we made wise choices, and our kids will see their portfolio of LEGO investments grow. Then, just like in The LEGO Movie, we’ll all be singing “everything is awesome,” too.