What gift comes in all sizes, your mother-in-law wouldn't dream of returning it, and you can never have too much of it?
It's not fruitcake, and it's not a cardigan. It's money.
Everybody likes money. But that's not the only savvy financial-related gifts that can suit everything from a shoestring budget to a bottomless bank account.
Here are a few ideas. Just remember, these are not your average stocking stuffers.
Money Masters. The gift of financial knowledge has a guaranteed return. The book, Money Masters by John Train, is a great one — it chronicles nine of the world's most renowned investors like John Templeton, the investment genius who bought stocks after World War II, and Benjamin Graham, the value guru and author of another must-read The Intelligent Investor. Price: Less than $20.
Fun and Games. Family game night is back in vogue. Nothing beats the great American classic Monopoly for basic lessons in real estate, taxes and general finance. Of course, there is the bargain-price edition, but there are also collector editions. Price: $12-$50.
Subscribe to Knowledge. Similar to a book about investing, a subscription to a financial magazine or publication like the Wall Street Journal provides key knowledge and constant information about the financial industry. Price: $19.95 for a magazine to $175 for a year's subscription to the Wall Street Journal or $145 for a year's subscription to Barron's.
The Price Is Right
Stock Up. Give a present for the future. Forget the hot toy for your niece or nephew this year. Buy him or her something that will instill the legacy of investing, while providing annual dividend checks that are sure to please. Do the same for your mother in law or uncle, by buying them stock instead of another sweater or tool belt. For kids, buy stock in a "fun" company like Hasbro or Toys "R" Us. For Mom, consider the high-end retailer, Neiman Marcus Group, spice maker McCormick, financial services provider H&R Block, bleach maker Clorox, or jelly specialist Smuckers. For Dad, try power-tool manufacturer Black and Decker, mutual-fund expert T. Rowe Price, battery-maker Energizer, or slot-machine manufacturer International Game Technology. For teens, consider diversified media company AOL Time Warner or beverage superpower Coca-Cola. Price: Less than $70.
Pass the Buck. Nothing beats good old American greenbacks. What cash lacks in the personal category it makes up for in the appreciation category. Price: We will leave it up to you.
Invest in America. Besides an American flag, there is not a more patriotic gift than a United States Patriot Bond this holiday season, and it's sure to "raise their interest." War Bonds have not been issued since World War II. But after Sept. 11, the U.S. Treasury issued these bonds as a patriotic gesture in response to Congress' so far unsuccessful bid for War Bonds. However, money from Patriot Bonds goes into a general fund and will not be set aside specifically for rebuilding or counter-terrorism. Price: $50-$10,000.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Gold is no longer the standard on which the American dollar is based, and hasn't been a great investment. According to Ibbotson & Associates, its average annual return from 1980-2000 was -3.8 percent, versus +15.7 percent for U.S. stocks. But at the end of the day, gold it is still considered the fail-safe investment and the foundation of all things money. Price: About $300 an ounce and $9,000 a kilogram.
A Personal ATM Machine. For those who hate pesky service charges as well as the occasional line, FAO Schwarz offers a solution to your problems. Buy your own personal ATM machine for your home, complete with ten ATM cards. (Cash not included.) Price: $20,000.
A Bloomberg Terminal. Bloomberg is truly a wealth of information. It is the source for all things financial, but this is for serious investors only. Bloomberg is used by investment professionals for timely stock quotes and up-to-the-minute company news and information. This high-tech machine is not your grandfather's old-fashioned ticker tape. Price: About $1,800 per month; $22,000 a year includes a subscription from the NYSE and Nasdaq as well as installation of a Bloomberg terminal.
A Bit of Buffett. How about buying a share of Berkshire Hathaway stock. Investment mastermind Warren Buffett is known as "the oracle of Omaha." Berkshire Hathaway is a holding company involved in the property and casualty insurance business. Buying Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway stock is like buying an expensive mutual fund, as it includes a wide range of some of America's most famous brands, from See's Candies and Dairy Queen to the Washington Post. Price: The stock has never split, so it goes for $70,100/share (as of Dec. 17). If that is too steep, consider buying "Baby Berkshire" — the B-share class for the bargain price of $2,342. A Wall Street icon, Buffet's performance cannot be beat. The 10-year cumulative return for Berkshire is +683.10 percent (compared to +230.54 percent for the S&P 500). If you bought $10,000 worth of the stock in 1965, it would be worth over $60 million today and would qualify you as one of today's many Berkshire millionaires.
A Seat on the Floor. Like everything else on the the New York Stock Exchange, the 1,366 seats can be bought and sold. In order to buy a seat, it takes more than a signed check and a deep bank account. Each prospective member must pass a comprehensive test covering NYSE rules and regulations. The price of a seat dipped as low as $17,000 in the heart of the Depression and rose as high as $2.65 million in August 2000. Price: About $2 million. You can lease a seat for $280,000-$300,000 per year, so if those rates stay put, you will break even less than seven years. Also, the seats move in tandem with the market, so we can safely assume their value is rising, and if the exchange goes public, it is rumored seats could be valued as high as $4 million.
Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Capital Management in Chicago, is Good Morning America's personal finance expert. Click here to visit her Web site, ArielMutualFunds.com. Ariel associates Matthew Yale and Anne Roche contributed to this report.