Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What the Dragons' Den Stars Think We Should Teach Little Kids About Money

Kevin O'Leary
It began with a simple comment that Kevin O'Leary made on one of my favourite financial news shows, The Lang & O'Leary Exchange. In a heated discussion about government pensions and taking personal responsibility for our "old and crusty" years, Kevin said, "Fiscal responsibility-we should be teaching this to kids that are five years old."

I could not believe that a Dragons' Den star and all-round Canadian icon of entrepreneurship was talking my language: financial literacy for little kids.

I emailed the show with this question for Kevin: If you had just three things that you could teach a Canadian five-year-old kid about money, what would they be? The producer, Matt Fairley, asked me to go to CBC Vancouver to tape my question. I did.

Then I had to wait for my answer because it was G20-time in Toronto. But on July 6th the answer came and it has influenced my work as storyteller and entrepreneur, as well as lit a fire in my belly to become the best financial literacy educator in the country.

Here are the three things that Kevin thinks we should teach Canadian kids about money and he said it on national television:
  1. Nothing matters more than money.
  2. Make as much money as you can before you die.
  3. See number 1.
My six-year-old daughter and I were watching Lang & O'Leary when it aired and, boy, did we have a good laugh...until we started to think about it.

My daughter and I are big Dragons' Den fans. What I love about the show is that it allows Canadians who are not business people or entrepreneurs to boost their understanding of how business works, plus learn some cool new vocabulary along the way. Words like "valuation" and "equity" were familiar but not comfortable for me before I started watching the show, which is why I started encouraging my daughter to watch with me. So what does this have to do with my question and Kevin's answer?

Inspired by Kevin's radical opinion, we set out to find out what the rest of the Dragons would say if asked the same question. We got replies from three and a half out of five (Brett Wilson gave me a half-answer), not bad for a storyteller and her six-year-old side kick, neither of whom have any connections whatsoever in Dragon-type circles.

Here's what Kevin's co-stars said...

Arlene Dickinson
I contacted Arlene by email through her Calgary-based marketing company Venture Communications. She responded within a day with a very polite and encouraging email. These are the three things that Arlene thinks we should teach little kids about money as she wrote them in her email to me:
  1. Money does not buy you happiness. It's an old saying but it's true.
  2. Money is good for freedom. It will give you the freedom to do what you want, when you want and help who you want.
  3. Money is important, but not as important as doing what you love. I believe that if you do what you love you will be satisfied with the money and lifestyle that it provides you with.
Robert Herjavec
I tried contacting Robert by email through The Herjavec Group, his tech company, but I didn't hear anything back. I took a chance and  tweeted my question to him and I happened catch him while he was online and he gave me this reply in Twitter-lingo almost immediately:
  1. $ is not the key to happiness
  2. u need $ to take care of those u luv
  3. the more u luv what u do, the more $ u make
Brett Wilson
I also caught Brett Wilson on Twitter and, when I asked him what three things we should teach kids about money, he referred me to a series of six Mastermind YouTube videos to hunt for the answers. I found the videos and an hour later came up with this:
  1. Wealth is not the true measure of success (from video 1 of 6).
  2. People matter more than money (from video 3 of 6). Brett's priorities are health, family, friends, life-long learning, and community.
  3. Follow your passion and talk to kids about the possibility of earning a living as an entrepreneur (from video 4 of 6).
I emailed Jim Treliving through the Boston Pizza Foundation, but to date have not had a reply.

I do hope to hear back from both Brett and Jim because I do believe that each of the Dragons are at this point in history (and more than any finance minister) the public face of money and all it means in Canada. They are playing an important role in getting teachers, parents and even little Canadians like my daughter excited and curious about learning about money. And while Kevin says that nothing matters more than money, these Dragons' views on money and financial literacy matter a great deal, maybe even more than money.

With its sixth season well underway I say hang in there with those long, dark twelve-hour taping days in the Den and keep teaching us about money.

Copyright 2010. Laura Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
For reprint permission contact money@agentstory.net


  1. This is great! As a (future) mortgage broker associate, financial literacy and education is important to me. The better educated my clients are, the more meaningful of a discussion I can have with them about their credit, debt, and borrowing needs.

  2. Andrew, you know it's funny. When some people find out that I do financial literacy storytelling they say things like: "They" want us to be financially illiterate because "they" can take advantage of us. I share your view: financially literate customers are better for the banking industry than illiterate ones. Or, are we wrong...?