In this Swift Chat, Marie Swift sits down with Sam X Renick, the visionary behind Sammy Rabbit's Money School, a financial literacy program for children ages 2-10 years old.
Listen to discover the inspiration behind Sammy Rabbit's Money School, a groundbreaking initiative dedicated to instilling essential money habits in children.
Sam shares some secrets to making financial literacy engaging by integrating money ideas into fun and exciting topics.
Sam and Impact are partnering with two special offers for Advisors:
These opportunities are for financial advisors and include premium memberships, virtual experiences, marketing materials, and co-branding opportunities.
Don't miss this enlightening episode that's all about empowering the next generation with smart money skills.
Learn more about Sam X Renick and Sammit Rabbit at www.SammyRabbit.com
This is the way, in my mind, financial literacy and education should be; learning should be fun and needs to be purposeful. It's just deeply gratifying and satisfying that you're not only sharing what can be life-transforming messages with kids, but you're filling their lives with joy."
Transcript of Conversation
Marie Swift: I'm joined today by Sam X Renick. Sam is the creator of Sammy Rabbit's Money School, where teaching children essential money habits is easy. And Sam, the first question I have is about the initial X. What is that? Is it for Xavier or, tell us, Sam X Renick.
Sam Renick: Marie, thank you so much for having me on the podcast. You know, that's the question I've been asked the most in my life. It would please my late father that you asked that question since it was his idea to give me the initial X as my middle name. So, it doesn't stand for anything. It is X, that is my middle name. But a lot of people want to make it Xavier or put a period after it and whatnot. But I guess my dad thought when you show your ID or do different things, I don't know that I had any idea I'd be in interviews, but people frequently ask that question.
Swift: That's interesting. Well, it sets you apart from any other Sam Renicks out there, right? As if you need the letter X in the middle of your first and last name. But let's talk a little bit about Sammy Rabbit's Money School. It's so charming, and the whole premise is that you get kids and their families and communities financially literate. And, you know, my community is primarily financial advisors and some of the organizations that support financial advisors. So, they're all about financial literacy. So, the first thing let's dive into is how you came up with this idea and why you are doing what you do.
Renick: Well, I was at a turning point in my life, Marie. I was in my second career, which was in financial services. I was doing some advising, and I really didn't like it for the most part. There were two parts that I really did enjoy, but one of them was just talking to people about the choices that they were making with money. I was constantly hearing from clients, roughly, let's say between 35 and 50, how they regretted and despaired, not learning about money as kids or not starting to save or invest regularly. I guess a light bulb goes off in people's heads, and they realize they're going to get older, they're going to want to retire, and they don't have any savings or investments. The other part I kind of liked was I was with a little boutique firm. And every week, we'd have these outside trainers come in and talk to us about why we should represent their products.
And boy, these were really great, seasoned financial service professionals and storytellers. And one day, somebody showed up with an Etch A Sketch, if people remember what that is. And I'm sure the people in the audience probably do an Etch A sketch and a bubble blower. And right away, I thought, boy, I wonder what this person's up to. And anyway, what he wanted us to do was open Children's College savings accounts, primarily as a relationship builder and to send a signal to the parents, maybe the grandparents, whoever, that we're in it for the long run. And I was already doing that. I liked the idea. But more than that, as it relates to Sammy the Rabbit, it really got me thinking about why, when I took on my first professional job at 21, I immediately started saving and investing, made it a habit, enrolled in automatic plans, and all that kind of stuff.
What I realized is even though I grew up in what I like to fondly call upper poverty, basically meaning we didn't have any discretionary income and other things. There were seven of us in a one-bathroom, two-bedroom house, but we never missed a mill. So that's kind of upper poverty. But my father talked to us, it seems almost from birth, about the idea that if we worked hard and made good money choices, we could get whatever we wanted. And so that was a very hopeful, empowering message, and it's kind of what partially and largely inspired me when I started earning money regularly to start living below my means, paying yourself first. So, at this particular moment in my life when I really wasn't happy doing the financial advising, and I was thinking also, I was around 40, how can I bring more purpose to my life?
