By Michele Thorne, GTA Instructor
What we do at GTA is share information in an effort to level a very uneven playing field in terms of financial education. We play games and use fake money (for practical reasons), and have lots of fun, but the real world isn’t quite like our class. The real world is less forgiving and with decision-making, often you only get one chance to make the right one.
During class, we have a unique opportunity to talk about money in a real world context. In fact, the entire GTA staff works really hard at designing a compelling curriculum and supportive tools that will really benefit the youth that attend our classes now, but especially in the future and one of the overarching concepts we abstractly teach is cause and effect.
During one of our lessons, we show our students how to create decision trees and show them how to visually understand the payoffs of different decisions. It is really compelling because it forces them to consider alternative choices.
I remember being a young adult and feeling like there were only a few choices available to me, and then I grew up and understood there were plenty of other choices. I just didn’t have perfect information about what they could be or how to even consider other choices. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’m confident I’m not the only adult who has made decisions without having perfect information.
If you don’t have enough information about money, how it works, how the economy works, and what the actual costs of decisions can be as a young adult (the cause), then it is more likely that any decisions made about money will be much more expensive, and potentially financially crippling as an adult (the effect).
This was my fourth GTA summer class. What I find to be true about the GTA summer class is the students are slightly less burdened with life. They aren’t worrying about homework, or tests they need to study for, and as a result become very engaged in the conversation.
It doesn’t start out that way though. Most of the youth attending our classes don’t usually start out being fully engaged in class number one, but by the time we conquer the first five classes we begin to talk about banks, money, interest, budgets and so on and the conversations get richer and more thoughtful. In my experience, our youth begin to realize that their understanding about these things has been topical at best.
Truth is, money – whether you have a little or a lot – isn’t topical at all. Banking is a big, essential part of a financial plan with depth and longevity, and I believe that if our kids leave our classes with a deeper understanding about how the economy, money and banks work in the real world, it could greatly benefit their financial future…that is, if they choose to use the information in their world and to help them make good decisions.
For me, it’s a great experience every summer. It’s inspiring, and this summer I was lucky enough to meet a really bright group of students who have future aspirations and feel motivated to bring those dreams to fruition. I know they can. I believe in them. All of them.
I am honored to clarify some of the mysteries around money and economics concepts and how those things work in the real world because teaching (another cause) in turn helps me develop an even deeper understanding (effect). I am honored to have the opportunity to engage these brilliant minds and thoughtful inquiries and I am totally “stoked” if they walk away feeling just as inspired as I do by the end of the last class.
Note : This class was the first (out of all my classes) that ever brought me flowers. That was the icing on the Summer GTA cake!