Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM
April is Financial Literacy month, and a good time to note that today's kids are good at spending money, but very few are getting any lessons about earning, saving and investing money. Here's one way to solve that problem. Your children are playing all kinds of games online, so why shouldn't some of them teach about money? That's the premise of a variety of Web sites instituted by financial services firms. The latest, and easily the most creative of those sites, is offered by A.G. Edwards, the national brokerage firm.
You'll find it at www.MySavingsQuest.com. The opening narration announces it's a game that tests your ability to "save for the things you want, while paying for all the things you need." Players get to pick a job, build a budget for bill payment, deal with unexpected expenses, and still set aside enough money to reach a specific savings goal.Solid graphics and attitude
The interactive graphics and sound, as well as the "attitude" of the audio game guide, combine to make this a pretty enticing site for young teens. Sophie Beckmann, financial planning specialist at A.G. Edwards, who helped create the game, says it was tested on kids, including her 12-year-old, and designed to appeal to a generation that knows how to learn from fast-paced, online stimulating environments.
To start the game, players created a character, including color of skin, eyes and hair, and then named the character. Next step was to choose a profession ranging from accountant to detective. Each profession requires different skills from math to geography to spelling. And each profession comes with a salary -- money that can be earned if they complete an "assignment."
Now it's time to create a real savings goal priced in real dollars. It could be a new game system and five games for $500, or a big-screen TV for $1,500 or two weeks at a sports camp for $3,000.
You can also create your own individual savings goal. The announcer reminds players that these are "short-term" goals, because you only have six months to save for whatever you choose.
Reality quickly sets in, as the next step is The Budget. The announcer lets players know that "every month you'll earn $2,000." But then, there's an immediate reminder that every month $200 will be deducted from your paycheck for your retirement account -- a long-term savings goal.
And you'll pay $400 every month for taxes -- to cover things like police and government services. It's a real life lesson that what you "earn" is not necessarily what you keep! With the remaining $1,400, you start to make your budget, which includes fixed expenses such as rent, utilities, car insurance and gas, and food. The trick is to cover all expenses -- and have extra money for the unexpected, while setting aside money every month toward savings.
Suddenly, it hits me. This game isn't necessarily aimed at pre-teens. It might be just the thing for college kids! No kidding, the next step has you choosing an apartment, deciding whether it's better to live close to work, so you can save on gas, or in a larger apartment that allows pets. You're guaranteed to chuckle out loud at the scenarios they offer.
The "fun" category includes money for concert tickets or movies. I don't want to spoil it for you -- or your kids. So take 15 minutes and sit down at the computer with them. A postscript: Junior Achievement
I couldn't write about kids and money without mentioning Junior Achievement -- one of my favorite causes. (Full disclosure: I sit on the Chicago board of JA.) Junior Achievement is no longer the after-school activity you may remember. These days JA uses volunteers to teach kids about economic concepts from kindergarten through 12th grade. In the Chicago area, JA reaches 340,000 students every year.
Many corporations support JA with employee volunteers and fund-raising. In Chicago, ITW and HSBC each have more than 200 volunteers, and have raised more than $400,000 each in corporate-sponsored events such as bowl-a-thons and golf outings. Becoming an individual volunteer is easy. Just call (312) 715-1300, ext. 234.
If we want a future work force that understands and appreciates business and the free enterprise economy, we'll have to start early to train them. And that's the Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Distributed by Creators Syndicate.