Young adults experience significant milestones at the end of high school or college—their first real job, living on their own in an apartment, and perhaps buying a car. Sizable financial obligations accompany these rites of passage; obligations for which many young adults are unprepared. Adulting does not always come easy.
Faye Griffiths-Smith, a UConn Extension specialist in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, works with audiences across Connecticut, especially young adults, to address the financial literacy gaps in their education before they make decisions that negatively affect their financial futures.
“Needs assessments show that this is an area with ongoing knowledge gaps,” says Griffiths-Smith. “We want to make this type of real-world education more accessible so young adults in Connecticut know how to make sound financial choices.”
Initially, Griffiths-Smith relied on a program created by extension educators out of state. At the programs, teen and young adult participants went to different stations and learned about the various financial decisions they will face as they become more independent.
Five years ago, Mike O’Neill, former associate dean for Extension, suggested Griffiths-Smith create an online game instead. The virtual approach seemed more fun but could be accessed any time by audiences across Connecticut.
She began working with team members throughout UConn, including undergraduate student interns and programmers, to tap into existing resources. Now Griffiths-Smith’s pet project is reality thanks to a collaboration with the UConn Digital Experience Group.
The Breadwinner Game introduces players to financial independence and shows how choices affect lifestyle. First, players choose an occupation. For many, their choice revolves around a college major or personal area of interest. Next, they select a housing location. Variables such as apartment size, commuting, and whether they have a roommate can make housing more or less expensive.
Tabulations happen behind the scenes of each choice as the player moves through the game, from occupation, to housing, transportation, and insurance. Subsequent levels introduce communications costs (phone, television, and internet), then spending for food, clothing, and hobbies. Chance cards randomly occur throughout the game, presenting unexpected expenses or positive outcomes.
Basically, the game tries to simulate the predictable and unavoidable variables involved with financial “adulting.”
Finally, the player reaches the end of the game and sees how money matters add up, and how their financial choices affect the lifestyle they want to lead. Players can repeat the game to see how their choices can help with their lifestyle and future financial freedom.
Breadwinner is a safe space for teens and young adults to simulate real-world experiences and financial choices they’ll soon be facing, says Griffiths-Smith.
“Financial literacy curriculum is missing from many schools and universities, and institutions and youth organizations can use the game to improve knowledge and competency in this area.”
Game development and enhancements are ongoing and it’s part of a suite of resources and programs developed by Griffiths-Smith. She also leads Connecticut Saves, part of the America Saves initiative. Connecticut Saves and UConn Extension were named one of the 2022 America Saves Saving Champion Recipients under her leadership; only 34 organizations out of over 5,000 were recognized with this prestigious honor.
“Money matters are less stressful for everyone when there is a solid understanding of financial literacy. Extension’s programs are helping make the personal finance aspects of adulting more welcoming.”
This work relates to CAHNR’s Strategic Vision area focused on Enhancing Health and Well-Being Locally, Nationally, and Globally.
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