11-year-old spearheads financial literacy program

Caden Harris, 11, is taking his financial literacy program on the road in a retrofitted bus with a mock grocery, bank and ATM.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Caden Harris, 11, is taking his financial literacy program on the road in a retrofitted bus with a mock grocery, bank and ATM.

Four years ago, when he was 7, Caden Harris tagged along when his entrepreneur dad had business meetings. But rather than being bored, Harris sat up and started taking notes.

“People talked about financial literacy and other things I didn’t understand, so I took it upon myself to learn about it,” said the Stonecrest 11-year-old. “I talked to experts and attended an online class.”

Harris was so enthused about his new knowledge that he began sharing it with friends.

“I created flash cards to teach them the difference between an asset and a liability, about dividends, about financial terms,” he said. “I also made an activity book, and they always have fun with it. I take it at a slow pace, and they get it.”

Harris also put his lessons around earning, saving and investing money into a slide presentation that he showed in classrooms, at career days and during other school events. From there, the “Caden Teaches Finance” program for elementary and middle schoolers took off, and Harris moved to “bigger stages that helped me reach more kids,” he said.

Harris, who has been homeschooled since fourth grade and is now going into seventh, recently debuted his biggest outreach venture: a retrofitted commuter bus that is now a mobile classroom with a mock bank, grocery and stock exchange designed to give kids a real-life lesson on finances.

“I saw people turning buses into homes and thought, ‘Why not into a financial learning center where kids can understand financial literacy?’” he said. “I found a really good deal in Florida on a charter bus for $10,000 and went to business meetings and met CEOs to tell them about my mission. I raised about $50,000 to get it ready.”

The bus has been on the road since early August and has garnered positive responses. “They really like the grocery story that has a ‘produce’ section and ‘Caden Cheddar Chips,’” he said. They also like the mock ATM machine and bank because most kids haven’t ever been inside a bank.”

Harris’ dad, Sean, now has a new title: Mr. Bus Driver. And he’s seen first-hand how youngsters react the whole program.

“It’s really great to see the impact he has on other kids and how excited they get,” said Sean Harris. “Their first reactions are so electric; they’re really taken aback. They’re able to learn with fun interaction with someone in their own peer group, and they get so involved we have to drag them off the bus.”

Harris’ plan is to take the bus out at least twice a week. And he’s already looking at the long-term.

“I would love to continue this career until I’m an adult, then maybe I can have this business running while teaching parents about financial literacy so they can teach their kids, too. I know most kids graduate high school without knowing the basics, and starting at a younger age can really help. And I don’t want to be the only rich kid!”

Information about Caden Teaches Finance is online at cadenteachesbus.com.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.