Keynote Talk NJCFE Financial Literacy Symposium


On Thursday, October 15, Sam X Renick was recognized by the New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education (NJCFE) for his exemplary work in financial literacy. The NJCFE bestowed upon Sam the Muriel Siebert Lifetime Achievement Award. Following is the text from Sam’s keynote presentation.


Thank you New Jersey Coalition for Financial Education! Thank you!


By honoring our work, you are sending a powerful and needed message. That message is, solutions to financial illiteracy can come from anywhere or anyone, including micro enterprise. Solutions do not have to be government driven. They do not have to be small business or large business. They do not have to be for profit or non-profit. What is of paramount importance, especially as it pertains to youth, is that first and foremost, solutions work for children.


The singer, Josh Groban, has a song titled, You Raise Me Up! I love that song. It is Sammyriffic! One of my favorite lines in the song is “when I’m on your shoulders, I am strong!” Thank you! Thank you for “raising up” our work and for placing it on your shoulders. Indeed, it is an empowering and strong feeling! I believe, raising each other up, working together, working collaboratively, is one of the strongest strategies for solving financial illiteracy.


Sammy Rabbit has a saying he likes to share with kids about strength, empowerment and being strong. I would like to share and model it for and with you. That way, if you choose, you can share it with kids. And, I hope you do. But before I do, I want to share with you six magic words, you absolutely, positively must know if you are going to work with young children, age 8 and under.

The six magic words are: “Everyone repeat and follow after me!”

Let’s practice them together and I will share Sammy’s saying. Everyone repeat and follow after me,

“Saving makes me stroooooong!”


Here are a few ways we share with kids on how saving money makes us strong!

  1. Saving prepares us for emergencies – unexpected bad surprises.
  2. Saving prepares us to make big dreams come true!

By preparing us, saving money gives us more safety and security. That helps us sleep better at night. By preparing us, saving money gives us more freedom and independence so we have the opportunity to see and experience what exists. By preparing us, saving money gives us more freedom and independence to do and decide things, including getting what we want and what we need, when, we want and need it.

Saving money also provides us the ability to give more responsibly to others.

Everyone, repeat and follow after me, “that’s how, saving makes me stroooooong!”


Now, if you want to get real strong, what should you do? If you want to get real strong, you should make saving a habit. You should make it automatic!


By the way, for those of you who are thinking Sammy Rabbit is the bomb, let me teach you Sammy Rabbit’s bunny, bump, bomb! It is an awesome and healthy alternative to shaking kids hands.


And, let me also share, for those of you who think Sammy Rabbit is the bomb, I have 50 Sammy song and story CDs I will be giving away this afternoon. So, if you would like one, please see me and you can start empowering young lives immediately!


Let me ask you two questions.

First question. If you could only teach a person, a child or adult, one thing about money that they are able to understand, act on, and would have a positive impact on their lives, what would it be? In other words, what is your number one, defining, most important money management principle?

The second question has two parts. Part “A,” how many strategies, modes or mediums do you have for delivering your number one message on money? Question two, part “B,” how many different ways do you have of stating your number one message on money?


Here is Sammy’s number one money message. “Everyone, repeat and follow after me,

“Saving is a great habit!”


We currently have 7 strategies and mediums for delivering the saving is a great habit message.

  1. Storybooks
  2. Songs
  3. Activities
  4. Sammy sign language and/or skits
  5. Arts and crafts
  6. Stickers
  7. Magnets

We hope by the end of 2016 to add two more modes of delivery.

  1. Games
  2. Dance


We currently have 3 ways of stating the message.

  1. Saving is a great habit
  2. From every dollar, save a dime
  3. Save 1 out of 10, again, again, and again!


We think it is important to have multiple modes of delivering and stating the same message for three reasons.

  1. People, including kids, learn in different ways
  2. Having fresh strategies for repeating messages keeps learners engaged longer
  3. Repetition is a key to subject mastery.


For those of you not familiar with our work, from our perspective, there are three really important things you should know about it.


The first important thing to know about our work is, I have personally read to, sang off key, clapped off beat, and led over a quarter million children in financial education programs. That is a wealth of field experience and a treasure of trench testing.

Having put that work in allows me to share with you with confidence the messages, techniques, and tools I have mentioned are not only easy for almost anyone, anywhere to execute, but they are effective.


The second important thing to know about our work is, our strategies were independently researched by the University of Maryland and found to be effective. They not only increased the knowledge of children, but teachers as well.


The third important thing to know about our work, and this is a recent development, is we have taken the field experience we have acquired and used it to design a system, that again, allows almost anyone, anywhere, to talk to and teach kids great money habits, early, systematically, repetitively and effectively.

