I really enjoyed volunteering at JA Finance Park yesterday. If anyone else is interested in volunteering, I recommend it! There were 8 people from Freddie Mac there as well, it’s part of their community service program. And there were some retired people from the community that volunteer too. The kids (and I) learned a lot. I was impressed by the facility and the program.
JA Finance Park helps students build a foundation upon which they can make intelligent financial decisions that last a lifetime, including decisions related to income, expenses, savings and credit. The “mini-city” houses a variety of storefronts and kiosks, correlating to the personal budget lines each student must manage during their JA Finance Park® visit.As these young people enter the doors of Finance Park, they leave behind their lives as middle school students and take on a life scenario: an avatar with a career, salary, credit score, debt, a family, and financial obligations. On tablet computers, students make their way through various phases of the day:
SET UP & SAVINGS
During the first phase of the day after an initial welcome, students watch a career presentation and answer lifestyle questions about their hopes for their financial futures. Volunteers lead small group discussions on students’ assigned life scenarios, including income, job title and educational background, marital status, if they have children, existing savings and debt, and credit score. Students calculate their net monthly income and learn about setting a monthly savings goal. Students then allocate that savings to three saving funds.
During the Research phase, in small groups, students visit each storefront and kiosk at JA Finance Park® and engage in a discussion with volunteer role models on the various budget items contained within JA Finance Park®. Utilizing provided discussion questions, volunteers initiate group discussion with students about their research discoveries and share personal experiences and suggestions about budgeting.
During the JA Finance Park® Budget phase, students build a monthly budget on their tablet computers, informed by their research and volunteer-led discussion. They allocate 100% of their household net monthly income during this phase and record their financial plan in the software.
Students make shopping selections in their home storefront, getting a better understanding of what their personal tastes and preferences actually cost. As they choose a home, clothes, furniture, car, and other purchases, they discover how close they came to budgeting accurately, based on their wants and needs. Students may spend more than they budgeted, but are forced to account for any budgeting discrepancies by spending less in another area.
PAYMENT & CHECKOUT
During the Payment & Checkout phase of the JA Finance Park® experience, students pay for all their shopping selections, using a debit card or by making an online payment from their banking account.
Guided by adult volunteer role models, the simulation helps students grasp the implications of their “financial decisions” as they work towards a balanced budget by the end of their visit, and allows these young people to experience the challenges of making real-life financial decisions that will lay the foundation for how they approach their financial responsibilities in the future.