Paul Holmes 19 Jun 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
The SunAmerica Mutual Funds Kids Investing for Dollars and Sense (K.I.D.S.) program is an innovative, and carefully structured program designed to teach children in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades about the value of saving and investing money. Many financial services companies have special mutual funds or stock market programs targeting young people. However, SunAmerica Mutual Funds is the only company to have created a flexible curricula for teachers that includes lesson plans and worksheets to teach how to create a budget; open checking and savings account, use credit; and understand stocks, bonds and mutual funds. These lessons can be incorporated into existing lesson plans at the educator’s discretion. The Company also provides guest speakers who will address both teachers and students about the K.I.D.S. program and careers in the financial services industry. The program was developed by an Advisory Council of Professional Educators and received the enthusiastic support of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and several members of the Board of Education. Mayor Giuliani issued an official proclamation declaring September 12, 2000, “SunAmerica K.I.D.S. Program Day.”
SunAmerica wanted to increase brand recognition among consumers and intermediaries while providing a legitimate service to the community. The firm wanted to develop a grass-roots marketing program to build brand awareness and complement SunAmerica Inc. Chairman Eli Broad’s long-time commitment to furthering education.
SunAmerica genuinely believes in educating children about the world of finance. At the same time, the company sells financial products through financial advisors. For this reason, schools are often wary about exposing children to corporations and their products.
The critical challenge in implementing this program is maintaining the integrity of the K.I.D.S. Program in the face of a sales environment. Thus, SunAmerica has to provide purely educational materials that enable financial advisors to leverage the program without encouraging sales to children per se. That is why the K.I.D.S. lesson plans are introduced in schools via teachers and principals. Educators have appreciated this approach, and it is why we continue to attract individuals from all levels of the educational industry.
The nation’s national debt is now an astronomic $5,628,473,916,103! Each citizen’s share is $20, 648.26. The American Collection Association estimates that, in 2000, consumer installment debt totaled $1.2 trillion, a 4% increase over the previous year. Currently, Americans owe more than $400 billion a year on their credit cards, or a $32.7 billion increase over the previous year, according to the Bankcard Holders of America, 53% of consumers surveyed said that they are in debt through overspending.
More than 43 million children currently attend U.S. schools — and that population keeps growing. Few schools have the resources to set up a program to teach children the critical importance of saving for the future. Through additional research with educators, SunAmerica Mutual Funds learned that teachers wanted a program of this nature that could be used in conjunction with instruction in basic math, social studies, language arts, etc. Lessons on the American Revolution or Civil War, for example, can incorporate discussions on money, taxation and trade. The program encourages parents to share with their children their own experiences of a first job. They can explore how products, such as automobiles and computers, once considered a luxury, are now regarded as necessities. Discussion of long-term financial goals such as college tuition, camp, family vacations, or a new home are also part of the program.
The program grew out of a visit in 1999 to an elementary school in Gravesend Brooklyn where an informal study was conducted to determine children’s financial literacy. SunAmerica Mutual Funds, based on findings that showed children’s interest and enthusiasm for learning about saving and investing, contacted principals at public and private schools as well individuals associated with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, to find individuals that would pilot the program in their school or community. An Advisory Council of Professional Educators was formed, which created the K.I.D.S. program. Additional support came from the Mayor’s Office and members of the NYC Board of Education.
To kick off the program, SunAmerica Mutual Funds leveraged its sponsorship of the New York Yankees for a pre-game on-field ceremony in September, 2000. This ceremony was attended by members of the New York City Board of Education and the Mayor’s Office and several members of the press. Since then, the Company has developed strategic initiatives to expand the program nationally.
STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES
SunAmerica Mutual Funds believes that education related to money management and investing should be taught in school and that children should be introduced at an early age to the career opportunities within the financial services industry. The Company’s objectives are:
- To create an interesting, instructive program that children and educators would enjoy and benefit from and in which parents can participate;
- To provide the K.I.D.S. program without charge to educators around the country;
- To offer financial advisors educational tools and a structured program to reach into their local educational communities.
- To creatively raise SunAmerica’s brand awareness among consumers and financial intermediaries.
STRATEGIC APPROACH AND CAMPAIGN EXECUTION
Since SunAmerica Mutual Funds is the first financial services company to initiate a program on money management for young children, the Company had to create its own model.
The strategy was to first inform as many educators as possible of the program and invite their participation. The Company pursued a grassroots marketing effort to expand the program by word of mouth and through speaking engagements at educational organizations and sponsorships of such events as the Council of Supervisors and Administrators annual meeting, where more than 500 educators requested information.
Then, the company sought to publicize the Program to current and potential shareholders. The Company is sponsoring a special feature in Mutual Funds Magazine as a national platform for the program. The column, entitled “Invest in Your Kids” runs monthly and is written by Jayne Pearl, author of Kids and Money (Bloomberg Press, 1999.)
The company also publicized the Program’s various accolades in shareholder and corporate newsletters thereby attracting the attention of parents, educators and financial advisors around the country many of whom have contacted the company for additional information and instruction on how to introduce the program into their educational communities.
Teachers across the country are using the program and the program has the support of NYC Mayor Giuliani as well as members of the NYC Board of Education. Also remarkable is the number of both teachers and financial advisors who have expressed interest in the program. In the first month of national expansion, the SunAmerica Mutual Funds K.I.D.S. Program has found its way to nearly 30 states across the country. The positive response that SunAmerica Mutual Funds continues to receive from educators, parents, financial advisors, and government officials proves that the Program is a valuable community service. The Company has met its objective.