Disclosure: I received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew
When I was in school, we had to take an economics course. The course was for 1 semester and my teacher was Mr. Brown. For that semester, twice a week, we would head to Mr Brown's classroom and we would learn about things such as inflation, the federal reserve, economic surplus and shortages and other not so interesting terms. However, in that course, we were also taught some pretty useful things such as filing taxes, balancing a checkbook and using a credit cards responsibly, as well as how to play the stock market. Years later, when my oldest graduated high school, I was pretty disappointed to find that economics had become a thing of the past, leaving students essentially unprepared for these real world challenges that would have a huge impact on their soon to be adult lives.
When we were given the opportunity to review the PersonalFinanceLab Budgeting Game, Stock Market Game and integrated curriculum from PersonalFinanceLab.com, I saw an opportunity to introduce these very important skills to my own children as part of their own school curriculum.
PersonalFinanceLab offers a large amount of lessons and curriculum designed to teach the ins and outs of both personal and business finances as well as how the stock market opporates using hands on instruction. By doing so, students work in "real time" as they find themselves having to make financial decisions that have effects on future outcomes, Students manage their long-term budget and/or stock game portfolio over the entire duration of the program. The games are enhanced with a 300+ lesson curriculum library.
For this review period, I opted to use the program with Ashleigh, focusing on the budgeting aspect of the program.
We found that working twice a week for about 20 minutes a day worked really well for us. Each period, Ashleigh would complete one "month" of the budget game. For the duration of the "month", she would receive weekly paychecks, have to pay monthly expenses such as rent, car insurance, car note, cable bill and credit card bills as well as how to navigate unexpected expenses that randomly pop up during the time period.
The basic scenario is that the player is a full time college student, living on their own, who also works part time. At the start of the game, the student makes a decision as to how their living environment would be - would you live alone or with roommates, for example. These initial decisions have an impact on the amount of monthly expenses the student would pay each month. Ashleigh opted to have multiple roommates in a larger home which meant that the monthly expenses such as rent and utilities were split through the household, lowering her share of the expenses. This can be changed thru the game, if the student decides they wish to change the living situation, which changes the game dynamics.
|Monthly overlook - Green for Money In, Red for Money Out|
At the beginning of each month, Ash would have to figure out what her projected income would be for that month, how much she would try to put into her savings account, and also how much she expected she would pay out of pocket for any unexpected expenses that she might incur. Then she would proceed thru the month, making sure bills are paid on time (they will incur a late fee if not paid on time), making decisions on whether to pay expenses with either her debit or credit card, and trying to make sure the amount of money going out doesn't surpass the amount of money coming in.
|Time to pay the car insurance|
She would also have to make decisions as to what to do on the weekends. Each Saturday she would have to decide whether she would spend that day studying, doing household chores, socializing with friends, or working extra hours at her job. These decisions would have an impact over the game and had to remain balanced - neglecting her studies meant she would have to hire a tutor to get caught up for her class, while neglecting the household chores might result in a pest problem and the added expense of an exterminator. However, there might be hidden expenses (or bonuses) involved with each option - studying might have a slight cost because you provided snacks for the study group, while household chores might earn you a financial bonus because you spent time clipping coupons during that time.
Thru the course of the game, students also have to read brief lessons and answer a question about the lesson in order to continue. Usually there was one question per month (although I don't remember one in April, so it may be random). The question would pop up, asking the student to view the lesson and then answer the question.
When the student would view the lesson, the lesson would pop up in another screen, allowing the student to view the material without leaving the game. Within the lesson material the student will find the correct answer for the question so they can continue.
Answering the question correctly gives the student a small financial bonus ( an additional $25 dollars) while answering the question incorrect resulted in a deduction of 10 dollars each time the question was answered wrong.
Our Experience and Opinion
Ashleigh has really enjoyed playing the budget game and it's really been a great learning tool for her. It's also been something that she can relate to "real life" as she sees these same scenarios play out in our household. For example, one of the things that happens in the Budget Game with PersonalFinanceLab is that every so often, a large unexpected expense pops up (one costing several hundred dollars) which doesn't really fit into the budget and with the hopes that the student has put enough away in her savings to cover such expenses. Ashleigh saw this happen first hand when early this month we needed an unexpected car repair on our main vehicle, which also resulted in an unexpected expense to keep our second car reliable while our other was gone for repairs. She was able to see firsthand how the scenario on the game played out in her own household and how by having the money in our savings account for these types of unexpected happenings, we were able to take care of it without putting a financial strain on the household.
Thru the course of the game, Ashleigh and I have had many discussions about things such as when to use a credit card to pay for things and when she should use a debit card, whether or not she would keep an outstanding balance on it, and what happens when she only pays the minimum amount due each month. These are all things I think are very important to know and I found that PersonalFinanceLab does a great job explaining these points.
The budget game takes 18 "months" to work thru. For now, our focus has been strictly on the budget game, but eventually I would like to have her work thru the Stock Market Game. Combined with the budget game, I think the two together would give Ashleigh a very well rounded understanding of finance and strategy, preparing her well ahead of time for the real world.
Add to that the extensive lesson library with articles about important things like student loans, mortgages, health and life insurance, unemployment and tax situations, I honestly feel that PersonalFinanceLab is a well rounded, well designed website that keeps students engaged and gives them powerful tools that they will use later in life.
Social Media Links: PersonalFinanceLab.com
Instagram: @pfinlab / https://www.instagram.com/pfinlab/
YouTube: Stock-Trak - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1bctfGzsS_YVQT1MGMRIGQ
Members of the Crew have been using PersonalFinanceLab with their families, including both the Budget game and the Stock Market game. Be sure to click the banner below to read their reviews today.