In a nutshell — MoneyIsland is a creative and fun program for children that teaches basic financial literacy skills with interactive, engaging games.
If you’re a parent struggling with bad credit, you know the last thing you want to see is your children making the same mistakes you did.
But if you’re struggling with debt and poor finances, will your own children take you seriously? How do you know if you can lead them on the right path?
Since the 2008 financial crisis, educators and financial institutions have been working together to make more financial literacy resources for students, hoping to instill healthy money skills at an early age.
One of the most comprehensive and engaging resources on the market is MoneyIsland™, a tropical island adventure by financial services company BancVue® that teaches children four basic tenents of personal finance: how to save, spend, share and invest.
“There’s a stigma around financial lessons,” according to Seth Forsyth, GM of Financial Literacy Programs at BancVue. “Normally when you have to learn a financial lesson, it’s because you find yourself in a bad situation and are forced to learn the lesson after the fact. Let’s start learning those financial lessons young, before bad situations can happen, and that is where MoneyIsland comes in. MoneyIsland is a fun online game that’s interactive, easy to do, engaging and, most importantly, educational.”
The Origins of MoneyIsland
Former Washington, D.C., Teacher of the Year Felix Brandon Lloyd noticed his fifth grade students’ financial literacy skills were lacking.
“He started asking simple, probing questions like ‘What is the difference between a want and a need?'” Forsyth said. “‘Do you know the difference between a debit card and a credit card?’ The responses from his students were the same as the knowledge base he had as a kid. He realized something’s got to change.”
So Lloyd teamed up with Forsyth and BancVue to create MoneyIsland as a way teach children fundamental money lessons at an early age.
“He was the professor and I was the mayor [of MoneyIsland],” Forsyth joked.
Saving “Stone Broke”
The premise of the game revolves around saving Stone Broke, a young lad who missed out on crucial financial lessons because bullies kept stealing his money. He eventually secluded himself and turned to stone at the bottom of the sea.
The player visits MoneyIsland and completes a number of mini-games and subquests to eventually save Stone Broke from his fiscal fiasco.
“There are four big lessons: save, spend, share and invest,” Forsyth said. “Those are the big pivotal ones. Subquests within the game also teach valuable lessons, such as understanding the difference between debit versus credit, how to use credit wisely, how to goal set, the importance of ID protection and the relevance of insurance.”
Some of these games include:
- Pisa Hotel — Players must build a precarious hotel and choose whether to spend big bucks on luxury or basic accommodations to attract guests, all while teaching how to balance risk and reward.
The Raja’s Wonder — An enthusiastic father promises his daughter a magnificent palace, but it’s up to the player to decide just how magnificent it becomes. It helps players learn about setting realistic goals while managing short-term and long-term objectives.
- Pirate Bubble Blast — This game plays like a quirky mix between Dr. Mario and Bust-a-Move, but it forces players to find a happy medium between “food” and “fun” items.
The Need for Financial Literacy Tools
Forsyth said financial education resources like MoneyIsland are gaining traction in schools and institutions across America due largely in part to parents trying to teach their children how to avoid catastrophes like the 2008 collapse.
“It’s the general social responsibility and awareness that’s happening,” he said. “According to a report on NBC Nightly News, 36 percent of Americans don’t have any savings and 70 percent under the age of 30 don’t have anything toward retirement … We need to change that to avoid future catastrophes like the 2008 collapse. We are now armed with resources like MoneyIsland, which help adults teach others financial lessons more effectively and encourages financial education at a young age.”
Not only that, but agencies like the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) encourage financial institutions to spend more marketing dollars toward financial education. Likewise, state and local education boards are working toward making financial literacy a requirement for high school graduation.
“Thirty-six states are in the process of making financial education a core requirement,” Forsyth said. “Just like social studies and math, kids have to take a financial education-related course to qualify to graduate.”
But according to Forsyth, parents will be the foremost authority on financial education with their children.
“Just because we’re adults and parents doesn’t mean we have the skills to teach financial education,” Forsyth said. “In fact, 70 percent of adults feel more comfortable teaching the birds and the bees than they do financial literacy. My favorite quote from Dave Ramsey — “Your children are always watching you and they learn how to handle money based on how you do it. More is caught than taught.'”
“Seventy percent of adults feel more comfortable teaching the birds and the bees than they do about financial literacy.”
The Future of BancVue and MoneyIsland
As of today, MoneyIsland is being used by more than 115 financial institutions and more than 2,000 classrooms around the United States, helping more than 70,000 children learn fundamental financial literacy lessons at an early age.
But Forsyth realizes the program still has plenty of room to grow, particularly in the mobile sector, noting that children as young as three are beginning to use tablets these days.
“Using technology is certainly a big tool through which kids speak, learn, engage and have fun with the world,” he said. “With our financial literacy tools, we’re keeping that in mind to continue growing and enhancing the tech side to be able to teach kids what they need to learn… We’ll be releasing MoneyIsland on the iPad next month.”
BancVue partners with community financial institutions to offer MoneyIsland and fuel community-powered financial literacy education nationwide. BancVue will continue developing programs and encouraging parents to make a difference in how the next generation of Americans handle their money.
“It’s important for parents to make an impact in their kids’ financial lives as early as possible,” Forsyth said.
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Photo credits: bancvue, linkedin.com, se-alliance.com
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