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Mad City Money

Credit Union :Heartland
Assets :$160,700,000
Address :5325 High Crossing Blvd | Madison, WI 53718

Details :

Participant Qualifications :

  • Junior or senior at one of the four Madison public high schools

Details :

Heartland Credit Union had a partnership with LaFollette High School prior to 2007 where it provided budgeting classes to students. Then in 2007 during Money Smart Week – the 2nd week of October – the credit union and high school decided to help students get a real taste of life as an adult and brought CUNA’s Mad City Money, a budgeting simulation program for teens, to the school. For about two hours, students get a new identity that includes an occupation and salary and could include a spouse and/or children and existing debt. With that information, students create a budget and visit different booths, manned by volunteers, to purchase housing, transportation, food, clothing, day care – all the essential items of living. One of the booths is a credit union where students can go if they need help with their budget or other financial matters. Students write checks and keep a check register. The goal is to have $100 left in the checking account at the end of the session.

Vendor Used:

CUNA’s Mad City Money is a budgeting simulation program for teens. It comes complete with a facilitator guide, ready to print participant handouts, merchant information and marketing materials. In Heartland CU’s case, Harland Clarke donates some of the check registers for the students.

Program Results :

During the first year, 250 students went through the program. During the last two years, 550 students from LaFollette participated in the event, plus the other three Madison public high schools wanted in, as well. In October 2009, approximately 1,300 students took part in the program, according to Josie Matuszak, Heartland’s marketing manager.

Student Benefits :

Students are allowed to make mistakes and learn the consequences of those mistakes in a game environment. They have fun but learn about reality. Many comment they didn’t know having kids could be so expensive. They learn that they can’t have both a big house and expensive car. Merchants can try to sell them a vehicle they can’t afford – just like in real life. They also experience the “fickle finger of fate,” where life does surprise them with good and bad fortune. Afterwards, back in their classrooms, students reflect on what they learned from the experience.

Additional Information :

The program is heavily supported at the district level, according to Matuszak. “It is definitely a cooperative effort.” The school provides the volunteers for the merchant booths. The credit union supplies its own volunteers to man the credit union booth. Matuszak indicates her budget for the event is about $2,500 to print materials. The donation of check registers from Harland is a big help and the volunteers are eager to participate each year. “The kids have fun and the volunteers realize the important life lessons these students are gaining from Mad City Money,” says Matuszak.

Matuszak states the credit union doesn’t use the event to market itself to the students. The purpose is to partner with the schools to provide financial literacy to high school students in a fun manner. However, Matuszak points out that TV stations and local newspapers captured the event and noted Heartland’s involvement in the program.