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Smart Kid vs Wise Kid

When it comes to money and business, one important lesson to teach kids is that it is not just about how good your grades are. It’s about knowing when to do the simple thing, when to ask for help and problem-solving. This is what I have focused on in this week’s Fortune Fable. If you and your kids enjoyed my fortune fable, Happy Farmer, Sad Farmer, about ‘working smart’ then I’m sure you’ll enjoy the story below. My kids really enjoyed how one of the kids overcame the setbacks he faced.

Smarty Pants Hates Losing: Fortune Fable

It was nearing the end of the school year and the teacher set her class of 13-year-old students a business competition. She tasked them with trying to create their own bookmarks and challenged them to see who could sell the most before the end of the week. ‘Smarty Pants’ always got the highest grades in the class. He gave himself the name ‘Smarty Pants’ as he loved to let people know how smart he was. “I’m the smartest kid in class, I’m easily going to sell the most bookmarks by the end of the week!” he declared to the rest of his class. Straight away Smarty Pants went to his study and started to make plans. “In order to sell as many bookmarks as possible, I need to make sure lots of people see my bookmark stall and that they are really bright so they can’t be missed when people walk past,” he said to himself. The next day he set up his stall in the middle of a busy shopping mall. As he didn’t see any other bookmark stalls, he was convinced he was going to win. Smarty Pants notices the competition … After a little while, Smarty Pants started to hear people laughing. He followed the laughter. It was coming from the corner of the shopping mall and up the stairs. He went up the stairs and as he got to the top he saw a group of people queuing to buy bookmarks from a stall set up by Lazy Larry. Unlike Smarty Pants, Lazy Larry didn’t give himself his nickname. He got the name as he would always find the easiest way to do things. Smarty Pants pushed his way to the front of the queue and asked Lazy Larry. “How did you get all these people here? You’re not smarter than me!” Lazy Larry replied, “I know I’m not smarter than you. That’s why I asked a few people who have set up their own businesses for some advice. They told me that people who buy bookmarks are the people who buy books, so I set up my stall outside this bookshop!” “That still doesn’t explain why there are so many people here!” blurted Smarty Pants. “I was trying to come up with ideas for my bookmark design but it was taking too long. So I asked kids what they would like to see on a bookmark. They told me they like buying things that make them happy! So I got a joke book and wrote different jokes on the bookmarks” replied Lazy Larry. He showed Smarty Pants the bookmarks which had different jokes on them:

  • Why did the cookie go to the doctor? Because it was feeling crummy!

  • I had a dream that the ocean was filled with orange soda. It was a Fanta Sea!

  • Son asks "Dad, can you tell me what a solar eclipse is? No Sun"

The jokes got people laughing and telling their friends. This led to more people buying his bookmarks. Lazy Larry told the people that the jokes were from a joke book he bought in the bookshop. As people went to the bookshop to buy the books, the bookshop owner was so grateful he bought 30 of the bookmarks himself. Smarty Pants wasn’t happy as he thought he was going to lose the challenge but as he started walking down the stairs back to his stall, he saw something which he knew was going to turn things in his favour!

