When the financial crisis hit, it became clear how little people understood about personal finance. Negative amortization loans, teaser rates and fine print tripped up many homeowners. Yet the lack of basic budgeting skills needed to understand what one could reasonably afford in a monthly budget was a more fundamental problem.
Enter Finance Park as a way to teach kids how to manage their money as adults.
Tucked away in a 20,000 square foot white building behind a middle school in the center of Fairfax County, Virginia, Finance Park is a playground, of sorts—but one that's meant to give eighth graders a chance to be adults for a day by making basic budgeting decisions.
"When you really come down to it, it's about choices. It's about making the right choices that have financial implications," said Ed Grenier, the CEO of Junior Achievement of Greater Washington.
The structure is built like a mall, including 18 storefronts where students go for budgeting items, like housing, utilities, insurance and transportation. The environment is meant to be fun and engaging, but it's also built as a safe place to make financial mistakes.