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Video gaming teaches personal finance
HELENA, Mont. (12/10/12)--In a world of gadgets and electronic games, credit unions have increasingly more options--and challenges--to engage teenagers. In 2010, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the Wisconsin Credit Union League launched Money Mission, an online game that teaches teens between the ages of 15 and 19 about personal finances and, more importantly, how to strike a balance between financial matters and living an enjoyable life. 

Vanessa Lowe from National Credit Union Administration's Office of Small Credit Union Initiatives listens to Ben Schweder, vice president of Wisconsin Credit Union League Services talk about Money Mission at recent convention in Helena, Mont. (Photo provided by Montana Credit Union Network)
Now, Montana credit unions want to bring this interactive game to high school students in their state. Ben Schweder, vice president of Wisconsin Credit Union League Services, recently provided a demo of the gaming platform to group of credit union professionals at the Montana Credit Union Network Fall Forum in Helena.

Within the game, students live in a virtual community where they earn money, pay bills, decide on investments, and make purchases. "It's a dramatic tool that teaches real life skills like buying a car or stocks and managing a savings account after they've developed their own avatar," said Schweder.

In addition to teaching financial awareness to teens, Money Mission offers opportunities to apply for and earn scholarships to students, free classroom resources to teachers, and brand awareness to credit unions.

Kelly Cresswell, vice president of foundation activities for Student Assistance Foundation (SAF), a nonprofit in Helena, Montana, works with a number of financial literacy programs, but she says that only Money Mission places emphasis on maintaining personal happiness. "The link between happiness and financial security is pretty solid," Cresswell said. "And Money Mission backs up what they say with a scholarship program where participants can seek higher education, backing up the principles learned in the game."

Cresswell convinced SAF to apply for a grant to bring Money Mission to all Montana credit unions. If the grant is approved, the state's 57 credit unions will have the opportunity to implement the program and make it available to high school students state-wide.

Montana credit unions would be following in the footsteps of credit unions across six states that currently offer Money Mission: It's been a hit at Kauai High School in Hawaii. Student Tyler Schields said he is learning while having fun. "In this class we have to deal with stocks, essays, and research," Schields said. "It's really fun to go to a school-approved game site and play."


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