I thought, you know what? This is something I really believe in. I do like working with kids and families. I'm a very big believer in the family unit and how big of an advantage that can be when you have a good family, and they're instilling, let's say, basic values within you that work. And so, I thought maybe I could give this a try. And because of those conversations with my dad, I thought, I'm going to see if I can start a movement where you focus on kids when they're really young with the thought that just having these conversations will help the whole family. And that's kind of anecdotally what has happened or what does happen when you consciously start to talk to kids about things like saving their money.
Swift: Yeah, it's so great. And Sammy Rabbit is just so adorable. For anybody who is watching this video, we're going to give you a landing page to go check it out. Sammy Rabbit is a one-of-a-kind, lovable, huggable creature. And so, talk about what happens when you go into schools or communities, how the event plays out, and when does Sammy make an appearance?
Renick: Okay, well, that's a great question. And by the way, you hit one of the key elements of Sammy's recipe: he's friendly, he's welcoming, he invites people for hugs and high fives and things of that nature. So, we have a whole kind of what now people call an edutainment approach to financial literacy that includes storybooks and songs and activities and experiences with myself, the author, or with Sammy the Rabbit. He breaks down a lot of these barriers that people have when it comes to talking about money. So, one of the things I think that financial advisors and everyone should expect is they're going to be talking about money, they're going to be cultivating relationships, taking them to a new level. You may even end up talking about retirement and 401(k's) because Sammy the Rabbit builds trust among all people of all ages.
He brings that factor; he brings the excitement, the engagement factor, all in a purpose-filled way around messages like saving is a great habit. Spending smart, which means spending less than you earn, that's a great habit. Giving wisely, that's a great habit. Now, advisors, they've really got a couple of options, maybe four or five, possibly more. But the basic options are they can have live events or virtual events. If they have live events, they can bring me in, or they can have the costume shipped. They don't need us, but if they want us, they can have us both. They can have one of us. And then they can also do the same thing virtually. And the first step really is to contact us, and we'll talk with them about what it is they want and try and design something specifically to achieve whatever their objective is. The other thing I think financial advisors will be pleased to know is, whether you use Sammy the Rabbit, the costume, or the author if you just use the materials, this is going to create another touch point and narrative for them to talk to clients, to talk to prospects, to talk to community partners like libraries and the leaders, mayors, Rotary groups, whatever it is.
Swift: I think that the media would certainly take an interest in this because it would be highly visual, edutainment, good community spirit. So, I know, for instance, I'm talking to one of my registered investment advisory firm clients here in Kansas City, and they're considering having some form of event, maybe half virtual, half live, and doing something at the Boys and Girls Club where they have a relationship there. And imagine how the media would love to come and see Sammy Rabbit, the author of these books and programs for kids, and with the advisor there as the bringer of all this good. And then part two will be they'll have something at their office where their clients can bring their kids and grandkids. And I really think it's such a good brand-building opportunity for advisors to capture the hearts and minds, the attention of everybody in the community.
Renick: Your instincts are absolutely right, Marie. Almost everywhere we've gone, the press has covered events like what you're describing. And it seems, and you know this in spades. I'm not a professional PR person, but the media loves the local angle. So, the person bringing the event is the local angle, as the event is local. But they're the intermediary, the spokesperson. It's brand building, probably at it's you know that we.
Swift: We have the Kansas City Chiefs here in Kansas City, and there's a mascot called the KC Wolf. And when it comes to the events that this wealth management firm has for their clients, the kids and the grown-ups, too, love KC Wolf. They're giving him high fives, he dances, and he shakes his booty. He just livens up the whole environment. And to that point, I saw a video where you were talking to a group of school kids. I think it was like in a community, like a school cafeteria or something, and you're getting them up there, they're singing, "Get in the Habit, like Sammy Rabbit." And then Sammy came out, and the kids just, like, went wild. So, talk about that. How cool is that?
