Service of Taking Stock of an Unusual Gift Idea

October 22nd, 2015

Categories: Gift Cards, Gifts, Stocks

Gift card

Here’s a new idea: Spend $29.95 for a gift card [$4.95] worth $25 of stock in a choice of some 20 companies such as Tesla Motors, Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple or Facebook. You’ll find the cards in stores like Office Depot and Kmart [and before the holidays expect to see them in Safeway, Toys “R” Us and Lowe’s]. You can also buy cards worth $50 and $100.

To activate the card, the recipient registers it on the Stockpile website. That’s the company that invented the concept. While there are no monthly or activation fees, wrote Robin Sidel in “Shopping List: Milk, Bread, Equities,” in The Wall Street Journal, it costs 99 cents per transaction to sell or buy.

Savings bond“The cards work like traditional gift cards but recipients receive stock instead of merchandise when they cash them in. If they want, customers can swap the shares they have received for other stock.” Sidel quoted a market strategist as likening the cards to savings bonds that children received as gifts in days of yore. [The buyer paid, say, $18 and in x years the recipient could redeem the bond for $25.]

Gift cards are popular with consumers. Last year, wrote Sidel, we bought $93.9 billion worth. “Only 13.8% of U.S. families own stock directly, down from nearly 18% before the financial crisis,” according to the Federal Reserve, Sidel reported.

Two old womenMany years ago a friend gave his elderly housebound mother and aunt, who lived together, small amounts of stock. It gave them something to look forward to: They followed the market daily, and had skin in the game–but not enough to jeopardize their or their nephew/son’s futures. It was a delight to see their enthusiasm on a subject about which they knew nothing before he’d introduced them to stocks.

It’s too early to tell whether the concept will change the investment landscape, wrote Sidel. Do you think it has a chance to do that? Would his kind of purchase appeal to you as a gift? Do you think it will make money for the recipient or just for Stockpile? I wonder what the tax ramifications will be, if any.

Gift card 2

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8 Responses to “Service of Taking Stock of an Unusual Gift Idea”

  1. ASK Said:

    People buy lottery tickets as gifts, why not stock shares? The odds on the stocks are probably better…

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    Good point! In many ways this seems so simple–I wonder if I’m missing something.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Great concept. A long time variation is that of the Marriot Corporation workers getting a break on company stock. The (published) end result is that even chambermaids have retired with huge nest eggs.

    Could change the content of Dear Santa letters…..

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Good for Marriot! I love to hear of companies like this. In February I wrote about a stay at a Residence Inn Marriott where all staff impressed us–including the workers who cleared tables in the lounge where breakfast was served.

    It will be interesting to follow and see how well the concept does. I’m not sure that all children will love getting these. I preferred a toy, game or stuffed animal when my grandfather gave me a savings bond but I think today children are far more savvy and sophisticated than I was.

  5. hb Said:

    One of my early memories is of having parents who invested in the stock market and of how they viewed their broker. A family friend, they felt towards him the same trustful and reverent awe that others reserved for their family doctor. Of course, the stocks in which they invested then — issued by companies like Eastman Kodak, U.S. Steel, Pan American, IT&T and The Pennsylvania Railroad — are not around anymore.

    I ended up working for a bank, and somehow I thought this meant that I had some kind of special talent to invest well and wisely. Therefore, I found a broker, actually several over time, and invested for myself. When I did poorly, I assumed it was part of the learning process. Then in the late 1970s, I became a trustee of a family trust along with a considerably younger cousin, who was a Harvard Business School graduate. He argued that the Stock Market had become far too complicated to be messed with by amateurs and insisted that we must hire expensive professional investment management. I thought, “the arrogance of youth”, and dismissed the idea out of hand.

    Now, many years later, I just wish I had listened to him.

    I think stock gifts are a terrible idea – just another way for “Big Money” to fleece the innocent. How would you like to get 100 shares of Bernie Madoff for your birthday?

  6. hb Said:

    Hi hb,

    I wouldn’t want to get any shares of Bernie’s business though in the day some kid would have gotten rich quick! I think that the Stockpile folks are going to be as conservative is they possibly can be at first as they don’t want to be associated with a scandal or a big loser. It would be a turnoff and the end of a creative idea.

    I don’t know enough of the ins and outs of investing to figure what bothers me about the idea that on the whole sounds great. I figure lots of people won’t register their gift cards and others will lose them but that’s not enough reason to trash the concept. That must be true of any gift card. I admire people who come up with something that sounds so good on paper that’s not been done before.

  7. Judy M Said:

    Last year I gave the grandchildren generic gift cards so they wouldn’t be obligated to a particular store. For their birthdays we will return to giving a check as we no longer know what their needs are.

    For 1 teenage granddaughter in May I gave cash in a bank envelope. I told her why: A gift card costs $5-$6 . I prefer that she gets the money directly and can take only the cash that she needs, leaving the rest home. A gift card is a waste because if she loses it, all of the money is gone. She understood.

    I don’t know if corporate stock gift cards have an upfront cost.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Judy M,

    The gift cards for stock cost $4.95.

    I recently was sent an American Express gift card. I learned that I didn’t need to activiate it but that when I called and punched in the number on the card the computer knew how much was left. What I realized was that in future, when I get such a card, I should put in a safe place 1) the toll free number that comes with the card and 2) the number of the card. If I lose it, [and realize it before someone uses what’s left], the company can cancel the card.

    I have no idea what it cost the person who sent it to me. I don’t think I paid anything extra the few times I’ve given gift cards from a store.

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