Mark Robilliard, FCA, CEO, Accounting Literacy Foundation

Mark Robilliard, FCA, CEO, Accounting Literacy Foundation 

BACKSTORY

Team Sammy: Share with us a little about you, your current family, your non-professional life, a favorite hobby, etc., so readers can get a sense of who you are.

Mark Robilliard: I am a 62 year old married Australian with a 32 year old step daughter (school teacher) and an 18 year old daughter (college student).

I live in Noosa, Australia which is a beautiful part of the world. My wife and I are both Chartered Accountants and we met through work.

I love the beach and walks through the national park and trails. We recently moved back to Australia from the U.S. (Wisconsin) where we lived for about 5 years and experienced some real winters.

I am the co-author of four books about accounting, the latest of which is called The Joy Of Accounting!

I love technology and live music. When I was at college I played guitar in a rock band. I still have my first guitar. 

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BARN DANCES, FARMING AND FAMILY

Team Sammy: Tell us about what it was like growing up – your family and community?

Mark Robilliard: We were farmers. Until the age of 4 we were on a large dairy farm and after that it was a beef cattle farm which was less intense. When I was 16 we sold our farm and moved to a city by the beach to build a caravan park which was a fun business.

I would say growing up on the farm was a pretty good experience. You learned about life and death, the value of hard work and no set working hours, and the joy of taking a holiday. I also learned to drive a variety of farm vehicles at a very young age.

The community was close and cared for each other, and every two weeks there was a ‘barn dance’ at the community hall. The families bought some food or soft drinks to share and there was an old-time dance band. There were sporting clubs, football and cricket for boys and tennis and netball for girls, which provided a lot of community events.

When I was a bit older, my dad would occasionally take me with him to the local pub where he would have a few beers with his mates and I would get a raspberry lemonade and if supremely lucky, a toasted ham and pickle sandwich.

It was a good, solid upbringing. 

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NO POCKET MONEY

Team Sammy: What was one of your first money memories?

Mark Robilliard: It’s hard to know exactly as we didn’t really have pocket money as younger kids. But probably, it would be when we took our annual vacation from the farm and we stayed at a beachside caravan park, and always on the exact same caravan site.

Nearby there was a small milk bar and we were allowed to go there by ourselves. Our parents would give us a few coins and we would go and buy a soft drink (soda) or maybe a milkshake and some lollies (candy).

We were always trying to get the best value for our money. 

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A PARTNERSHIP AND A PLASTIC MONEY BOX

Team Sammy: What was your first saving experience or memory?

Mark Robilliard: At primary (elementary) school, our State was partnered with a savings bank and each student had a savings account which included a physical passbook and a plastic money box. The idea was to save some coins in the money box and then once a week or perhaps two weeks to bring it into class with the passbook so the money saved could be deposited into the savings account and handwritten into the passbook.

This was kind of fun. But now in retrospect, I think they could have made much more of it as a learning experience. 

ONE CENT PER THISTLE

Team Sammy: What was your first job (formal or informal)? How much did you earn and what you did with the money?

Mark Robilliard: For sure it would have been something on the farm. It was likely hoeing out thistles (weeds) of which there were plenty on our farm. You had to dig out the plant roots and all and these had to be intact or the thistle would regrow.

Dad would perform a quality control check to make sure the roots had been dug out. The pay was 1 cent per thistle which I thought was pretty good as you ‘only’ needed to hoe out 100 thistles and you had a whole dollar! I think this money would have gone into the money box for my school savings account. 

HOW MUCH DOES A CHEQUE BOOK COST

Team Sammy: Did your parents talk to you and/or teach you about money / personal finance growing up? What do you remember? What, if anything stuck? 

Mark Robilliard: Not that I can recall. So either they didn’t, or it didn’t stick – either way it was a missed opportunity. I do vaguely recall my dad talking about having to make the money last if he just sold some cattle. And I’m pretty sure he may have mentioned that money doesn’t grow on trees, but perhaps avocado farmers and orchardists might dispute that. 

When we moved from the farm to the city, I must have been around 12 or 13, one of my new chores was to go into town on my bicycle and pay a bunch of monthly bills by cheque (check) – each invoice had a cheque attached. I actually loved this job as it was fun going around all the businesses and they were always pleased to see me. I was amazed that you could pay a debt using these pieces of paper (cheques) from the bank. When I got home I recall asking dad how much did it cost to buy a cheque-book. He laughed at my naivety but never explained it and it was only much later that I worked it out. 

