One of the biggest factors which will determine success when it comes to investing is the total amount of time spent in the market. With this in mind, investors should prioritise investing as soon as possible, but when are they legally allowed to do so in the UK?
You have to be 18 years old to invest in the stock market in the UK under your own name. Whilst it is still possible to invest via a Junior Stocks & Shares ISA or via an investment account in your guardian’s name, it isn’t possible to invest independently until your 18th birthday.
Whilst this can be frustrating for teenagers looking to get a head-start on investing, the rules are in place to prevent reckless investing by those deemed too young to understand the stock market and its risks. Despite this, there are ways those under 18 can begin investing in stocks and start to reap the substantial benefits.
When can you start investing in stocks in the UK?
You must be 18 years old to start investing under your own name in the UK. However, it’s possible to invest your money younger than this via a Junior ISA in the UK or a Custodial account In the US under the supervision of an adult. Both of these accounts are offered at all major investing platforms.
To get started, simply google a common investment platform (Hargreaves Lansdowne, Vanguard etc) with ‘Junior ISA’ added to your search. This should be done alongside the parent, guardian or adult as this person will technically be opening the Junior ISA.
The chosen adult would control the investments until such time as the teenager becomes 18.
Similarly, in the US only, parents and legal guardians can open a Custodial account for their children. With this brokerage account, the adult has control of investing decisions but the purchased stocks or fund units would legally be owned by the child/teenager.
As the chosen adult has full control over the investment portfolio, including the decision to buy and sell holdings, it’s important that under-18’s choose an adult they completely trust to open a custodial account on their behalf. For most people, this should be a parent or close relative.
Whilst the adult does have full control over the investments legally speaking, if the under-18 is an investing enthusiast, there is nothing stopping the teenager from telling the adult what to invest in on their behalf.
Is it possible to start investing in stocks in the UK before you’re 18?
It is possible to invest in stocks in the UK before you turn 18. Your parents could open a Junior Stocks & Shares ISA in your name and contribute up to £9,000 per year to this account. There is nothing stopping minors from sending their guardian the money they want to be invested in this account.
A Junior Stocks & Shares ISA (JISA) is a tax-efficient account for under-18’s, opened and operated by a parent or legal guardian. At age 18, the child will gain access to the accumulated investments.
At the time of writing, parents can invest up to £9,000 per tax year in a JISA for their child. It’s worth noting that the rules around ISA and JISA’s change frequently so this contribution limit may have changed since the time of writing. Simply google ‘JISA annual contribution limit’ for the current limits.
Parents should consider if a JISA is the right choice carefully. Many teenagers still lack maturity at age 18 and a significant windfall can quickly be lost in the wrong hands. For parents of careful, responsible teenagers, the JISA is a great choice.
For ahead of the curve teenagers looking to invest, this can be a great workaround until they become 18. Simply ask your parent to open a JISA on your behalf, transfer them any money you wish to invest and guide them on what specifically to invest in within the Junior ISA platform.
Whilst there is always some risk associated with stock market investing, this practice is low-risk, particularly if the chosen investment is something low-cost and pre-diversified like an index fund.
Can a Grandparent open and pay into a Junior ISA ?
A grandparent can pay into a Junior ISA on many UK investing platforms. Whilst a parent or legal guardian typically opens these accounts, a Grandparent can contribute up to the annual limit. A Grandparent could open a Junior Invest Account, but these don’t include the same tax advantages as a Junior ISA.
A Grandparent would be able to pay into a Junior ISA and open a Junior Investment Account on behalf of their grandchild at a reputable UK investment platform such as Hargreaves Lansdowne.
This is a tax-efficient method for Grandparents to share their wealth with their grandchildren. However, it is worth considering any inheritance tax implications if the grandparent were to die shortly after making such contributions. Please confer with your financial advisor on this point if unsure.
Why do you have to be 18 to start investing in stocks in the UK?
You must be at least 18 to invest in stocks as the government has determined that investing before this age, whilst still a child, is too risky. When it comes to investing, capital is at risk and research shows that the parts of teenagers brains responsible for decision making aren’t fully developed until adulthood.
As with many things, the one-size-fits-all approach can be frustrating. Many under 18’s could invest without issue and gain an extra few precious years of compounding. However, on balance, many children and teenagers may struggle to a) intellectually understand the stock market and b) emotionally respond to losses in the appropriate ways.
This is why both Junior ISA’s in the UK and Custodial Accounts in the US are controlled by a legal adult.
Is there such thing as a Custodial Account in the UK to allow children to invest?
There is no such thing as a custodial account in the UK as there is in the United States. The closest alternative is the Junior ISA which allows parents to invest up to £9,000 per year into a tax-advantaged account on their child’s behalf. The child will gain access to this account on their 18th birthday.
What is a Child Trust Fund in the UK?
A Child Trust Fund is a tax-free savings account in the UK for children born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011. This account has since been replaced by the Junior ISA as of 2011. Owners of a Child Trust Fund can transfer the balance to a Junior ISA.
Can a 17 year-old invest in stocks in the UK?
A 17-year-old can not invest in the stock market under their own name in the UK. Their parent or legal guardian can invest on their behalf through a Junior ISA until they are 18 or they wait until their 18th birthday at which time, they can open their own investing account or ISA.
Should I start investing in stocks as soon as I turn 18?
Individuals should absolutely start investing as soon as they turn 18. By investing at this age, the individual will give themselves many years for compounding to work its magic and developing a consistent monthly investing habit bodes well for a strong financial future.
Just because you can’t practically start investing in your own name until you are 18, that doesn’t mean a 17-year-old can’t do anything. Why not spend the remaining months until your 18th birthday learning about investing by reading this website or an excellent investing book like ‘The Simple Path to Wealth‘ by JL Collins?
This will put young investors in a great position when they do start investing and help to avoid common investing mistakes.
Can a 16 year-old invest in stocks in the UK?
A 16-year-old can not invest in the stock market under their own name in the UK. Their parent or legal guardian can invest on their behalf through a Junior ISA until they are 18 or they wait until their 18th birthday at which time, they can open their own investing account or ISA.
For any 16-year-old outs out there who are already starting to think about investing, you’re in an amazing position and will almost certainly be financially successful in the long term if you can dial in the following key habits:
- Create a surplus (income larger than your total expenses)
- Invest that surplus wisely (broad index tracker on a low-cost platform)
- Avoid costly financial mistakes (poor investments, divorce etc.)
When can you start investing in the stock market in the United States?
You need to be 18 (a legal adult) to invest in the stock market under your own name in the United States. Despite this, teenagers can begin to invest their money via custodial accounts which are operated by a parent or legal guardian but legally owned by the minor.
For more information on the details of custodial accounts and how to set one up, please refer to this resource.
When can you start investing in the stock market in India?
You need to be 18 years old to invest in the stock market under your own name in India. However, much like western countries, it’s possible to start investing as a minor via a Trading and Demat account which is opened by a parent or legal guardian on behalf of a minor.
For more information on investing as a minor in the stock market in India, please refer to this resource.
As always, please remember I am an Accountant, but not your Accountant. In this post (and all of my others) I share information and oftentimes give anecdotes about what has worked well for me. However, I do not know your personal financial situation and so do not offer individual financial advice. If you are unsure of a particular financial subject, please hire a qualified financial advisor to guide you.
This article has been written by Luke Girling, ACA – a qualified Accountant and personal finance enthusiast in the UK. Please visit my ‘About‘ page for more information. To verify my ACA credentials – please search for my name at the ICAEW member finder. Please comment below or contact me here to get in touch with questions or ideas for future posts.