Editor's Note: This article is part of a popular Q & A format series in which we interview experts and industry professionals that have made significant contributions to the credit card industry.
How do you successfully teach kids 5-8 about money and how to save it? Sam X Renick, author and founder of It's a Habit! knows how. In fact, thanks to the Arkansas Jumpstart Coalition and to CardRatings.com, in May 2009 he completed a 4-day tour to 22 schools talking to 5,000 plus students about it. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Mike: Before getting into some incredible statistics, can you share a little bit about what Sammy Rabbit is all about and how it came to be?
Sam: Sammy is a rabbit with great habits. His favorite habit is saving money. I created Sammy with the help of illustrator Juan Alvarado and graphic artist Carlos Rodriguez. We see Sammy as a wholesome, lovable vehicle tocommunicate strategic messages, particularly financial, to kids and families.
Sammy and It's a Habit! all started on a napkin about 10 years ago while I was driving in Los Angeles to visit my college friend Alonso Silva, Jr. who assisted me in founding the company. During the drive I came up with a story about an older, neighborly squirrel who shares a secret with a young rabbit, that saving is a great habit. The story took three years and lots of testing with students, teachers, and parents to develop. After we saw the book and message resonating we decided to develop a second book, music, and then have a costume designed for the character.
Mike: Your message has appeared to a large group of students in a very short period of time. Can you elaborate on some of those numbers and what is the driving force to create them?
Sam: Our mission is to empower kids and families with knowledge, particularly financial knowledge, that will help them make smart choices and develop strategic habits and life skills. I believe this is my life's purpose. I have been fortunate other individuals and organizations like CardRatings.com, the Arkansas Jumpstart Coalition, the Air Force Aid Society, etc. have affirmed that purpose by supporting our efforts. Because of that support, over the last seven years Sammy and I have shared the saving is a great habit message with over 250,000 students, parents, and teachers in 6 countries and 30 states at hundreds of schools and other venues.
Mike: Can you comment on the need for credit education among students?
Sam: One concern I have is many of the credit education materials I've reviewed are not "attractive" to high school audiences or young adults. I think it is critical to talk to kids about money at an early age. I think doing so benefits the whole family.
Mike: Are there any immediate future plans for Sammy Rabbit?
Sam: In the next few years, it is our dream and goal to take this message and messages about other empowering habits to a whole new level through video, computers, and the Web. One of the outstanding things about having a character like Sammy is his expandability.
Mike: Is there anything you would like to add?
Sam: I absolutely love working with Sammy and introducing him into the lives of students, teachers, parents, and partners. There is nothing quite like seeing their minds, eyes, and faces light up with excitement when hearing or singing about him, hugging, or high fiving him. When you combine that with the knowledge you know you are providing them and the support we are receiving from other outstanding organizations, it really instills confidence in you that kids and families futures will be better and brighter.
In summary, I firmly believe that personal financial literacy is the key to helping our country overcome many of its current financial woes. You can, for example, legislate all kinds of credit card reforms, but ultimately teaching our young people how to use credit responsibly seems to be the most effective long-term solution to credit related problems.