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CU offers Mad Money for foster youth
SAN JOSE, Calif. (1/27/12)--Volunteers from $1 billion asset Meriwest CU, San Jose, Calif., recently used the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) "Mad City Money" simulation program to teach young adults in the Santa Clara County Social Services Foster Youth program about real-life budgeting and lifestyle management.

Developed by CUNA, "Mad City Money" provides each participant with an occupation, a salary, a family and some debt. Players learn to create and manage a monthly budget.

Just as in life, there are variables in "Mad City." One variable is the vendors, who are encouraged to "up-sell" the students to make them overspend and create difficult budget situations. Students often have to go back to vendors to get refunds and buy some less expensive items.

At other times, unforeseen life events can affect students' budgets: Teeth whitening creates a $200 expense; selling some old compact discs produces a profit of $45.

Students learn how the decisions they make about life and money can have some far reaching consequences.

"It was a special night that created some great memories for our youth and taught them some valuable lessons," said Liza Giron-Espinoza Santa Clara County Social Services Agency foster youth program supervisor. "Not only did I see a team of knowledgeable professionals, but a group of people who really cared."

Greg Meyer, Meriwest CU community relations manager said the students and staff "connected." "We were able to do away with the generational and economic differences between us to focus on the important lesson of the day: Manage your money well and thrive. Manage it poorly and live with the consequences," he added.

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