Buffett: Teach kids financial literacy to spark entrepreneurship

NEW YORK Tue May 20, 2014 6:48am EDT

Krystal Graylin, Kei Chua Allyson Graylin (the group winners) and Jake Johnson (the individual winner) stand with Warren Buffett at the Marriott Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, in this undated handout photo courtesy of Eric Francis photography. REUTERS/Eric Francis photography/Handout via Reuters

Krystal Graylin, Kei Chua Allyson Graylin (the group winners) and Jake Johnson (the individual winner) stand with Warren Buffett at the Marriott Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, in this undated handout photo courtesy of Eric Francis photography.

Credit: Reuters/Eric Francis photography/Handout via Reuters

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Billionaire investor Warren Buffett has a double life - as a cartoon character. In his "Secret Millionaires Club," an animated series online and on television, Buffett teaches a group of kids about financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

In real life, the club includes an annual "Grow Your Own Business Challenge" for kids who come up with business ideas.

The winners were chosen on Monday: Beaux Up, a customizable bow tie business by 15-year-old Jake Johnson of North Carolina in the individual competition; and WiseGuide, an intergenerational online community, from Krystal and Allyson Graylin and Kei Chua from Seattle, Washington, in the team contest.

The winners each received $5,000, and all finalists received 10 Berkshire Class B shares, worth $1,271 at the closing of the market on Monday.

Buffett, the third-richest person on the Forbes list of wealthiest people and the chairman and chief executive of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, took some time to talk to Reuters about kids, financial literacy and why he still bets big on the U.S. economy. The questions and answers have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Q. Are you seeing any trends among the entries?

A. There's a greater tech aspect to some of the entries than there was in the past. They know a lot at age 10 or 11 that I don't know at age 83. They're incorporating into their projects tech features now even more than a couple years ago.

Q. Are they changing your own feelings on the tech sector?

A. I've always said I don't know enough about tech to compete with the rest of the world, and I don't think I know enough to compete with a bunch of 12-year-olds.

Q. How do financial literacy and entrepreneurship fit together?

A. Not everybody's going to be an entrepreneur, but everybody should be financially literate. Financial literacy is a base requirement like spelling or reading or something of the sort that everybody should acquire at any early age. The financial habits you develop when you are young are going to go with you into your adulthood. But you can't be an entrepreneur unless you're financially literate.

Q. How do you make entrepreneurship interesting to kids beyond just running a contest?

A. Once they think of (entrepreneurship), they keep thinking of it. And then if they get the right lessons they're going to succeed at it and succeed breeds success.

Q. Is this part of your optimism in America?

A. Absolutely. The best country to be born in still is the United States, and the best time to be born is today.

(Reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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