Why Warren Buffett is Passionate About Financial Education for Youngsters
By Dan Kadlec
October 23, 2016
Warren Buffett doesn’t undertake pointless exercises. So those in financial education circles might take note: The Oracle of Omaha is on a mission to make kids smarter about money—and if he is on board who can take issue?
Buffett is the guiding light behind the Secret Millionaire’s Club, a website that features 26 “webisodes” of animated youngsters grappling with the profit-loss aspects of things like lawn cutting, dog walking, and running the ubiquitous lemonade stand. It’s a great site for teachers, or parents, looking to make this subject approachable to youngsters.
Buffett recently condensed the online lessons in How to Start Your Very First Business, a book that adds valuable context, step-by-step instructions, worksheets, and enterprising kid business ideas that go beyond clichés.
The book is meant to stir the passions of teen and pre-teen entrepreneurs, and give them a meaningful alternative to, say, video games after school. It serves up 21 cool business ideas like editing highlight reels for student athletes seeking a scholarship, collecting yard waste to compost and later selling the soil, decorating skateboards, blogging about local events and selling ad space to local businesses, and building and selling birdhouses.
Buffett is involved because he believes entrepreneurship at an early age offers lessons and reinforces habits that will breed long-term success even if the student business doesn’t amount to much. “Learning the value of being honest, being willing to take risks and fail, and protecting your reputation are among the lessons that form the fabric of success,” Buffett writes in the forward.
These themes are explored in the book alongside the basics of startup and operating costs. Buffett’s guiding principal is that the best investment one can make is an investment in oneself. The book champions education, hard work, honesty, service, passion and presentation. It includes plenty real-life examples of kids and their businesses, and inspiring “words from Warren.” In a section on growing your business, Buffett notes, “the more you learn, the more you’ll earn.”
This is not a simple book that will set fire under every 12-year-old. The book has serious layers of business advice, albeit written simply and in practical terms. It seems best suited to kids that already have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and are looking to give their venture a real shot.
The book gets into things like differentiating your product or service, finding the right location and growing your business—all major concerns to Fortune 500 corporations and adaptable to a lemonade stand. The idea here is not to make a lot of money; it’s about exposing kids to valuable life lessons.
In words from Warren: “Can you really explain to a fish what it’s like to walk on land? One day on land is worth a thousand years of talking about it, and one day running a business has exactly the same kind of value.” Those are encouraging words from the master for teachers and others committed to exposing young people to financial concepts.