National Credit Union Youth Week • April 23-29, 2006
in Mad City by Lin Standke
“Welcome to the future in s a new resident of Mad two online modules about opening
Mad City. Congratulations!
ACity, once you received “My and balancing a checking account.
Big Bad Budget Work Sheet,” the The first stop was Benjamins Credit
You’ve graduated, some of fun—and learning—began. The goal? Union to make a deposit in a check-
To purchase housing, transportation, ing account for the amount of each
you are married, and all of food, clothing, furniture, personal new family’s monthly net income.
you have a job. You also items, and entertainment for you Then, with checkbooks in hand,
and your family on a specific month- students started shopping. Businesses,
have expenses and debt. ly income. staffed by employees from CUNA,
“Now it’s time to create a Oh, and by the way, you can’t be CUNA Mutual, and Great Wisconsin
overdrawn or have less than $200 in (formerly CUNA) Credit Union sold
budget so that you’ll know your checking account by the end of to students with realistic flair. Stu-
just how much of your hard- the session. dents made their own choices from
options that merchants trying to “sell
earned money you can Adult budgets in high school up” pushed on them. If a student
spend on day-to-day living. That’s how a two-hour simulation wrote a check with a pencil, the
of life as an adult began for 25 high- merchant wouldn’t accept it, remind-
And, of course, how much school students attending a statewide ing the buyer to rewrite it in ink.
you can save for future 4-H leadership conference in Madi-
son, Wis. Necessities
needs and wants.” Students selected a career from a It was no surprise that most stu-
group of occupa- dents headed to the My Wheels deal-
tions that included ership next. A car is usually a young
lawyer, teller, vet- adult’s first major purchase. And be-
erinary assistant, cause this was a budgeting simula-
and farmer. Inside tion, not a course in how to buy a
each career enve- car, students skipped the steps of re-
lope was different searching car makes, models, and
information about prices. The only options were
monthly salaries new/used, sedan/truck/SUV and lux-
and personal obli- ury/economy.
gations such as Buying a home and finding afford-
taxes, school loans, able day care offered some unfamiliar
and credit card challenges and choices. One student
debt. The Mad decided that he could take the bus to
City simulation work so that his “wife” could have a
created instant dependable car to drive their daugh-
families for some ter to day care on the way to her
teenagers, com- job. Another student decided to pur-
plete with wallet- chase used baby clothes “since they
sized pictures of get all yucky and babies grow so
the kids, which quickly,” so that she could spend
added realism— more on housing that gave her fami-
and humor. ly the living space it needed.
Presession The goal of Mad City was to let
homework in the students experience their own
CUNA’s Guides to money mistakes. Typical dilemmas
Students visited eight businesses in Mad City to pay bills, Independence pro- had powerful learning effects. Stu-
make deposits, donate to charity, and purchase goods and
services. Joe Day, CUNA’s director of consumer business gram required stu- dents discovered that they couldn’t
development, staffed the My Wheels car dealership. dents to complete buy all the things that they wanted
2006 SAVINGTEEN • CUNA CENTER FOR PERSONAL FINANCE | 17A
(e.g. a big house and a brand new was much more expensive then they
truck) and still provide for them- had thought and that budgeting and Main Street
selves and their imaginary families saving was the only way get what in Mad City
(e.g. with food). Several teenagers re- they needed and wanted.
turned to Really Realty to trade in How would they change their fu- My Wheels: For new and used
their expensive living spaces for tures? “I’m going to get good grades vehicles, plus bus passes,
cheaper housing just to make ends so I can make it into college and insurance, gas, and car repairs.
meet. earn bigger bucks,” said one student Really Realty: For housing and
“Now I know what my parents go who admitted to a C+ average. “I mobile homes, apartments, insur-
through every month and why they want it all,” claimed one ambitious ance, and utilities.
won’t buy me everything I ask for,” teenager. “So I guess I should save Gotta Eat!: For groceries, fast
said one teenager struggling to bal- some money instead of spending it.”
food and dining out, plus lattes
ance the costs of day care and Isn’t it interesting how much
diapers with a mortgage and car teenagers learn about money when and soft drinks.
payments. they experience adult life—even if Abercrombie & Duds: For clothing
only for a few hours? s and personal care items.
Lessons learned Sit ‘n’ Sleep: For furniture and
In the debriefing session, the Lin Standke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is electronics, and telephone, cable,
CUNA’s manager of youth programs and and ISP access.
teenagers revealed how they liked the a former trainer and instructional design
future and what advice they’d give Family Matters: For children’s
themselves. All agreed that adulthood clothing, diapers, toys, and day
Fun Factory: For travel and
Family income entertainment.
Benjamins Credit Union: For
My Occupation: Firefighter Spouse/Partner’s Occupation: checking and saving accounts,
Insurance agent charitable donations, and credit
Monthly salary: $2,504 Monthly salary: $2,230
Taxes and deductions: $501 Taxes and deductions: $446
Lin, age 4
Family debt and payments Resources
• Medical insurance: $200 month covers you and your family Robert E. Morgan, The Creative
Teaching Site; www.creativeteach
• Student loan payment: $120 month ingsite.com
J. Funke, 1988 Simulation And
• Credit card debt: $2,558 Games, Vol. 19, 277-303
18A | 2006 SAVINGTEEN • CUNA CENTER FOR PERSONAL FINANCE
National Credit Union Youth Week • April 23-29, 2006
The Value of Learning by Simulation
Simulations consist of artificial situ- teenagers to sleep. But a budgeting traditional classroom methods do.
ations that allow players to practice simulation elicits higher levels of in- What’s more, simulations encourage
dealing with dilemmas and conflicts. terest, motivation, and engagement. persistence, creativity, productive
Simulations imitate reality while re- These produce higher quality research, and cooperative team-
ducing complexity to manageable problem solving in students than work. s
proportions. Players walk in the
shoes of other people and learn by
experimenting with different solu-
tions to realistic problems.
The Mad City simulation required
teenagers to integrate their knowl-
edge of money, skills in math, atti-
tudes about choices, and money
to make program’s
mistakes two hours,
and suffer made deci-
consequences sions with
sions that might not occur for years
in real life. They had the opportunity
to modify their decisions and ac-
tions and see the impact of
changes right away. Students learned that erasers and calculators are important tools for creating
They had chances to make mis- a monthly budget. “It’s like a puzzle,” said one teenager. “You have to use all
the pieces and they all have to fit.”
takes—and suffer the conse-
quences of their decisions in a
realistic, but safe, environment.
Robert Morgan, classroom teacher
and director of the Computer,
Space Science, Simulation, and
Faculty Technology Training Center
(University School, Shaker Heights,
Ohio), believes simulations are a
good way for learners to take on re-
sponsible roles, find ways to suc-
ceed, and develop problem-solving
tools. Morgan states that simulations
make students hands-on partici-
pants, not just listeners or ob-
servers. Simulations motivate
students because their involvement
in the activity is so personal that it
leads them to want to learn more
about the simulated subject matter.
Most adults would consider the
topic of budgeting to be a “yawner.” Jim Hanson, CUNA’s vice president of personal finance, illustrated how “life
Books and classroom lectures on happens” by presenting each student with at least one bill for unexpected
expenses, such as replacing eye glasses that someone sat on, and at least
the subject would likely put most one windfall, such as winning free groceries or receiving an inheritance.
2006 SAVINGTEEN • CUNA CENTER FOR PERSONAL FINANCE | 19A