Being able to manage your finances is an important skill to have as a responsible adult, but many people still have trouble with basic banking and investing. It’s why more schools in Northcentral Wisconsin are taking a new approach to teaching financial education, through a computer based program that simulates real-world financial situations to better prepare students on how to handle their money.
Like many 8th graders, Mitchell Zahurones has a part time job, but may have trouble saving money.
“I used to take things out of there, ‘Oh, I’ll just take this $50 out of here, but I’ll put it back later,” he said, explaining something many people do.
But, through a new program called Banzai, Zahurones has gotten better at managing his finances.
“I used to spend it on a pair of shoes every other week,” he said exaggerating his spending. “It just makes you think more. It gives you real life situations that you’ll actually have to deal with so you’re more financially smart with it.”
The program uses life-like scenarios to show students real-world adult problems, such as managing debt, balancing budget, reconciling bank statements, and paying bills. Teachers, like Brian Bauer, who teaches Technology at John Muir Middle School, believes this will help students when they have major finances to deal with.
“They’re learning about real life situations before they even happen, and a lot of bad situations that could happen to them,” said Bauer. “When they get to a point in life when they’re applying these things they’ll have an idea of what to expect.”
The free program is being used in 43 different schools in Marathon, Portage, Wood, Clark counties. Central City Credit Union is sponsoring the program after seeing a need for better finance education in schools. Bauer says it’s especially important to teach because parents aren’t always experts.
“People would think that it would be a dinner table discussion,” said Bauer. “That it would be a discussion that parents would have with their kids, but that’s unfortunately not always that way it is because their parents are in as much financial problems as the next person.”
For students like Zahurones, they’re making life changes after using the program, like saving for college.
“To get a job, I thought i was going to get all this money to spend for myself and it was going to be mine, but no, not really,” Zahurones said laughing. Now, he’s learned how to save and manage money, “I started putting it away for college and cars, I’m starting early so that I can get what I want when I’m older.”
While the program is primarily used in schools here in Northcentral Wisconsin. Banzai can also be used outside of the classroom at after schools activities such as Girl or Boy Scouts