Warren Buffett's Cartoon Money Tips

When zealous capitalists of every stripe descended on Omaha to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, shareholders were treated to the premiere of chairman and CEO Warren Buffett's long-gestating animated series for kids, Secret Millionaires Club. In it, a multicultural trio of wealthy kids—Elena, Jones, and Radley—hang out with the Oracle of Omaha in an underground lair, talking strategy on earning and saving money. Buffett's goal is to inculcate financial savvy in tweenagers. But will the series be entertaining enough to keep the attention of kids, who have more entertainment choices than ever?

Secret Millionaires Club is a fun and well-executed series, produced in bite-sized chunks to be watched on the Web, and it won't rise or fall on the basis of its quality. Better still, it avoids lengthy lectures. While kids might not be opposed to watching cartoons about subjects as sterile as investing (The Disney Channel has one set on a rural British sheep farm, after all), a half-hour econ lesson is a slog at any age. The first installment of SMC barely cracks the five-minute mark, and in that time relays a basic business concept—it's all about location, location, location. Elena's friend Brittany is having trouble directing business to her lemonade stand. The team tosses out theories on why, finally concluding that putting the stand in an alley wasn't such a great idea. It's a simple, easily applied micro-lesson that kids can retain, and Buffett, whose 2-D avatar is quite the silver fox, makes the message even more relatable by applying it to school. "When you're in a classroom, it's best to sit in a place where you can listen to the teacher," he says. It's good advice. Everyone knows the further back you sit in class, the likelier you are to end up someone who can eyeball a dime bag. (We should add that Buffett sits on the board of directors of The Washington Post Company, NEWSWEEK's parent.)

But though the ideas are mostly solid, and the execution sound, SMC will run into the same problem that hinders all educational cartoons targeting older kids. By the time a kid gets to the age when Buffett's lessons would be most useful, they've learned to avoid voluntary education. School is for learning; cartoons are for zoning out. A bigger problem lies in Buffett's title and concept of inconspicuous wealth. Who wants to be a "secret millionaire?" As a kid, I watched Silver Spoons and Diff'rent Strokes, and while they didn't teach me anything about where to put a lemonade stand, they did show how awesome it is to be rich. Had I been a Drummond boy, I certainly wouldn't have kept it a secret. Kids want to be secret agents, secret superheroes, perhaps, but not secret millionaires. Buffett might be able to make wise investments more entertaining, but his modest living and frugality can't be, won't be sexed up.