Big Mike comes along … Coming up the stairs was ‘Big Mike’. He was the school bully and had a reputation for taking things from other kids. He was on his way to the game shop next to the bookshop. Sure enough, when he got to the top of the stairs and saw Lazy Larry and all the money he had been making. Big Mike did what he did best and simply took all Lazy Larry’s money! Everyone was in shock but they were all too scared to do anything about it as he was so big. Lazy Larry ran home crying. He told his mum about what happened. She said “I can go to Big Mike’s parents so that he gets told off and you get your money back. Alternatively, you can see this as a business challenge. Every business has its challenges and those that do really well find clever ways to overcome these challenges. What would you like to do?” Lazy Larry thought about it. He knew that even if Big Mike got told off, he’d still come back again which meant he would take his money again so would have to move his stall. Larry was too lazy to find somewhere else to set up his stall and felt there must be a way for him to keep selling his bookmarks outside of the bookshop without getting his money taken by Big Mike. Then he came up with an idea! The next day, Lazy Larry set up his stall again and had lots of people coming to buy his bookmarks. Then, around the same time as before, he saw Big Mike coming towards the stairs. Lazy Larry ran to the top of the stairs, but out of sight of Big Mike, and said in a pretend deep voice “He comes that Big Mike kid”. Then in another pretend deep voice he said “Oh yeah, we’ll teach him not to take money from our friend. He might be big but he’s not as big as us two!” Big Mike heard the voices and stopped dead in his tracks. After a few seconds, he turned and ran away to avoid the trouble he thought he was about to get into if he walked up the stairs. Lazy Larry was so relieved to see Big Mike runoff. Smarty Pants saw Big Mike run past with a scared look on his face. He went to investigate. When he got to the top of the stairs he was surprised to see Lazy Larry sitting there selling his bookmarks to the queue of people. “What just happened to Big Mike?” he thought to himself. The next day, Smarty Pants was upset that he was going to lose the competition to Lazy Larry. Then he saw Big Mike walk past looking sad. “Why are you so sad and why aren’t you in the game shop as always,” asked Smarty Pants. Big Mike explained that he took the money from Lazy Larry and yesterday heard the two big kids saying they were going to get him back. Smarty Pants smiled and realised the trick Lazy Larry had pulled on Big Mike. “Big Mike, that was just Lazy Larry playing a trick on you. There aren’t any big kids up there, it’s just Larry pretending. I’ll go with you and show you that there are no big kids up there!” said Smarty Pants with a wicked smile on his face. He knew he was now going to win the challenge after Big Mike took the rest of Lazy Larry’s money. As Smarty Pants and Big Mike walked towards the stairs, Lazy Larry saw them coming. He realised that Smarty Pants must have worked out the trick he played. After initially worrying, he again ran to the top of the stairs, but out of sight of Big Mike and Smarty Pants. In his pretend deep voice he said “I told you that if we paid Smarty Pants some money he’d bring Big Mike to us”. Then in a different deep voice he said, “You were right, now we can get him back for what he did. It’s a good thing Smarty Pants helped us find him and bring him to us” Big Mike looked at Smarty Pants “You tricked me, you are helping them so I get in trouble”. Big Mike then ran off as fast as he could. Smarty Pants was shocked. He couldn’t believe that Lazy Larry had tricked Big Mike again. Smarty Pants is defeated …

Lazy Larry thought Smarty Pants would be angry but to his surprise, Smarty Pants came up to him and said “Wow, whilst I might get the best marks in the class, I am so impressed that you managed to overcome Big Mike with your clever tricks. I’m not sure I could have done that. You are certainly very wise. I now realise that if I want to be successful, I need to ask for help and try new ways of doing things!” Smarty Pants moved his stall to be outside of the other bookshop in the shopping mall but accepted that he’d come second in the competition to Lazy Larry. The End!!!

The key message of this story

I want kids to understand that whilst getting good grades at school is important, they also need to be able to solve problems. I’ve met many people who got top grades throughout school but really struggle to overcome challenges or know when to apply the knowledge they have learned. Especially when it comes to money. Some of the smartest people I know, do some really stupid things with their money! Conversely, there are many people who didn’t get the best grades at school but are wise with their money and are a lot more financially healthy and wealthy than most. The most extreme version of this is the ‘Millionaire Janitor’ which you can read here . I hope by sharing this Fortune Fable with your kids, that they will appreciate that there will always be challenges that school can’t prepare them for. The best way for them to learn how to solve problems is by trying to solve problems and learning from others who have solved similar problems in the past. As parents, we should look for as many opportunities as possible to ask our kids “How would you solve that problem?”.

Teaching kids the difference between smart and wise
For the avoidance of doubt, people can be both Smart and Wise


When it comes to money and business, simply being ‘smart’ doesn’t lead to the best outcomes. We need our kids to be wise. This means asking for help when needed, knowing when to keep things simple and trying to solve problems. I hope you read this story to your kids and share it with other families.

Other stories linked to topic:

Thanks for reading! Will P.s. if your kids enjoyed this Fortune Fable, I’m sure they’ll enjoy the other fables in my book Grandpa’s Fortune Fables. The ideal stocking filler this Christmas.


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