Teaching students about credit

Betty Ann Falkner is the Director of the Center for Smart Financial Choices. The non-profit formed in 2012 and currently serves Forsyth County in North Carolina, including Winston-Salem. CFSFC has worked with adult financial education programs but largely serves youth in grades 5-12. As such, it partners with Junior Achievement and the school district's social studies departments to deliver required or recommended financial education to over 5,000 students.

Many of CFSFC's classes are supported by volunteers who come from the community at large or from interrelated institutions like credit unions. The non-profit's hallmark class is a 90-minute session called “Adult for A Day.” In the interactive simulation, students explore the importance of making smart choices while managing a budget and learning how credit scores affect their expenses. Falkner had been using Money Habitudes® cards in her financial classes before she added The Good Credit Game to CFSFC's offerings. Both products make classes more engaging and interactive.

In designing and teaching workshops, Falkner took advantage of the modular approach of The Good Credit Game. In order to cover a lot of financial material in an hour and a half and to speak to high school students who are not yet actively using credit, Falkner only uses some of the six modules in The Good Credit Game. While relating credit to real-life adult spending, Falkner has groups of students go through the Build-A-Person activity and talks through components of a credit report and score. After that, she uses the Cost of Credit Calculator and then has students play the capstone Road to Good Credit board game.

The Good Credit Game helps Falkner make teaching and learning fun – while students show marked improvements in knowledge between pre- and post-tests on credit questions. "Even the kids who thought they knew all there was to know about credit came back and said, 'I did still learn stuff,'" says Falkner, who adds that, "We want students to want to learn more and their reaction is often that this class is really fun." She also likes that the credit teaching kit aligns with her own philosophy on credit: that it's an important and healthy part of one's personal finances as opposed to preaching that credit is inherently bad and should be avoided. Falkner says that a challenge in teaching the class is addressing the often negative view that students have of credit – likely colored by the experiences of the adults around them and misinformation – and their reluctance to engage with the credit system. While there are many a-ha moments for students, one eye-opening realization comes when students discover that, unlike paying a credit card bill, simply paying their cell phone bill may not be doing anything to help them establish the credit they'd need later on to buy bigger purchases like a car. "We'd talked about credit scores before, but having The Good Credit Game helped us get to the next level in cultivating youth for a future of financial wellness," says Falkner.