Renick: That is so cool. This is the way, in my mind, financial literacy and education should be; learning should be fun and needs to be purposeful. It's just deeply gratifying and satisfying that you're not only sharing what can be life-transforming messages with kids, but you're filling their lives with joy. What we've discovered is many of these kids may never go to Disneyland; they may never get a hug or a high five from one of these characters. So that also has an enormous impact. It may make their day; you don't know what's going on in these kids' lives. And then you hit on another key point: any good-natured adult really responds to Sammy the Rabbit of the Kansas City Wolf mascot. You know, I can't tell you how many times I've gone to parent workshops and talks that talk about financial literacy. And the people who greet me, they're looking around, and they're like, well, where's Sammy the Rabbit?
I tell them, well, Sammy only comes if you ask for him. Otherwise, I come to give the talk. So, yeah, it's just a great thing. And it's exciting, it's fun, and it's purposeful.
Swift: I think the kids that I saw in the video responded really well to you, too, because you're so fun and lively, and I think kids respond to your energy really well. And what kind of adult couldn't be engaged with that? Seeing the kids and hearing these stories. I want to talk more about the Sammy Rabbit Money School. So, you've got stories, songs, activities, and lesson plans. What's in the Sammy Rabbit Money School?
Renick: Well, there's all of those things. Right now, there are over 400 downloadable activities that are just easy to do and fun to do, so you can learn anytime, all year round. We're adding to it all the time. One of the things that makes it a bit different and unique is we have a song series. There are 14 original songs, and you shared one of them, "Get in the Habit like Sammy Rabbit, saving money all the time," (Marie). "You can do it; now get to it. From every dollar, save a dime." Then, each in the song series. Each song also has ten activities, word searches, puzzles, and a little quiz to go with it. So, when you think about learning, it is a process; you need a lot of repetition. You need different ways when you're doing it effectively to reinforce the same thinking. So, music is a big part of it.
We have something called the Dream Big Journal section. And we like to ask kids, "What's your big dream?" And it could be a big education dream, it could be a fun dream, it could be a travel dream, whatever it is. But we think the idea of having a dream adds motivation to wanting to save or invest. IE delay gratification. If you're able to figure out what it is and it's meaningful to you, it leads to a lot of questions like, "Marie, that's a great dream. Are you willing to save to make your dream come true?" And that's kind of how we integrate these money ideas into these fun topics that resonate with people. So, you've got songs, we've got a new video series we call "Decode and Sing Sammy's Secret Recipes for Riches," Pay Yourself First, and things like that.
These are all things the advisors know. And then there's a section for parents. So it makes it easy for them to implement. It makes it easy for advisors to implement. This is all very time-efficient. One of the added benefits is that it brings people together. Parents and children, teachers and children, advisors and parents, advisors and teachers, advisors and children. There are a lot of ways to use the resources. There's a lot of resources. If you don't like one, use another; it's that simple.
Swift: You've also got this all-star reader program. One of the advisors that I know and love here in Kansas City, a different firm, is Jamie Bosse at Aspyre Wealth. She's also a CFP and a writer. And I saw her reading the book that she wrote, "Milton the Money Savvy Pup." How cool is that? Are Milton and Sammy friends?
Renick: Oh, yeah. Hey, I want to be friends with the Kansas City Wolf, too. Sammy loves making friends, and Milton and Sammy have a lot in common.
Milton the Money Savvy Pup, she has a new book out, which I'm really excited about, "Milton the Money Savvy Pup Makes Saving a Habit," something along those lines because we're very habit-centric. We think habit formation is a key to making better money choices. Jamie is one of the most fun, committed financial professionals out there and also a champion of financial literacy. She is doing an awe-inspiring job. I think she's in Manhattan, Kansas, right there in the heartland with you. So, we're very big on this idea. Reading is another way to deliver financial literacy. So, we created the all-star readers, and we're always looking for new all-star readers. This is another brand enrichment thing that financial professionals can get involved with, just as Jamie did. So they get to read their favorite children's book. We need to approve it. It doesn't have to be a Sammy Rabbit book, but it needs to deliver some kind of a personal finance message or lesson, or maybe a supporting life skills message, like setting goals is important. That would be something. And then we create some activities around it. But it features the financial professionals and the advisors reading the story. So, you can go on our website and see Jamie rock out Milton the Money Savvy Pup.
