Kids and Money: Start Your First Business Early

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Listening to the old Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meetings in podcast format is a form of treasure hunting. Much of it is familiar and repetitive, but every so often there is a little bit that is new.

This week’s tiny gold nugget is that Buffett quotes a book that found that one of the best indicators of future financial success is the age at which the child started their first business. Of course, this was perfect for Warren Buffett who was already buying a six-pack of Coke for 25 cents and selling each bottle for 5 cents as a pre-teen. He delivered newspapers himself, making the equivalent of a $1,000 a month in today’s dollars, all before he started school each morning. Of course, he then quickly moved on to “owning” newspaper routes but farming out the work to other kids. He owned pinball machines. I’m sure there is more.

Around 2011, Buffett helped create a cartoon for kids called Secret Millionaire Club in which he was the mentor of kids learning life lessons through entrepreneurship. You can watch the episodes on YouTube. Back in 2015, I even reviewed a copy of the companion book How To Start Your Very First Business.

The difference today is that my kids are nearly getting to the age where people advise you to start teaching them about money. I’m still not really convinced by the “bend the rules to give your 9-year-old some earned income and put it a Roth IRA” strategy. However, I can get on board with having them start a business. If they happen to earn some income, great. But even if they don’t, consider what they could learn in the process:

  • Reliability
  • Honesty
  • Social skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Patience and tolerance
  • Failure and perseverance

Sounds like an excellent ROI to me.

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  1. That’s an excellent show, but I started my kids on it when they were too young and it wasn’t interesting to them. It looks like that companion book is listed as a “novelty book” on Amazon – whatever that means. There is another book that summarizes the series –

    It’s hard for kids to get started in business nowadays. Lemonade stands are essentially banned in my town – you can’t have them near any place that gets foot traffic. You can’t deliver newspapers – paperboys don’t exist around us. However, my kids help out with the dog boarding business that we run at home (through and we cover some of the 6 traits you mentioned at the end.

    • Thanks for the book link! I’m sure your kids will pick a lot up just from you as their dad 😁

      That was weird, I planned on buying the book but it told me already bought a used copy of the book back in 2019. Getting old. I must have lost it too since I don’t see it on my bookshelf. Just picked up another used copy for under $6 including shipping. Good deal!

      I agree, it seems that these days you’d need to have the business under the parent umbrella. Less easy for your kid to be running around town unsupervised and figuring things out themselves. On the other hand, now they can set up a website and try to sell their wares online, even if they fail. If they ended up a Shopify backend expert by accident, that might be valuable too

  2. I’ve also been learning about cottage food laws that allow you to sell limited types of food goods without the use of a commercial kitchen. Forrager has a information website and podcast:

    A local high school girl recently had a pop-up bake shop at the local shopping center, although that was an official food business made in commercial kitchen.

    • That’s something that my kids might be getting into. They really like cooking, so we may do some kind of baking thing and maybe rent a table at a farmer’s market. My wife will probably spearhead that.

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