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Gamestop, AMC, silver: How to talk to your teen about the current investing mania

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When Tim Maurer's two teenagers burst into his home office last week, excitedly talking about how a bunch of kids had taken on Wall Street, the Charleston, South Carolina, certified financial planner knew it presented a great opportunity to teach his boys about investing.

Lecturing doesn't usually work, Maurer said. Therefore, it's important to be flexible so you can take advantage when kids show an interest.

"When kids come to you and they are clearly curious, that is the best time to give them the education you might hope to instill in a speech or a lecture, which rarely has the desired affect," said Maurer, director of advisor development for Buckingham Wealth Partners.

Retail buyers, largely fueled by the Reddit chat room WallStreetBets, piled into GameStop and AMC Entertainment to squeeze hedge funds who had shorted the stock.

Short selling is a strategy in which investors borrow shares of a stock at a certain price in expectations that the market value will fall below that level when it's time to pay for the borrowed shares.

Investing can be fun. Let's learn it the right way.
Yanely Espinal
director of educational outreach at Next Gen Personal Finance

Shares of the electronics retailer surged 400% last week, while the movie theater chain jumped nearly 300%. Silver has also become a target, rallying to an eight-year high on Monday. Those investments, along with other shorted names that jumped last week, are now falling back down.

GameStop's tumble emphasizes the danger of piling into the next hot thing.

"It is kind of a hard-knock lesson," said Ed Grocholski, senior vice president of Junior Achievement USA. "Most speculative bubbles burst fairly quickly."

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Instead, young investors first need to learn about diversification, and allocating your portfolio in line with your timeline, goals and risk appetite, said Yanely Espinal, director of educational outreach at non-profit Next Gen Personal Finance.

"They are jumping straight to the riskiest point, without any of those foundational levels underneath it," said Espinal, a member of the CNBC Invest in You Financial Wellness Council.

Here is what to do to ensure your teens understand what's happening and don't hop onto the next hot speculative trade.

Look at your portfolio

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Make sure you have your own investments in order — that you are diversified and allocated properly for your needs.

"Parents need to lead by example," said Maurer, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council. "That is always going to be what our kids pick up on."

Use analogies

Explain short-selling using analogies your teen will understand.

For instance, you borrow a friend's Jordan sneakers — a few seasons old, yet new — and sell them for $40 on eBay because you have a hunch they would go on sale next week for around $20.

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Yet instead they run up to $600 next week. Instead of making a $20 profit, you'll be out $560 after buying your friend a new pair of Jordans, Espinal said.

"Start with something they know well and then connect it back," she said.

Watch emotions

Emotions can rule over you as an investor, especially during the short term.

Look at the cognitive biases in play right now — the fear of missing out and the herd mentality driving the trade, when it should be the quality of the investment, Espinal said.

Do something

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If your kid is showing an interest in stocks, it may be a good opportunity to create a small, diversified portfolio for them, Maurer suggested.

"It could help kids understand investing in a way that is helpful, not in a way that is more prone to the salacious run of the market."

Gamify it

If they want to try their hands at investing, your teens can turn to several games available.

Next Gen Personal Finance has a 20-minute stock market game that uses real market historical data at buildyourstax.com, and the SIFMA Foundation has one at stockmarketgame.org.

Meanwhile, Junior Achievement has JA Take Stock in Your Future, a curriculum that introduces high-school students to the stock market. It also has a competition event.

"Investing can be fun," Espinal said. "Let's learn it the right way."

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