DISCLAIMER: I received this product free through the Homeschool Review Crew
For the last few weeks, my son and I have been enjoyed playing a financial game put out by PersonalFinanceLab.com. They have come out with an online game to help teach the basics of personal finance and trading in the stockmarket. Imagine a game that my son enjoys playing that has nothing to do with blowing things up! Pretty good eh? Personal Finance Lab is a great way to having fun and learning too!
What I Am Reviewing
PersonalFinanceLab.com has come out with PersonalFinanceLab Budgeting Game, Stock Market Game and integrated curriculum. I have received access for a school year which is nine months.
What you’ll get is an online, unique experience for each of your students in learning Financial Literacy, Business and Economics subjects. Integrated learning and assessments are built into a personal budgeting game and a stockmarket challenge. The goal is to provide learners with real-world skills that last a lifetime.
Parents/Teachers can register an account for each student, and each account will have access to our personal budgeting game, stock game, 50 Personal Finance lessons, and 20 Introduction to the Stock Market lessons.
Our resources start by using our budgeting and stock games as long-term foundational activities – teachers usually dedicate at least 30 minutes per week for each game they choose to include. Students typically manage their long-term budget and/or stock game portfolio over a 6 to 12 week period.
How We Used it
I set up the program, though honestly, I got frustrated in the set up. I had it all set to go and then something odd happened and I really don’t what it was but I had to start from scratch and it seemed like too much work. So I ended up just doing all the defaults no tweaking. There are lots of ways to tweak in regards to how many lessons to complete. I set up an account for me and for my 15 year old.
I have predominately played the budget game, and have forayed briefly into the stock market where I seem to be having success. My son spent all this time in the budgeting game. He wants to complete it before moving on to the stock market. Currently, for the budgetting game I am in my 7th month, my son is in his fourth month. Each month takes about 20-30 minutes to complete.
The Set Up of Personal Finance Lab
As the parent I have my own dashboard so I can see progress made. I used this to set up how the game runs. My son and I each have our own dashboard. I appreciate that not only is there an overarching dashboard which shows your progress in both financial areas, but also that each separate area has it’s own dashboard.
You can see the difference in each dashboard below.
The Budget Game
The budget game from PersonalFinanceLab.com places each student into the scenario of being a college student with a part-time job. They can customize their living arrangements, grocery bill, and entertainments. The job helps them learn to balance their expenses against their income while reaching for saving goals.
Game play lasts 18 months, you start each month needing to figure out your income, potential expenses, and hopeful savings markers. On average I found that a month took about 20 minutes to complete, occasionally a bit longer.
Game play proceeds through rolling a dice. The dice will move when it it time to roll it. Sometimes you progress through one day at a time and occasionally one dice roll will go through a few days. These dice rolls generate expenses and occasionally benefits!
These expenses range in value from cheap purchases for cutlery or snacks, all the way up to expensive repairs on cars. These expenses were not predictable and didn’t always make sense from a living life perspective. I know my son struggled with multiple speeding tickets in one month.
On Fridays you get your paystub with all expenses delineated.
On the weekend you are given four options to engage in. Working extra hours, socializing, doing chores around house or studying. Sometimes these activities earned extra money, sometimes they would cost you dollars.
Lessons pop up with consequences
Lessons would occasionally pop up teaching things like managing credit card debt, how banks operate, as well as other financial matters. You would need to read through the lesson and answer a question correctly. Answering incorrectly would incur a debit, answering correctly earned a reward. Sometimes lessons would need to be read carefully to get the correct answer, and I found didn’t always match real-life (for instance on what day to get your credit card bill).
Each month a variety of bills will pop up, some scheduled like electric, phone and rent. Each pops up with a query on how much to pay and how.
At the close of the month you could see all your expenses at a glance (debits in red, incoming funds in green). You’d also receive a pop up so you could see if you met your savings challenge, any bonuses received, and see how your budget balanced.
The Stock Market Trading
I have to admit, I am a wee bit intimidated by the idea of trading in the stock market. I look at it as so much potential to lose thousands of dollars. It’s so nice to have a game where I can learn and not actually risk real money. A game that runs in real-time with real stocks. AND there are videos and tutorials to help you through it all! You will find these tutorials in the blue bar on the top of your screen.
Every trade you make whether buying or selling won’t show up until the next day. To be honest… I’ve made some bad trades simply because I didn’t pay enough attention to if stocks were on a downward trend or upwards.
I did note that using chrome I couldn’t click through on names in a list even though the video said I could. It was easiest to simply select from the list that appears on the right of the screen when trading.
Students start off with 10 Introduction to the Stock Market lessons and a virtual $100,000 in a brokerage account. Can you imagine having 100,000 dollars to play around with?
I personally loved the little touches like the word of the day and quote of the day. They added completeness to this package for me.
Overtime your students will be able to build a portfolio of stocks, bonds, ETFs, and mutual funds at real-time prices.
You can completely look into the different stocks/companies available for trade as they have income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, historical prices, analyst ratings, and more. Additional lessons occur as students get more experience.
Technical Glitches Happen
Technical glitches happen, and Personal Finance Lab is no exception. I don’t think I’ve ever used an online system that didn’t have something needing tweaking. None of these glitches affect how the budget game progresses. You get bills, payments, rewards, unexpected expenses, unexpected treats etc. Everything continues to function as it should BUT occasional head-scratchers have occurred.
- the minimum amount for credit card continues to be paid or at least appears in your calendar as being paid even if the credit card has been paid off.
- occasionally when you go to pay the rent on the day the rent is due the program skips me ahead a day or two meaning the rent then is overdue. Now MY PROFILE won’t let me pay the rent early. I was talking with my lad, and his profile will let him. So I LOVE that the simulation isn’t the same for every person…but .. I want to pay my rent early! 🙂
- Sometimes if you want to perform an action, another action will overlay it (life event, pay stub etc), which occasionally results in odd things happening to the action you’d intended to take (saving money, paying credit card, etc). I have an overdue notice on my account that I can’t figure out how to pay off for instance.
What I love about Personal Finance Lab
It has been a pleasure to work with Personal Finance Lab. I think it’s a great program and wish every teen out there could use it. Seriously.
I love that every player has a unique experience. From how they customize their lifestyle to what rewards and unexpected expenses they get. No two games are exactly alike.
I love that the information pop-ups are clearly written, though I have to admit to needing to reread a few in order to get the right answer. 🙂 Consequences/rewards given for reading through each carefully.
Everything is worded in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Proper terminology is used but within a context that doesn’t put finance up over anyone’s head.
I adore that such an easy way to learn personal finance has been created. What a wonderful way to introduce students to how to watch their money and learn how to budget.
What My 15-year old has to say
Overall I like the budget game, however, there are some things which I think could be done to improve it.
Starting with the positives some of the things I liked were. The clear display of necessary information at the top of the screen, things such as credit score, checking balance, net worth etc. The calendar which shows when bills will be issued and are due, as well how much money is spent and gained each day of the month. The way that bills are displayed and paid, which makes it easy to pay them, understand when they are due, and how much needs to be paid. I also like the way that lessons are done. They are opened as a pop-up which makes it easy to switch between them and the budget game, and stops them from getting in the way.
Some changes which would be nice would be if the game could go full-screen so you could see the entire thing at once, as because of how it is now either a small portion of the top, or bottom of the game will be off-screen. It would also be nice if purchases which would be optional in real life (such as buying snacks) were also optional in the game, as well as a way to avoid speeding tickets.
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