Swift: That is so fun. So, I know that one of the things you and I got to talking about recently is a special offer for my tribe. And so, we're going to put in the show notes. Here is a link to a landing page where listeners and viewers can check it out for yourself. But it's basically it's a $3,000 package for half price. And so maybe you could just talk about some of the things that are in that value-laden package and why advisors would want to jump on the opportunity right now.
Renick: Well, because one reason they want to jump on it right now is because this is a limited-time offer. So, you want to take advantage of it. There is more than $3,000 in value in the package. Part of what you get is 250 premium memberships to the Money School to give away to your clients, to your prospects, maybe to local schools, maybe to Boys and Girls Clubs, whoever you want. So, what we've done there is we built in a large volume of these memberships for advisors to give away, and they're valued at $24 each. So, if you use that, it's an even bigger value. But when you buy that many, we do discount them, but this is a further, deeper discount on that discount. So, this gives a lot of touch points in and of itself. So, you could create weekly notes, which we're going to help you do.
We give you our support as a part of this so the advisors can contact us via email. We're happy to set up Google chats, that type of thing, to train them on the Money School, what's there, and how to use it with their clients. Maybe they already have a monthly newsletter; they put in a little message regarding teaching your kids about money or how to help the community. Here are the lessons we're working on this month; access them, contact us to get your free premium membership, that type of thing. So it's a real lead generation, communication kind of tool for the advisors. They also get one complimentary virtual experience that they can use again with their clients, their prospects, a local library, and a local school. I will lead the experience, it'd be like 30 to 45 minutes.
We'll design it as much as we're able to meet the objectives of the advisor. And by that, I mean if they'd like to participate a little bit in the session, we have ways of doing, you know, he said, oh, Marie, do you think learning is important? So we do it by using basketball terminology, giving the advisors layup questions, "Do you think saving is a great habit? Will help you make big dreams come true?" Or we can go over a prescript on how we want to go back and forth, or they don't have to participate at all. Everything we do is fun, it's purposeful, and we try to make it as time-efficient as possible. So those are a couple of the things in the offer. I recommend they go there and check it out. If they have any questions, contact us.
We're happy to go over it with them. We're happy to also give them a demo of the Money School so they can see everything that's there. And then there's this other bonus feature. We're going to create an exclusive entryway into the Money School with co-branding, having the logo of your advisors on that entry page. And it will go anywhere where people go on the website. And that isn't all! There are over 400 activities that kids or their parents can download. At the bottom of those activities, it will have, in the text, the advisor's URL or phone number. There's a limited amount of space, but you can get the URL and the phone number on there. So wherever those activities go, goes the brand of the advisor. So that's a very, I think, unique and powerful element as well. And then we're going to also be having a Marketing Dropbox that will have a variety of images, some images that they can put on their website that say they're a Money School partner, click here or contact us if you want to learn more about it or if you'd like to get a free membership. They can give them out; they can use them as prizes. There's a lot of ways to do it. So, we're happy to talk to them and make sure they have a great experience. Our primary mission is to bring financial literacy to kids and families all over the world. We think we need to work with people in their local communities to make that happen. And so, we're pouring as much of ourselves into this as we're able to. They'll find immediately it's all pretty easy to implement.
Swift: Yeah, well, I know that you mentioned that you could ship the Sammy Rabbit costume, and that'll be on the landing page, or people can inquire if they want that as an add-on, but I imagine you would need a small human, somebody smaller than 5'6, to fit in it. What size of person fits in Sammy Rabbit's costume?
