All posts by Sarah

Can money games teach money management?

“I want to play that piggy game!” my three-year-old said when we discovered the Great Piggy Bank Adventure at Disney World. I saw a fun way to introduce money skills; she saw a friendly looking piggy bank. Win, win, right?

That was my thought until we started playing. She first had to decide on a financial goal: college, retirement or a big vacation. What kid is going to be excited about pretending to save for college or retirement? My daughter picked vacation.

Carrying the plastic piggy bank was the high point for her as she proudly walked from stop to stop. She “inserted” her piggy bank into the electronic stations and watched the pig become an animated friend telling her what to do next.

Each of the activities had a purpose such as directing the money towards different spending or saving buckets, staying above inflation or diversifying where to keep the money.

At the end, her piggy bank told her she hadn’t saved enough for her goal and sent her off with some positive reminders about saving, investing, and diversifying her money.

The target age group is 8-14, so I understand this game isn’t designed for pre-schoolers. The only thing she’ll remember is the piggy bank. Yet, as an adult I walked away not sure what I learned either. Piggy banks, inflation and diversification?

Disney and T. Rowe Price, the corporate sponsor of the game, have a great opportunity to reach a vast audience and teach financial skills to the current generation. I applaud their efforts.

While saving money is great, most people struggle to pay the bills or stick to a household budget. To save, you first have to figure out what money you have left over and where you can cut back, if at all.

This game, in my opinion, like so much financial education, felt like step two, instead of step one. Why not start by practicing budgeting with realistic income and expenses?  Or discover how to manage money using virtual money tools like debit and credit cards without running into trouble? Those are the essential lessons people need to learn, and there just aren’t enough places teaching them.

I’ve been managing my money since I was five years old, thanks to parents who felt that money management was a core part of what they needed to teach their children as an essential life skill.

When I say managing, I don’t mean saving my birthday money for fun purchases. My parents provided me a constant fund of money for both fun and necessary expenses. This meant that I was totally in charge of expenses like school supplies and lunches. I had to think twice before buying the ice cream bar at school lunch because I wanted to conserve my money for a weekend movie with friends.

My choices had nothing to do with diversification or inflation. I had to make choices so I had enough money when I needed it, whether it was for my expenses or fun.

Those are the kinds of challenges I would love to see in an entertaining, theme-park game. Who knows what impact that might have?

Guest blogger, Sarah, is author Lynne Finch’s daughter, who started using The No-Cash Allowance when she was five years old.