Mad Money

A Pathways student works on balancing his debit card
By: Samantha Seidel
A merchant tries to sell an item to a student during the simulation.
Students at Pathways Academic Campus glimpsed their future, and the reality of managing their finances when they took a trip to Mad Money City. 
About 80 juniors received an “About Me” profile describing a career, spouse’s career, names and ages of children and total salary and monthly bills.
With this information in hand, the students headed to Mad Money City, a place that makes you or breaks you financially. The goal was to end up with $100 dollars in the bank.
Students rotated to 10 tables representing various real-life expenses life might bring.
They spent money on transportation, childcare, food, housing and clothing while keeping track of their debit card expenses on a sheet of paper, while remembering the danger of credit card fraud.A student laughs as she talks with a merchant trying to sell her housing.
The simulation is typically created for middle school students, but when Pathways Counselor Tanika Flowers heard about it from a friend, she knew her high school students needed to experience it.
A+ Community Education Specialist Priscilla Olvera said Pathways students were the first high school students to visit Mad Money City.
“This is a totally free experience for the students,” she said. “All we ask of the campus is to supply volunteers for the simulation.”
The 40 volunteers acted as merchants at each table with instructions to try to convince their young customers to purchase more expensive items.
The student customers learned to negotiate their way through and learn the challenges of fiscal responsibility.
The only table designed to assist the students was the A+ Federal Credit Union, where they could deposit money and seek financial counseling.
“The take away is that budget is important, and things can happen in your life that are unexpected, and you need to be financially prepared for anything,” said Flowers.
 A student contemplates her choices before making a purchase.Students worked through the simulation writing down their account balances after making purchases. 
Eleventh-grader Destiny Gray-Thomas had her calculator out, making double-sure that she had her math right.
“This is a unique way to see things from a different perspective,” she said. “Being put in different scenarios is challenging, but this has been really interesting.”

The future nursing student didn’t know what she was getting into when she started the simulation, but said she ended with a better idea of how to balance a budget.
“The hardest part has been balancing my debit sheet,” Gray-Thomas said. “But this has really helped me understand what is important and to be careful on what you choose to spend your money on.”
 A student hands over her debit card, deciding to make a purchase.
At the end of the simulation, students evaluated how to apply their newfound financial knowledge.
“For me, I think this should be an annual event that we do with our students,” said Flowers.

“We are trying to prepare students for life, and while reading, math and writing are all important, financial literacy is another part of educating the whole child.”