Walter J. Eckert, CPA, CVA
Russell, Eckert, Mealer & Kalb, CPA’s Inc.
The morning of November 10 started a little noisier than usual for me. I’m a CPA, but instead of heading into my office, I headed to London Elementary School in Madison County to lead 5th graders in a new game called FETCH! This wasn’t for gym class and the students weren’t running after sticks, this was for math class and the students were learning about financial literacy.
FETCH! stands for Financial Education Teaches Healthy Habits. The game is sponsored by The Ohio CPA Foundation to teach kids important concepts like saving and budgeting. Plus, I was able to tell the kids what it’s like to be CPA and work in the accounting profession.
FETCH! in itself is a simple game. Using a dog park concept, the students are divided into teams and each team takes ownership of an imaginary dog, which they must name and then assume responsibility for the financial ups and downs of owning a pet. The goal of the game is to purchase four items: collar, leash, food and water, and a dog bone. At the end, the team that has those four items and the most money in their imaginary savings account wins.
In the first couple rounds of the game all the teams were eager to roll the dice and see if they could earn more money. The room was loud as the teams had fun hoping to build their savings balance. This was all fine and good until…one of the teams got caught by the dog catcher for not having a leash or collar.
You could almost hear the click in their heads. Each of the teams began to realize that while the money in the savings account was good to have, there were responsibilities and expenses for their dog that needed to be taken care of. More importantly, they realized that there were risks for NOT taking care of their financial responsibilities.
From that point, strategizing became part of the game plan for each team. Whether they decided to spend some of their savings to buy one of the required items or roll the dice to see what might happen in the dog park, they planned each move. They were saving and spending and budgeting to make sure their dog and their team had what it needed.
A couple teams saw their saving account balances hit $0 and one team went into the negative. There is no credit allowed in FETCH! so these teams had to build up their savings accounts again to continue purchasing the four required items. Along the way, the teams learned money management terms such as earnings, expenses, auditing, donations and many others.
FETCH! was an absolute success in this classroom. I was impressed (as was their teacher, Mr. Reeser) at how quickly the kids picked up on the concept of budgeting for their expenses. The collar and the leash were the two most expensive items they had to buy, but nearly every team made sure they saved enough to buy them first to avoid the penalty of the dog catcher. The cheaper dog bone (the dog’s luxury item) was typically the last item purchased. They learned to budget the “needs” before the “wants” – a concept that many adults have problems with.
As a father to two young boys I know that teaching the concepts of budgeting, earning and saving takes time and practice. If money grew on trees it would be easy to give our children everything they ask for. But, it doesn’t. So parents and teachers need to give children the right tools and information to become smart money managers. FETCH! is a great tool to use to start the conversation with children, have them practice the concepts and get them on the path towards financial literacy. Plus, they will have a good time too!