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Wall Street meets Sesame Street

Talk about getting them when they're young. Merrill Lynch has joined forces with Elmo and the Cookie Monster to develop a "financial fitness" curriculum aimed at children between the ages of two and six.

The initiative is part of Merrill's philanthropic "IPO" programme, which stands for "investing pays off." Last year Merrill gave away nearly $39 million to various charitable causes around the world.

The collaboration with Sesame Street aims to encourage children to spend and save responsibly through a combination of Sesame Street stories and educational games.

The irony of the IPO name will be lost on toddlers. To grown-ups burnt by the manipulated research of Wall Street houses on IPOs not so long ago, however, the name is more risible.

Surely, given recent experience, a responsible financial education programme aimed at kids who've just mastered the potty should not encourage the misleading association between initial public offerings and the idea that investing pays off.

"Let the buyer beware" and "the value of investments may go down as well as up" would perhaps be more valuable lessons for them.

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