Five-year-old Kennedy O’Neal’s morning routine is to eat breakfast at the counter in her kitchen while she counts the change and small bills in the glass jar she uses as a piggy bank.
She guesses she has about $60 in there right now.
That includes $5 she got from the tooth fairy for a top front tooth and $10 for a bottom one—incentive money to pull them out, her dad, Chris O’Neal, clarified.
When Kennedy, who is in kindergarten at Faith Baptist School, finds coins, she adds them to her jar.
“She’s been doing that for years, like since she was a toddler,” O’Neal said.
The dollar bill she gets from her parents for completing her daily chores—making her bed without wrinkles, feeding her 11-month-old baby brother his dinner, sweeping the kitchen and doing her homework—goes in the jar, too.
So does the money her parents asked family members to give her in lieu of toys at birthdays and Christmases.
When the jar gets full, half of the money goes into Kennedy’s savings account at Navy Federal Credit Union.
“She loves the change machine—she likes to guess how much cash will come out of it,” mom Sabrina O’Neal said.
Kennedy will tell you her favorite part about the bank is the lollipops.
She gets to spend the other half of her stash at Toys “R” Us. On her last trip, she bought an L.O.L. Surprise! doll.
Kennedy shares her tips and tricks to get other kids interested in saving and investing in a new book that she wrote with her dad—”The Adventures of Super Kennedy: Saving and Investing.”
To celebrate the book’s release, her family is throwing a free party for the community, with book signings, games, music and prizes, on March 17 at FunLand in Central Park in Fredericksburg.
Chris O’Neal is a self-described “avid real estate investor.” He’s a Realtor and, with his wife, Sabrina, flips houses. In 2015, he wrote a book called “Done Deal: What ‘They’ Never Told You About Money,” in which he gives his ideas for achieving financial freedom.
Kennedy used to go with him to book signings and she caught the book-writing bug.
“She told me, ‘Dad, I want to do my own book,’ ” he said.
“We can write a book,” he told her. “Just figure out what you want to tell people.”
Together, they came up with the idea of a little girl, based on Kennedy, who turns into a superhero on a mission to help other kids learn how to save.
“Every kid can be a superhero these days with help and support from their parents,” O’Neal said.
He and Kennedy worked on the book in the evenings for about a year. They hired an illustrator from California, Romney Vasquez, after going through two other illustrators who didn’t deliver the look they wanted for the book.
“The Adventures of Super Kennedy” is self-published and will be available on Amazon, O’Neal said.
He used to work in the marketing department of a utility company, and though he said the company paid well, he didn’t like the commute and he wanted to be his own boss. He also noticed how many of his coworkers were in their 60s and still working.
“I’d see people who had been working there 30 years and I’d wonder, why haven’t you retired?” he said. “A lot of the time, they were working to pay for their kids’ college.”
O’Neal has other ideas about generating income for Kennedy’s higher education. Using some money from Kennedy’s savings account, he and his wife bought a building in Baltimore for $11,000 that they plan to fix up and rent out.
“That will give [Kennedy] money each month for college,” he said. “The house will pay her for the rest of her life.”
O’Neal said some people might consider investing in rental properties risky.
“My saying is, ‘It’s a risk not taking a risk,’ ” he said.
The O’Neals have their own version of Kennedy’s money jar—a 5-gallon water bottle where they throw coins and small bills that might be in their pockets at the end of a day. They save that money to go toward their vacations.
“We might get $100 that way,” Chris O’Neal said. “It helps.”
His advice for kids who are new to saving is to set a small goal of even $5.
“Once they get that first trip to Toys ‘R’ Us out of the way, [the fun of saving] will be instilled in them,” he said.
Kennedy already knows what she’s going to buy on her next trip to the toy store.
“The new blue LOL! doll,” she said.