David Robinson, entrepreneur, philanthropist, family man and one of the all-time greatest basketball players, is a passionate educator.
Robinson played center for the San Antonio Spurs his entire NBA career (1989 to 2003), but earned his nickname, “The Admiral”, from his prior service as a Naval officer. In 1991, Robinson visited the fifth-grade class at Gates Elementary School in Texas and challenged the 94 students to finish high school, promising each of them a $2,000 scholarship if they did so. In 1998 when 50 of those students graduated, he gave each one an $8,000 scholarship. In 2001, Robinson founded and funded the $9 million Carver Academy in San Antonio, a nonprofit private school named for George Washington Carver to provide better opportunities for inner-city children. In 2012, the school became a public charter school and its name changed to IDEA Carver. Robinson continues to be active in the school’s day-to-day activities.
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Robinson married Valerie Hoggatt in 1991. They have three sons — David Jr., Corey, and Justin.
He shared how he talks with his children about money — it’s “just a tool” — and how he introduced his children to investing.
“I love education,” Robinson said during a recent interview with Michael Liersch on JPMorgan’s weekly podcast, My Next Move. “Everybody knows this is what I do. I build schools; I teach. It’s great. But I don’t expect my kids to be that necessarily. I’d love for them to build upon what we’ve done for 25 years, but not in the same way. I want them to bring their own talents, their own passions to the table. I’ve spent a lot of time with my own children trying to help them explore, figure out where are you good, what are your natural talents, and then what are the circumstances you’ve been put into. And so I’m also a big believer in setting an example and a tone, right. They’ve come with me to the schools, they’ve come to the neighborhoods to where we’ve fed people.”
Robinson said his view on money is that it’s a tool, a resource — not something you build your life around. When money is “in its right place”, you can talk about it in a way that’s beneficial for children, he said.
“With my boys, I’ve tried to have them grow up where money is just a tool. It’s ‘I’m going to teach you how to use it’. At a young age, I had them investing in the stock market and doing different things where they could experience it.
“One summer when they were smaller, I said here’s $2,000 each. Let’s look at the stock market. I said here’s what you do. look around you, the things you like to use. What do you like? You like Nintendo; you like Netflix. What do you like?
“I made it relatable for them. I said we’re going to invest in stocks that you think are good stocks, are good products. And so actually the two older ones were too lazy to actually give me five products. The youngest one, and he was like 9 years old at the time, but the youngest one came back with his list.
“He was like Disney, Netflix, and it was like an interesting five. And within a year, I think it was within a, just a little over a year, they doubled their money. Those stocks were flying up; everything was doing well.
“And I said oh, this is fun. Now, first of all, I’m going to take my cut because that’s what we do, right. I helped you.
“And they’re like no, you don’t get any, Dad. I’m like yes, I do. And so then teaching them about how money works, and then I said OK, are you going to reinvest it?
“Not one of them wanted to put the money back in. They all wanted to take their cash and run.
“They felt like it was a gamble. And I said well yeah, well that’s kind of what investing is. It’s a measured gamble, and you have to think about the risk. But I’m not mad at them for wanting to take their money and go. I just wanted them to understand hey, this is how the world works, right. If you have some money, you can either sit on it, hold it, spend it, or you can try to put it to work. And that was a good early lesson, and that’s as far as we took that one.
“It was collaborative; it was fun. They got to read the papers and watch the stocks of their favorite things. It lasted about a year and then they didn’t want to play anymore, so we moved on. But those are the ways I’ve tried to kind of use money in a way that they understand that it is a great tool.”