We have titled the system and strategy the Dream Big Campaign and Club. They can be located at THEDREAMBIGCLUB.COM


The goals of the Dream Big Campaign and Club are to:

  1. Provide Sammy Dream Big Financial Literacy kits to one hundred thousand K-3 classrooms by 2020; and
  2. Inspire the big dreams and great money habits of one million children globally, ages 5 to 10, by 2020.

It is an exciting mission with big goals. The way we intend to attack the goals are by following the advice of Rutgers professor Barbara O’Neill. We intend to do it in small steps, classroom by classroom, community by community, state by state. If everyone does a little that will be a lot. And, perhaps it will trigger a compound-domino growth effect.


Dream big financial literacy kits consist of:

  • Storybook
  • 12 song music CD
  • Reproducible activity and instruction booklet (pdf)
  • 1 year membership to the Dream Big Club for an entire class of kids

The cost to purchase or sponsor a Dream Big Financial Literacy kit for a class or a child is ten dollars plus shipping and handling.


Did you know, adult money habits and attitudes form prior to age 7?

Did you know, most of the youth financial education programs that exist, target children in high school? That is anywhere from six to ten years after their financial habits are formed.

Did you know, that the primary influence for kids when it comes to money are their parents and that many parents failed a 3 question financial literacy test!


  1. Do you regret or know someone who regrets not having someone talk to you as a child about saving or great money habits?
  2. What do you or what do you see others showing and telling kids about money, in their early years, prior to age 7?
  3. When and where do you believe money education starts? Does it begin with conversations about dreams of going to Disneyland or dreams about visiting college campuses and getting an education?
  4. When and where are great money habits being taught repetitively and systematically to young children?


There is a cure for financial illiteracy. It can be expressed in one word. That word is effort. And effort comes in the form of classes, conversations, calculations, collaborations, presentations, activities, experiences, repetition, and persuasively sharing with kids that saving money is more important to their dreams and futures than buying flaming hot Cheetos.


Big dreams matter and relate to great money habits for at least 3 reasons.

  1. Big dreams answer the why? Why save? Why delay gratification?
  2. Big dreams are the “spoonful of sugar” Mary Poppins sings about that help the medicine go down or get kids engaged in what otherwise might be considered a dull and daunting subject.
  3. Big dreams when framed in the context of college and careers align with Common Core Standards.


Here is the status of the Dream Big Campaign and Club:

  • The campaign site has been launched
  • Dream Big Financial Literacy kits are ready to be advance ordered
  • The Club has been designed
  • Elements of the Club have been tested
  • Prototypes have been produced and developed
  • Components of the Club are functional


Here is what still needs to be accomplished. The campaign needs to be executed. The Club needs to be built, distributed and marketed.

So, if you like the vision and strategy you can:

  1. Be a partner or help us find partners to execute the Dream Big Campaign
  2. Sponsor one or more classes or kids with Dream Big Financial Literacy kits
  3. Share the Dream Big Campaign and Club vision and strategy with others!


  • Just a reminder, for those interested, I will be giving away 50 Sammy song and story CDs.
  • I want to invite you to connect with me. The best way to do that is via Linked In.
  • Please feel free to email me questions. I would be happy to share any knowledge I have acquired on teaching kids great money habits early. Conversely, if you would like to share your thinking with us, we welcome it.
  • I would like to advocate for young children under the ages of eight, one final time before departing. I would like to share with you some advice, Dr. Katy Merrill shared with me that I have found to be true. She said, do not underestimate the ability of kids to understand difficult concepts. It is a mistake adults make far too often. Kids minds are like sponges. They absorb everything. If you can explain it, they will comprehend it.
  • I want to give shoutouts to:
    • Dr. Barbara O’Neill. She is one of the first people I met outside of California working in financial education. Her work is sensational.
    • Dr. Elizabeth Elmore. Dr. Elmore and Stockton University are championing our materials with college students. They are using them in classrooms to catalyze conversation and intend to use them in “train the trainer” service learning volunteer projects as a part of the Dream Big Campaign.
    • NJFCE Chairwoman, Maryanne Evanko Maryanne has championed and invested in our work for the past decade. Thank you!
    • Thank you Michale Drulis, NJCFE officers and members.
  • I want to “pay it forward” so to speak with respect to calling attention to and “raising” the work of others. I want to call attention to Leslie Girone of Money$mart 101 in Philadelphia. She is here today and one of the young, bright minds in financial education. I recommend everyone connect with her and check out her work.
  • Since we are in New Jersey, I would like to say if anyone knows Bruce Springsteen, please let him know Sammy Rabbit and I are big fans.
  • Lastly, before concluding, I would like all of us to take Sammy’s Dream Big Pledge. And, I would like to give everyone some of Sammy’s Dream Big Dust. It, will provide you a little extra edge to help you make your big dreams come true.
    • Everyone repeat and follow after me: I promise to make reading and saving money habits, starting today.
    • Are you ready? One, two, three, whoosh – Dream Big!
  • Thank you. Have a Sammyriffic day!