Today, over 100 senior students participated in a real-world financial decision-making simulation sponsored by two local credit unions. The hands-on simulation, called Mad City Money, “gives youth a taste of the real world – complete with occupation, salary, spouse, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments.”
Students arrived in the library and received a fictional profile that included their occupation, income, family, and specific debt. They then visited merchants, (staffed by credit union volunteers and other community members) to select housing, transportation, food, household necessities, clothing, day care, and other wants and needs while building a budget. To troubleshoot, ask for guidance or invest money, they could visit their local credit union table as well. At the end of the 2 hour simulation, their goal was to have no debt, and to have money invested in savings or other investments.
The simulation allows participants to make mistakes, and troubleshoot the consequences of their decisions in a realistic, educational environment. Students were surprised to learn the true costs of housing, insurance and other necessities, especially when the expenses of children, day care and/or college loan debt was added.
I loved walking around observing and overhearing students stand up against pressure tactics from the “Entertainment” table by saying things like, “I do NOT need to go to Hawaii. My kid is fine wearing hand-me-downs and I have loans to pay off.” Of course, there were also those who allowed themselves to be wooed by Mustangs, Flat screens and nights out, only to be approached my Mr. Sheets and his Fate Cards, which ranged from “Your prize orchids won the $500 grand prize” to “You woke up to find your car vandalized, your tires slashed, and your laptop stolen. Deduct $500 from your checking account.”
Overall, it was the kind of simulation/education I wish I had had before I graduated from college, rented a swank apartment I couldn’t afford, purchased a computer on a credit card, and proceeded to practically starve as I sold my plasma to pay the interest on the computer. Four years later, I finally paid it off — for a grand total of over $4000!