Who was your primary or one of your main money mentors as a child or teen? I think it was probably my mother. She didn’t have a job other than the main job of raising us kids, feeding the family and running the household, which apparently she did on the smell of an oily rag, or so she told us. But seriously, she would always look for bargains, or alternatives to make the household budget stretch a little more. 

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DEPARTMENT STORE MELTDOWN

Team Sammy: At what age and how did you come to realize money had a value?

Mark Robilliard: I think I was about eleven or twelve. I recall vividly having a kind of meltdown in a department store because my mother wouldn’t buy me a pair of Levis (all the kids were wearing them) and I had to settle for a ‘lesser’ brand as they were cheaper.

I think it was probably the first time I started to realize how money impacted on the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’. 

FROM FARM WORK TO PUMPING GAS TO PLAYING GUITAR

Team Sammy: Did you work as a teen and/or in college? 

Mark Robilliard: On the farm we did farm-related work for payment. I had plenty of chores (being the oldest) and don’t recall getting any sort of allowance for this. But for special project work we would be paid. This would include picking potatoes, carting and stacking hay, and fencing.

When we moved to the city, I had jobs at a service station pumping gas, in a grocery store packing groceries for customers and in a department store sweeping floors and crushing cardboard boxes.

I also worked in my parents’ caravan park doing various jobs. Later in college, I played guitar in a band and made some money doing that. 

SURFS UP SAVINGS IS DOWN

Team Sammy: What was one mistake and one smart money choice you made as a kid or teen?

The most expensive mistake I made as a teenager was to sell my first car (a very uncool Mini Minor – think Mr. Bean) and use the proceeds and ALL of my savings to buy a cool station wagon to go surfing in.

Unfortunately I knew nothing about cars and the station wagon was a piece of junk full of disguised rust. That decision cost me dearly for years and I have never forgotten it.

A smart(er) money choice was when I won a lucky door prize at an event my family attended – the event was to see a working colour television for the first time! Anyway, my prize was a holiday for two people to another state (including flights and accommodation). My father offered to trade me the prize for getting my old bicycle repainted and jazzed up with new parts which I gleefully accepted. Hmmm – maybe it wasn’t such a good trade after all. 

A DEISRE TO HELP PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES

Team Sammy: What piqued your interest in personal finance? 

Mark Robilliard: This really happened much later when I began to realize how many people were not prepared for retirement or financially literate. I started to think a lot about why we as a society were not doing more to help people help themselves. 

TEN PERCENT

Team Sammy: If you could only teach a child one money habit, what would it be and why?

To save 10% of everything you earn or are given. The savings must go into a separate account (‘future fund’) that is not touched. Preferably this should be accompanied by a big dream about what this future fund could be used for. 

ABSOLUTELY

Team Sammy: Is it important to teach kids about money?

Mark Robbilliard: Yes – absolutely it is important. It’s going to have such a big impact on their life every step of the way. I think it should be early – say 3 or 4. Give them an allowance, 10% goes to the ‘future fund’ and 90% discretionary. Help them record their savings and their discretionary spending so it can be tracked and periodically total it up so they can get a sense of how much they are spending and on what. You get results from what you pay attention to, so teach them how to pay attention to their money. A savings account can be a little disconnected from their everyday life, so connect it to a big dream that they want and continuously revisit it. 

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Team Sammy: Should personal finance be taught in schools? 

Yes – absolutely – 100%. But it would work better if parents could be brought in on the conversation too so it isn’t just a ‘school thing’. 

MARK ON A VARIETY OF TOPICS

Student debt 

Could be used in financial education classes as a live case study: pros and cons. In most countries tertiary education is not free and some level of student debt arises. I’ve seen some figures recently that indicate (in the US) that some people about to or actually retiring are still carrying their student loans. 

Credit cards

Necessary to build your credit rating in most countries. But why not start with a very low credit limit (say $300) so you can’t get into much trouble, you can get used to paying off the whole balance when due each month and cleanly build your credit rating. 

Of course there is a whole bunch of new easy to get credit available to kids today using various ‘buy now, pay later’ apps on their smartphone. If the kid doesn’t meet the repayments, this will surely affect their credit rating adversely. 

Financial pet peeves 

Retailers using ‘have now, pay later’ schemes on financially under-educated people who should not be doing this. 

People (families) being ‘one paycheck from financial oblivion’ – should that job cease or be cut back (pandemic anyone?) or an unexpected expense arises and they are suddenly underwater. This should not be seen as normal in any society.

Discover more about Mark Robilliard.

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About the Author

Sam X Renick is a children's Author, Co-Creator of Sammy Rabbit-SammyRabbit.com, Award Winning Financial Educator & Double Bottom Line Entrepreneur!