March 1, 2012 / 5:31 PM / 6 years ago

YOUR MONEY: A comic book route to financial literacy

 (The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed
are his own.)	
 By Lou Carlozo	
 CHICAGO, March 1 (Reuters) - Come summer, mutant
robots from outer space and flying, caped crusaders will need to
make way for a slightly less dramatic comic book character: the
number cruncher.	
 On June 4, SmarterComics will release an 80-page comic-book
version of "Financial Intelligence," a bestseller by co-authors
Karen Berman and Joe Knight. The founders of the Business
Literacy Institute, which provides financial literacy training,
had produced a surprise hit with their traditional-text tome,
released in 2006, which offers simple explanations of accounting
concepts for managers.	
 Enter the illustrated version, among the first to impart
financial wisdom via the comic-book medium. In it, the authors
help a fictitious motorcycle-shop owner to decipher income
statements and balance sheets, and to differentiate between cash
and profit. It's set to sell in three versions:  paperback
($14.95), iPad app ($6.99) and iPhone app ($4.99).	
 Mixing business with cartoons may not seem intuitive, but
the popularity of some animated web-video shorts about financial
topics may be encouraging for the authors. More than 5 million
people have watched quantitative easing, explained by cartoon
animals, at: (here)	
 	
 CARTOONS MAKE LEARNING FUN	
 Graphic novels about business, too, have been trendy in
recent years. "Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed," a graphic
novel-textbook for Texas Tech University management students, 
caught on in popularity nationwide, and inspired a sequel. 
Then, there's Patrick Lencioni, who adapted his massive
bestseller, "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: An Illustrated
Leadership Fable," into a 250-page manga comic, published by
Wiley in 2008.	
 One economic expert thinks the comic book version of
"Financial Intelligence" could work -- in part because he's
tried the illustrated approach himself.	
 "The cartoon format is really fun, but it's not a magic
bullet," says Yoram Bauman, a self-styled "stand-up economist"
who wrote "The Cartoon Introduction to Economics" (Macmillan),
and part two of the same book, which covers macroeconomics. "You
have to tell a good story, and the fun effort takes time and
effort and thought."	
 Bauman, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Washington,
was aware of no other cartoon books tackling financial concepts,
apart from those of the Federal Reserve in 2009. 	
 "It's a series about the money supply, interest
rates and what role the Fed plays," he says, adding that
teachers can get the books for free. 	
 The man behind the illustrated "Financial Intelligence" is
SmarterComics CEO and founder Franco Arda -- a former head of
derivative sales at Deutsche Bank's Asia division, who decided
to take a new career path. He started out with a business comic
written to inspire his daughter, titled "Fortune Favors the
Bold." 	
 The Swiss-born Arda, produced the illustrated "Financial
Intelligence" without corporate backing or outside sponsorship,
relying, instead, on word of mouth as his favored marketing
tool. 	
 "With thousands of accounting, business and MBA students,
[along with] entrepreneurs and managers, the market's need for a
fast, fun and informative comic book on accounting is big. Very
big," he says.	
 	
 TARGET AUDIENCE IS YOUNG ADULTS	
 Arda says he picked "Financial Intelligence" for comic book
treatment because "you read this book and you understand where
the numbers are coming from and what they mean. I'm a former MBA
student, and yet I'm a poor soul who has trouble with numbers."	
 Arda is not alone.	
 In an October 2009 article for the Harvard Business Review
(here),
 Berman and Knight reported that a representative sample of U.S.
managers scored an average of only 38 percent on a basic
financial-literacy exam. Many didn't know profit from cash, and
seven in 10 could not define "free cash flow," the cash that can
be used to pay customers their dividends.  	
 While the target audience for the comic book will be young
adults, Arda also hopes for broader appeal with, for example,
time-strapped readers looking to sharpen their monetary chops on
a business flight.	
 "People today prefer information in bite sizes, Twitter
sizes," Arda says. "It's micro style -- grabbing attention for
the moment."	
	
 (Editing by Bernadette Baum, Beth Gladstone and Andrea Evans)	
 

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