Congressman: The stock market needs to protect retail investors

New York (CNN Business)Warren Buffett, the world’s most famous investor, is 90. But there are plenty of people much, much younger who are interested in stocks. Fidelity is going after that market.

The brokerage giant announced Tuesday that it is setting up a new Fidelity Youth Account plan for 13- to 17-year olds. The teens’ parents must already have Fidelity accounts, and the moms and dads will have full access to monitor their kids’ spending and investing activity.
A spokesman for Fidelity said in an email to CNN Business that parents and children both must sign customer agreements but “ultimately the parent is responsible for the activity in the account.” Teenage investors will have some autonomy, however, as parental approval is not required to make transactions.

    Fidelity said that teenage clients will be able to buy and sell stocks, ETFs and mutual funds. They’ll also have the option to purchase fractional shares of higher-priced stocks for as little as $1. And once the teen turns 18, the youth account automatically transitions into a standard one.

      The new accounts will have no commissions or other fees, no minimum balance requirements and come with a debit card.

      The teens’ accounts don’t include any access or links to their parents’ accounts. So moms and dads won’t have to worry about junior tanking their retirement portfolios with rogue stock picks.
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      “Fidelity is committed to responsibly supporting young investors,” Jennifer Samalis, senior vice president of acquisition and loyalty at Fidelity Investments, said in a press release. “Importantly, our goal for the Fidelity Youth Account is to encourage young Americans to learn through action and foster meaningful family conversations around financial topics.”
      It may seem admirable that Fidelity is promoting financial literacy and encourage teens to invest in their future.
      Still, the announcement comes at an interesting time given what’s happening in the stock market -— particularly among younger Gen Z and millennial investors.
      Fidelity rival Robinhood, which is looking to go public soon, has come under scrutiny for allowing, and perhaps even encouraging, risky behavior among some individual investors.
      The rise of meme stocks like GameStop (GME) and AMC (AMC) also have fueled concerns that average traders are making reckless choices with their money.
      The Fidelity spokesman said that parents who are worried about what their kids are buying and selling can sign up for mobile transaction alerts. He added that per IRS gifting rules, only $30,000 can be deposited into the teens’ accounts each year.
      Teens also will not be allowed to trade on margin or in super-risky investments such as options or leveraged ETFs, the spokesman said. Teen clients can also withdraw money from their Fidelity accounts and transfer it to a 529 account for college savings.
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      Fidelity maintains that it’s better for people to learn about investing at an early age.
      “The account is charting a new course by providing the ability for teens to build healthy money habits through learning by doing,” Samalis said.
      When you think about it, Fidelity makes perfect sense as a company that would look to let teens — who are often economic and retail trendsetters — cash in on their generation’s prodigious purchasing power.
      After all, Fidelity is the company that is famous for employing superstar fund manager Peter Lynch, who espoused the investing mantra “buy what you know.”

        I’ll have to wait a while until my older son — who’s 11 going on 16 — is old enough to take a crack at making his own stock picks. But I’d venture his buy-what-you-know portfolio would include Apple (AAPL), Chipotle (CMG), Disney (DIS), Netflix (NFLX), Roku (ROKU) and YouTube owner Alphabet (GOOGL).
        For what it’s worth, those stocks have all done pretty well over the past few years.
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