Viewpoint: Christmas gifts from the heart; not phones
Dec 13, 2013 | 411 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kids get their first cellphone by age 12, and more than a third of them have smartphones.

Nine out of 10 teens have a computer and 97 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds play video games. More than half the homes in the United States have a fairly new video game console.

It’s great that our kids have access to technology, but I talk to a lot of grandparents who say they simply don’t enjoy giving their grandkids tech gifts during the holiday season. They want to give something their grandkids will treasure, something they’ll remember for a long time.

That has become more challenging as kids, along with the rest of us, come to rely more and more on technology for everything — from communication to entertainment to telling the time.

Coming from a four-generation family of life insurance specialists, I have a special interest in family legacies and a long history of innovation. Based on these experiences, I would like to offer these suggestions for holiday gifts for grandkids that create lasting memories.

1. Their own clunker ... which you’ll restore together. If you have a grandchild who’s still a few years from driving age, buy an old pickup truck that the two of you can restore together. You’ll have years to complete the project, which guarantees not only lots of one-on-one time together, but also the opportunity to teach valuable skills that will benefit him or her for a lifetime. Plan it right, and when your grandchild gets a driver’s license, he or she will also have wheels. And after spending so much time working on that vehicle, they’re more likely to drive it carefully!

2. An annual helping hand for years after you’ve gone. Imagine being able to send your grandchild a holiday gift of $20,000 every year for 20, 30 or 40 years ... with a note from you attached. You can do it with a life insurance policy option that pays beneficiaries in predetermined amounts of your choice for up to 40 years. Because of the deferred payout, the insurance company can reduce the premiums up to 50 percent. And your grandchild is reminded of your love for him or her throughout his life, particularly during the financially stressful milestones: college tuition, wedding, paying off student loans, downpayment for first home, and first child.

A lot of the grandparents who do this love the fact that they can continue to help their grandchild long after they’re gone. They also like the fact that they can choose what date the money is disbursed, whether it’s a holiday, a birthday or a special date significant to the grandparents and grandchild. And they can add a personal note which can be sent according to the policy holder’s instructions.

3. The gift of compassion. Sponsor an impoverished child in another country in your grandchild’s name. I like the organizations that allow you to personally connect with the child you sponsor, so your grandchild can write to and receive letters from them, and trade photographs. You can learn about the other country together, and pick out gifts for birthday or holiday seasons. A grandparent might pay the whole cost of sponsorship or allow the grandchild to pick up a small portion.

One organization highly rated by independent charity evaluator Charity Navigator is Compassion International. The 61-year-old Christian-based nonprofit facilitates 1.2 million sponsorships, providing the children with food, medical care, educational opportunities and more for $38 per month. Sponsors are invited to exchange letters and develop a relationship with the child.

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(About The Author: Ted Bernstein is a third-generation life insurance specialist with decades of speaking out and advocating changes on behalf of consumers. He was the first to introduce “no-load” life insurance in the mid-1980s and recently developed the Installment Life Option. Bernstein is a nationally recognized expert in alternative distribution strategies and life insurance product development.)