Renick: All right, you're almost exactly right on it. You want somebody in there between 5'6 and 6ft tall, so it can't be too small. But then, if you're able, find somebody with a little bit of energy. So we'll give you some training on this as well. If you want to access the shipping costume element of what we're offering, we'll give you some training on what to do. Everybody loves the costume, but if you put a little more enthusiasm and energy into it makes it an even better experience.
Swift: Or if somebody wants to spend the money, Sammy will come out, and you have a person who's trained to do Sammy just to perfection.
Renick: Exactly. And we've done that all over the world; we're highly experienced. That probably is the best way, but not everybody's able to do that. So, we've created different ways to make that happen. And I would just share with people that adds a new level of enjoyment. Also, as you know, being a marketing PR expert creates a lot of great pictures, money shots, and that kind of stuff that people really enjoy. Not only do they enjoy it, but it warms people up and makes them a little bit more approachable. And I think a lot of people find talking about money, whether they're talking to kids or talking to professionals, not only a daunting subject but one that they just sometimes have trouble initiating.
Swift: Yeah. Did you mention the option to customize the books? Have some people done that?
Renick: Thank you for asking that. So we have this basic package. This is a special offer, over $3,000 of value for $1,500. If that doesn't work for everybody, but you still want to participate, let us know. We'll figure out something that's right and specific for you. Or if you want to add to that package, one way people add to it or do it separately is we have print books both in color, and then we also have black and white activity books of our stories, and then even activities for kids three to five. We have materials primarily for kids between three and twelve, but we have other strategies for older kids. But one of the things that we do that's unique, and I think powerful in our books, is we custom co-brand them. So, we do that in three or four places. We can put a logo on the cover, compliments of XYZ Advisor.
On the inside cover, we can put a one to two-paragraph custom message, "Hi, I'm Marie Swift, and I really believe in kids and families and teaching them about money. I want all kids to have a bright future." Whatever your message is, we'll need to approve it, but I'm sure it will be fine. And then you can sign it, your name, your logo, all of that. And then we'll also put something on the back cover. So that's another way to distinguish your brand and bring more meat, so to speak, or beef to the idea. When you say, you know what, I really care about kids or families or communities and financial literacy, let me share with you one of the tangible ways that you can determine that this is really heartfelt, true, or however you want to put it. Oh, we do these events. Oh, we make these resources accessible and available, things of that nature.
Swift: I think it's fabulous, and it feels a little crass to think of this as a marketing ploy because it's so wonderful. And I think it could also benefit the advisor's business because when you're that good community citizen, it just sends a message, doesn't it?
Renick: Absolutely. Well, that's what makes it not crash. When you're that good community citizen, that is who you are. And this says largely, this is who you are. So, what it is in my mind, it's a win-win thing. We've got a long track record in this area. We've worked with the Pentagon, we work with United Way, we work with mom-and-pop one-person financial advisories. We work with anybody who wants to bring financial literacy to kids and families, even college students. I hope that'll be our next offer. We've done a lot of community service projects. We're now setting them up where we bring in financial advisors to mentor the college students. But the college students or the high school students, they read to the kids, they sing to the kids. And by the way, I forgot to mention you're mentioning that video. I want the advisors to know I don't sing on key or clap on beat, but I'm kind of like the leader.
I get the kids started. So, you want to just let go of all those things. It's good, purposeful, educational, fun. And when you put that on, it's just what you shared, Marie; it's all good stuff.
Swift: Yeah. Well, this has been delightful. Is there anything else in closing? I know we're going to have the link right here in the show notes, but anything you'd say. What's next on the horizon? You mentioned the college and the high school mentorship. Anything? Closing words of wisdom.
Renick: I'd like to just say thank you again and thank everybody out there in Sammy Land for listening in. Number two, This is Sammy's number one message to everybody. I'm going to give it to you. It's interactive, "Saving money is a great habit."
Swift: Okay? Practice that. That was a little rough, but as you say, it's Sammyriffic.
Renick: Okay? And the last thing, I'd like to wish everybody, and especially you, Marie, a super Sammyriffic day.
Swift: And back at you, Sam. Thanks for being here.