CASH-oriented Christmas gifts for young and old could fulfil a more useful function over the longer term

Giving money as a gift is often fraught with social complications. Depending on who the givers and receivers are, it might be deemed impersonal or even embarrassing.

But there's no reason to add to the pile of toys under the tree when you can give a gift that keeps on giving. Here are a few investment or money-oriented presents you can give:

A piggy bank is an idea for young children. Hundreds of fantastic piggy banks are available, most of which look nothing like pigs.

There is an alarm-clock piggy bank that you set to ring at a certain time every day and which only stops when it is "fed" money.

There are movie characters with sound effects that activate when the money is deposited or a ceramic nuclear-bomb-shaped bank that you drop and "explode" when it's filled with coins. More socially acceptable is a traditional-looking piggy bank with four slots, one each for saving, donating, investing and spending.

Finance-oriented board games are another option that combines the traditional gift with a measure of learning. Monopoly is the best known, but new games are also growing in popularity. Cashflow 101 and 202 are based on the philosophy of Robert Kiyosaki, the financial guru behind the bestselling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

 There is also Thrive Time, in which you are a teenager at school and you have a part-time job. You draw cards that present you with opportunities, temptations and challenges, such as borrowing your parents' car, then hitting your neighbours' mailbox, causing X amount of dollars' damage.

 You get chances to open businesses, get a bigger salary, use and misuse credit and so on. Other games include Payday, Life and Moneybags.

Children from about the age of six or seven should be able to do basic addition and subtraction and have an understanding of what things cost. A good gift for a child of about this age might be a savings account in his name into which you have deposited cash.

You could then come to an agreement about what portion of his pocket money should be deposited into the account each week or month so that, on a certain date, a big-ticket item he's really after can be purchased.

Absa's head of retail markets, Arrie Rautenbach, says this will help to teach your child the compounding process and how to achieve goals by saving. Just make sure the fees are such that they don't erode the benefit over time.

Especially good for a teenager or a university student is the gift of a subscription to a good financial publication, either online or in hard-copy format. The Financial Mail, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times and The Economist are a few possibilities.

An interesting way to give shares as a gift is to tailor some "stocking" picks to suit the recipient. Choose a company that the person interacts with a lot and give them some shares in it.

You might give The Foschini Group shares to a fashionable relative - a niece or a daughter who loves clothes, perhaps. You could give MTN or Vodacom shares to a teenager with a penchant for texting and chatting, and SAB shares to your brother-in-law with whom you enjoy a few Castles several Saturdays a year.

You might consider giving the gift of settling a loved one's debt, which will give her the extra cash each month that would have gone into the debt repayments. You can donate up to R100000 tax free to anyone of your choice in each tax year, and there is no limit on the tax-free donations you can make to your spouse. Henry van Deventer, a financial planner at Acsis, warns the downside of this gift is that you might be giving the person a "get out of jail free" card if the debt has been recklessly created. But if someone is in a debt trap that they might not get out of for many years, this would be a truly liberating gift.

Art is another good investment gift, as long as you are given good advice or you do diligent homework before you buy. Some young local artists starting to make a name for themselves here or internationally are still fairly affordable. Go to reputable galleries and museums for advice. Standard Bank, Absa and FNB all have an art wing and have people able to assist and advise.

Craig Pheiffer, general manager at Absa Management Private Clients, suggests giving proof collector coins - or a coin set - from the SA Mint. If you have the means and the inclination, there are also proof gold coins, called the Natura series, the design of which changes every year.

Krugerrands are another gold choice, but also not for the faint of pocket. Pheiffer says limited-edition proof collector coins or very limited uncirculated coins appreciate in value over time and are an investment for the longer term.

*This article was first published in Sunday Times: Money & Careers