To commemorate Financial Literacy month, Yahoo! Finance is proud to bring you a Q&A about financial education for kids with famed investor Warren Buffett.
One of the world's richest men, Buffett is also the voice of a new animated series entitled "Secret Millionaires Club," which offers kids tips on investing and basic business concepts. "The more you learn, the more you’ll earn,” Buffett says in the series, which also features the voices of Jay-Z and Shaquille O’Neal. The first DVD of the series was recently released and is available for purchase on Amazon.com. More information can be found at www.smckids.com.
In addition to the Q&A below, we invite you to check out our newly refreshed Financial Education hub: Money 101.
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— Aaron Task, Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo! Finance
Yahoo! Finance: How did you get involved in the Secret Millionaires Club?
My friend Andy Heyward, who is a producer of kids entertainment, and I came up with the idea to help educate kids about financial matters. I thought the idea of using the power of cartoon characters to carry a message was a good one, as is teaching financial lessons at an age when it can help them.
YF: What does the term "Secret Millionaires Club" refer to?
WB: In the pilot episode, a group of kids come together to save their local youth center. In the process, they come across a valuable baseball card which they sell to save their youth center. They ask my help to help them understand and manage their money. In the process we form the Secret Millionaires Club, and have lots of fun adventures together learning about money and business.
YF: Is the goal to help kids understand finance and related concepts — or to help them learn how to amass wealth? Or both?
WB: The goal has nothing to do with amassing wealth, and everything to do with helping kids understand money, and develop healthy habits from a young age. Someone once said, “the chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to broken.” We’re trying to help kids develop healthy habits that will help them their whole life.
YF: What are some of the key financial terms and business concepts you hope kids learn from the series? How did you learn them?
WB: Some of the lessons you’ll hear in this series are: “The best investment you can make, is an investment in yourself.” “The more you learn, the more you’ll earn.” “Learn from your mistakes, and the mistakes of others.” “Great partnerships make any job easier.” “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” “With business as in life, get to know people before you judge them.” “It’s not just the outside that counts, it’s the whole package."
YF: Is there anything you can share about how you taught your children about business and finance that other parents might adopt?
WB: All the lessons in Secret Millionaires Club are lessons I taught my own children. We produced this series to try and teach other kids, and in some cases, their parents! They are simple lessons that can help you in business and in life, no matter what age you are.
What is the #1 thing parents should teach their kids about money — and #1 thing they should NOT teach them?
WB: Secret Millionaires Club has lots of good lessons about money such as learning not to spend more than you have, and saving for the unexpected, and not borrowing money unless you have a plan to pay it back. The series shows the consequences that can happen if people don’t make wise decisions. We’re trying to help kids develop good decision-making skills from a young age to avoid some of these pitfalls.
YF: Is the series aimed at kids specifically or is it designed for kids and parents to watch together?
WB: We created Secret Millionaires Club for kids, knowing it would also help parents. And it has. It provides stories that kids can relate to which help them understand different situations in business and in life, and hopefully help them develop the skills to make good decisions their whole life.
YF: Why do you think financial education is so important for kids?
WB: So many adults get into financial trouble, in business and in their personal lives, because of bad decisions. We hope to influence kids at an early age so they learn to think about their actions, and the consequences of making bad decisions. It doesn’t just influence success in business, it influences your family life as well. We want to help guide kids toward leading more productive lives.
YF: Have you reached out to the DOE or other government agency to discuss building a curriculum for financial education in the public schools?
WB: We already have a program that is in thousands of schools and youth organizations. Every year, we have a contest called the “Learn and Earn” challenge. Thousands of kids use what they learn in Secret Millionaires Club episodes to come up with their own business ideas. The finalists come to see me in Omaha and present their business plans, showing what they have learned from Secret Millionaires Club. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, their teachers, parents, and most of all for me! It shows that at a very early age, kids not only understand financial matters, they come up with some pretty terrific business ideas themselves!
YF: What's an appropriate age to start teaching kids about money?
WB: It’s never too early. Whether it’s teaching kids the value of a dollar, the difference between needs and wants, or the value of saving. These are all concepts that kids encounter at a very early age, so best to help them to understand it.