WSJ: Five Gifts of the Financially Inclined

The holidays are fast approaching and for many that means spend, spend, spend…sometimes too, too much.

Here's a better idea. Give people gifts that at least stand a chance of improving their finances.

Here are some for a variety of budgets:
1 $100 Trillion Zimbabwe bill

If you think being a billionaire is cool, then try being a trillionaire. That may not be possible in greenbacks, but with now-defunct Zimbabwe dollars it could be.

Hyperinflation that ravaged that country in 2008 eventually gave rise to bills each worth 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars. One could now be yours for little more than a glass of cheap wine.

At its peak four years ago, the inflation reached 80 billion percent a month, estimates Steve Hanke, economics professor at Johns Hopkins University. Eventually, the people spontaneously adopted U.S. dollars, leaving Zimbabwe dollars worthless.

You'll find Zimbabwe dollars of various denominations for sale on , eBay and elsewhere (around $7, including shipping).

Advice proffered by personal-finance books frequently boils down to two things: Spend less, save more. In a sense, many cover the same well-trodden ground.

What a relief then that economist Ben Stein takes the opposite route in his recent book. He tells you what not to do.

"A lot of people don't really want to [ruin their financial life] but they do it anyway," says Mr. Stein. The idea is to tell people how that happens. "Maybe if they do the opposite, they'll do better," he says.

A case in point is "sell when things look bleak." Many were guilty of dumping stocks during the dark days of the financial crisis. They'd have done better not selling.
3 Money Savvy Pig
When Susan Beacham taught her first-grade daughter about money, she aimed to get beyond the simple arithmetic needed when spending cash at the store. Instead, she wanted to impart the idea that money needed to be allocated for various purposes. So she made a piggy bank out of four clear plastic cups.
"Children need to know what they are saving for," she says. "They need to be reminded that in addition to investing and saving there is donating."

The home-made bank eventually morphed into the Money Savvy Pig—a transparent plastic piggy bank with four slots, one each for spending (for immediate needs), saving (for a car maybe), investing (for college) and donating (because it's the right thing to do).

The banks are available direct from Money Savvy Generation or from retailers (around $20).

4 Willie Mays first-day cover

For $550, you can buy a signed first-day cover (a commemorative envelope issued by the Post Office) signed by baseball star Willie Mays. It's dated Sept. 29, 1984, marking the 30th anniversary of "the greatest catch in World Series history," says Naomi Hample, owner and head of autographs at New York City-based antiquarian dealer Argosy Books.

That envelope features a photo of Mr. Mays making the catch and a stamp featuring the late Roberto Clemente.

5 100 shares of 3M

If you are feeling flush and want to give that special someone something that could keep giving financially year after year, you could do worse than buy 3M.

"3M remains an exceptional company performing well in a very challenging environment," according to a recent research report from stock brokerage William Blair & Co.

One hundred shares will cost about $9,000. But they'll pay a nice $236 in dividends (about 2.6%). The company has a good record of boosting dividends so that yield could get even better.
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