Finance Park allows students to experience life as an “adult for a day.” Students buy a home, car, furniture, clothing, health care and other necessities, while staying within a budget. Capital One’s Annella Metoyer.
“As you can see, you have the electric area, where they’ll pay electric bills for their home, telephone bill, buying groceries, paying the insurance.”
Ed: “So you put them in sort of situations, right? ‘You are the head of a household, you have 2.3 kids.'”
“Absolutely. And you’ve gotta make some decisions — do you go the movie or do you pay the electric bill?”
Tracy Janda is a volunteer, and helps kids develop an initial budget.
“The students right now are getting prepared to spend the day in Finance Park, and they’re actually figuring out their net monthly income. They’ve been given a scenario. As our leader this morning explained, there are going to be a number of ‘a-ha’ moments today when they realize they’re going to have to make some choices today.”
Finance Park consists of work stations with computers for paying some of the costs of living, such as utilities, real estate and groceries. Larry Washington is with Junior Achievement.
“As they go through and make decisions at all these stations, we’ll be able to track that and then give them recommendations on what they need to do to kind of correct any shortfall.”
Ed: “And like in real life, you have some kids better off than others, maybe, to start with.”
“Exactly. It’s all in chance. Some kids are making, you know, $100,000 and they’re single. Some are making $30,000 with three kids. And then also throughout the day, they get an unlucky or a lucky chance card, and that’s either something good has happened in life or something bad has happened in life, just like it happens to us. And they have to find a way to deal with that.”
Samuel Thompson is a senior high school student.
“They’re just showing us how you live life. You have gross income, that if you don’t have it, you can’t have it in life because…”
Ed: “Can’t spend it if you don’t have it.”
Elizabeth Ramirez is another student working her way through the maze of bills and obligations.
Ed: “So you’re at the housing area? What did you have to do?”
“Nothing, I just had to put my account number and I had to press print to see what kind, what option I would choose out of the houses.”
Ed: “What kind of life situation were you given, like income and kids and all that? What did they say to you?”
“I was given one kid, 11, and I’m married, and my business is cable. My annual income is $53,748.”
Retired economics teacher Linda Lucas likes the concept of Finance Park.
“Middle school students gain a very valuable appreciation for the economic choices that, in most cases, their parents have to make, and a new appreciation for how expensive life is. So this is very valuable. Nobody told us when we were growing up ‘this is how you do it.’ We had to learn the hard way. We all bounced checks; we all over-extended ourselves.”
Since 2006, Finance Park has helped more than 20,000 middle school students learn the basic of budgeting and money management.
Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.