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Buffett fan shares financial literacy in Omaha schools

Recently I travelled to Norfolk, a town of around 24,000 people in the US state of Nebraska, to visit two schools and share financial literacy and "The Tale of Tortoise Buffett and Trader Hare" with students and teachers.

Later in Omaha, the state's biggest city, I drove past the Kiewit Plaza worldwide headquarters of Berkshire Hathaway. The next day we were at Spring Lake Magnet Elementary School. I taught children in the first to fourth grades and was welcomed into classrooms by teachers. Students began echoing my words, "You can be anything you want to be! If it's to be it's up to me!"

Even though this was the home town of the "Oracle of Omaha", most of the pupils had never heard of Berkshire Hathaway chief Warren Buffett or had ever read a story that included a moral of financial literacy.

Buffett wrote in his 2002 annual report: "We cherish cost-consciousness at Berkshire. Our model is the widow who went to the local newspaper to place an obituary notice. Told there was a 25-cents-per-word charge, she requested, 'Fred Brown died.' She was then informed there was a seven-word minimum. 'OK,' the bereaved woman replied, 'make it Fred Brown died, golf clubs for sale'."

Despite Buffett's immense wealth, he lives a frugal lifestyle, drives a used car and continues to live in his first home in Omaha purchased in 1958 for US$31,500. He believes in teaching by example, be that his views on compounding interest, or his views on corporate salaries. His annual salary of $100,000 (Bt3.25 million) is sober by the standards of senior executive remuneration.

In contrast, Oracle Corp is an extreme outlier in size-me-up executive pay. Its chief executive Larry Ellison asked for a $78.4-million pay package. His pay far outstrips what the companies that have been identified by Oracle as peers, such as Google and Microsoft, are paying their top executives.

On my last day in Omaha I had coffee at Starbucks with Steve Jordon, who has written more than 1,000 articles about Buffett, including nearly 250 weekly "Warren Watch" columns. I told my story of why and how we had given away more than 10,000 free books in the past 12 months. I could see tears welling up in his eyes.

Before I left town, Jordon gave me a copy of his book "The Oracle & Omaha", published by the Omaha World-Herald newspaper. I read it the same day. It ticks all the boxes for me, the chapters are short and to the point, there are lots of photos, and it explains how Warren Buffett and his home town shaped each other.

The school visits are documented on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOZc_WnHSnk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bCHRYya9wWA&feature=youtu.be&a

Lucas Remmerswaal is co-founder of the Success for Students charitable trust. "The tale of Tortoise Buffett" explains the habits and common sense of Warren Buffett; see http://13habits.org/free-books or e-mail: 13habits@gmail.com.


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