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Youngsters Learn the Highs and Lows of Budgeting Money

Aug 30, 2018 06:00AM ● By Marjorie Turner Hollman
by Marjorie Turner Hollman, Contributing Writer

Library Director Bernadette Rivard, Senior Youth Services Librarian Steve Fowler, and Library Assistant for Youth Services Diane Nelson teamed up to host Millionaire Camp for two days in early August at the Bellingham Library.

Five boys and four girls signed up, and soon the “campers” were in the thick of things, learning about paying monthly bills and paying yourself first, to be sure money is set aside for emergencies.

And yes, emergencies do come up in this program, a game developed by Creative Wealth International. The materials for the event were purchased with funds provided through the LSTA “Financial Fitness for Everyone” grant program.

“We were looking for a way to have a summer program for the kids that would teach financial literacy but not have them sitting at a desk just listening to someone or doing worksheets,” Rivard explained. “We liked that this program was physical, involved moving around the room, as well as teaching great money lessons.”

While the game started off simply, the stakes soon got higher as the campers were challenged to consider investing money to get more return on their savings. They were tempted with spending money on “piddly stuff” (with a bag marked, appropriately, “piddly stuff”), which they dutifully avoided, at least at first. But as the months progressed (each new round of the game was another month, with another paycheck and requisite bills to pay), the challenges became more complex.
Investments were thrown into the mix—stocks, business investments, and real estate.

At first those who risked investing received astonishing returns. But, as in real life, the downturn in the stock market hit some of the campers harder than others. Later, “life events” happened, just as in—wait for it—real life. Car accidents put a dent in their budget, but thankfully, they had all paid up their insurance so were minimally affected. But when pipes burst, it was another matter.

By the end of the game, participants had ended up with a wide range of money in their accounts. They had experienced the joys and frustrations of keeping track of money, balancing checkbooks, and looking ahead to try to prepare for life events, which, as we know, happen to everyone. It was all play money, but the stakes were serious, and those who attended stayed engaged, asked questions and looked for help when their books didn’t balance. Just like in real life.

“We purchased enough supplies to have 60 children play the game, so we will offer more of these programs in the future,” Rivard said, as she reflected on the success of the pilot program in Bellingham. “The kit came with reproducible materials as well, so we can offer this periodically in the future.”

“One of our takeaways is that we think that instead of making it a two-day, 1.5 hour each day program, it would be better to do it all in one day for a longer time,” Rivard said. “We are looking at changing future offerings from a two-day event to a one-day event, and providing a pizza lunch for the kids. The other thing we learned is that we will limit registration each time to 10 kids, because even with three staff running the program, it was necessary to have all three of us to keep up and help the kids keep on task.”

Congratulations to all of the participants, who may never become millionaires, but are well on their way to handling real-life events with a little more understanding of the joys and headaches that come with adulthood while taking responsibility for their own finances.






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