Make saving a habit

It pained financial consultant Sam Renick when client after client came into his office saying they wish someone had taught them early in life about the importance of investing. His parents taught him about saving when he was a child, but he knew many young people aren’t so lucky.

So he created Sammy Rabbit, a lovable character who teaches kids to make saving a habit through stories and songs. Over the past decade, Sammy has visited eight countries and 35 states teaching kids how to save. I caught up with Renick, who recently finished a music video featuring Sammy and friends, at his home in Los Angeles.

What’s the most important money truth for kids to learn?
For me, it was pay yourself first. Since young kids typically do not get paid, I translated the message into “saving is a great habit” and “from every dollar save a dime.”

Why a rabbit?
When I was eight or nine, I wanted a rabbit. However, my father would not allow me to have one. I will never forget his reason: “rabbits multiply.” For me, one of those magnificent characteristics of money is it multiplies or compounds when you save and invest it regularly. Compound interest is a great equalizer. It provides people of all income levels an opportunity to improve their financial standing.

Does Sammy have a target age group?
Sammy has multiple target groups. He focuses on children ages four to eight and their parents, but he connects with teens as well. He also speaks to educators and community outreach people who train and teach children about smart money habits and life empowering skills.

In addition to the books that you’ve written, what else has Sammy been up to?
We’ve developed what I believe is the largest library of songs and stories on financial education for children. We have also done an extensive amount of live character and author touring, including two days in 2009 promoting financial literacy in Minnesota.

What’s Sammy working on now?
He is launching a new financial empowerment website called MyMoneyEd.org with consumer finance expert Dr. Robert Manning and we are working on the creation of a music channel that will feature new Sammy songs. Finally, we are in the midst of designing a new national campaign to celebrate financial literacy and reading we plan to unveil in 2012. We aspire to get the whole nation shaking their “bunny money” tails on the way to credit unions and banks to make deposits in their financial futures.

For parents who are interested in teaching their kids about money, what are three things they can do?
The number one thing parents can do to help kids with money is turn off the TV. That will drastically reduce kids’ number one stimulus for the “gimmes.” Second, parents can make an even stronger effort to role model good financial behavior for their children.

Third, parents should take advantage of every opportunity they can to talk to, and get kids involved with, money related activities. As early as ages two and three, parents can have kids color money-themed pictures, they can read their kids stories on saving, have them listen to songs on smart money habits, and deposit coins into self-created saving jars.

Later, parents can have children make shopping lists, fill out deposit slips or make online entries, cut coupons, and do work around the house or neighborhood in exchange for pay. Kids, as well as adults, seem to value money differently, when they earn it.

For more on Sammy Rabbit, visit itsahabit.com or facebook.com/itsahabit.


Kara McGuire is a personal finance writer and a St. Paul mother 
of three. Send comments, questions and story ideas to 
kmcguire@mnparent.com.