Learning the 1-2-3s of Money Management While Having Fun


CASE Credit Union provides financial literacy lessons to a young audience

We all want our children to be successful. That’s why we teach them the skill sets they will need when they become adults and set out on their own.

While some life lessons can be learned with relative ease – things such as doing laundry or housekeeping – others are more difficult to grasp, especially if the adults in their lives are not familiar with those topics.

Unfortunately, that means many of our children are not learning the vital skill of money management. They are not being taught to recognize the difference between wants and needs, such as not to give-in to instant gratification by spending money on a video game console while letting their rent or car payments lapse.

That’s why CASE Credit Union formed the Education Team with employees from across the credit union. The Education Team began working with children in Lansing, Michigan, at the city-sponsored summer day camp. CASE Credit Union also teams up year-round with the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing to help children understand the importance of money management.

“We know that some children just never have the opportunity to learn how important it is to save money to build their future,” said Molly Summerfield, assistant vice president of marketing, CASE Credit Union. “But we didn’t just want to sit them in a room and lecture them about money management – that would feel too much like school and wouldn’t necessarily have an impact. We wanted to make money management fun.”

To that end, the CASE Credit Union Education Team began developing original games that would put children’s imaginations into overdrive.

“We wanted to come up with games that were familiar enough that the kids would not be intimidated by the subject of handling their finances,” explained Olivia McCormick, CASE Credit Union’s education program coordinator. “We found that our campers and the kids at the Boys and Girls Club learned best when they didn’t realize the fun they were having was actually teaching them an important lesson. I think we have been very successful to that end.”

Among the games the CASE Education Team devised are:

  • Octopus ring toss: This game involves placing an octopus with different values on its tentacles on one side of a long table and placing the tossing rings on the other end and establishing teams. If a student’s ring lands on a tentacle, the player will be asked a question from that value. Categories include true or false; understanding finances; spending plans and goals; needs or wants (two tentacles); goals; decision-making skills; and coin and bill values. A correct answer adds the designated value to a student’s sheet. When time is up, they add up their team’s sheet and the team with the most monetary value wins.
  • Needs vs. wants balloon hunt: You’ll need as many fly swatters as teams you plan to have, two bins or laundry baskets and balloons with various wants and needs written on them. Designate which team will be wants and which will be needs. One member of each team takes a fly swatter and uses it to move their chosen balloon into the bin, without using their hands. Then the player passes their swatter off to a teammate who takes his or her turn. The game ends when all balloons have been collected. Each team will designate a player to show the balloons one at a time and explain why it is in his or her bin.
  • Ice-cream cone game: Cut ice-cream cones and ice-cream scoop shapes out of construction paper. Give each student one cone shape and a minimum of three scoop shapes. Write money values on each scoop. Instruct the kids to glue the scoops on top of the cone, adding the values of their scoops and writing the total amount of their scoops on the cone.
  • Lego competition: Sort Lego bricks by color and put several of one color in one sandwich bag, several of another color in a second bag, and so forth. Label each bag with how much each block would be worth if used. Vary the number of Legos in each bag. Hide all the bags and instruct the teams of two to four players to brainstorm a design, and then give them two to three minutes to create a rough design on their sheet of paper. Then the hunt begins, and students must bring a found bag back to their base before continuing the search, which ends when all the bags are found. While each team builds off its rough design, one team member needs to keep track of how much each color is worth and how many of each block is used from each bag. When tallying up the total cost of each bag, urge students to use multiplication before addition for an extra challenge.

For the past three years the CASE Education Team has worked with kids ages 10 to 12 in the city’s summer camps, staging games and activities at four locations across the city for eight weeks, ending in August.

Members of the team visit the Boys and Girls Club twice a month throughout the year, where the kids learn coin values, play board games that teach them how to handle money and play original games such as a giant word search. The lessons focus on two age groups, kids who are 7 to 9 years old and those who are 13 to 17.

“We use materials we develop ourselves into original games,” said, education team member, Kristen Martin. “There is no judging and all of the games involve teamwork.”

“Some of the kids don’t fit into the ‘cool’ kids group, but we want our games to be inclusive, so we put those kids in with groups of kids they might not normally interact with,” McCormick explained. “A lot of times they will have great ideas or a knack for playing the game. It’s really remarkable to see how inclusive the games become.”

CASE Credit Union takes pride in the lessons they impart, but the kids won’t take home any handouts or brochures about CASE. Norma McGarry, Education Team Member, said the effort is all about the kids, not about CASE.

“We do this because it is important for the kids, at a young age, to learn the value of money and how to manage it,” McGarry stated. “It’s also important to keep children learning during the summer, which we accomplish at the camps. We know the summer slide in education is a real thing, and we are able to keep them learning by making it fun.”

Jeffrey Benson is the president and CEO at CASE Credit Union, where he oversees all aspects of the credit union’s operations and procedures, including member engagement and ensuring that member’s financial needs are met. Benson has more than 30 years of experience in financial services and holds both a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from Michigan State University. Benson’s vision for the credit union is to help every member and future member achieve the financial success to which they aspire.

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