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Kids Learn to Plan Financial Futures

Camp Millionaire Teaches Youths to Manage Money Before They Have It


Simple interest. Compound interest. Passive income. Taxes. These are topics to make most high-schoolers cringe as they sit through the standardized economics course now mandatory for 12th-grade students. Wouldn’t they all feel silly if they knew that 10-year-olds could score higher than them on an “econ” quiz after just one week of training? Through accelerated learning, Camp Millionaire brings kids to a level of financial understanding at which they could quite possibly-at least in select concepts-outshine not only high school seniors but many adults. And the summer camp participants glide through money management lessons with a smile, while singing, dancing, and playing games. The all-too-common dread of being called on by the teacher is nowhere to be found, and in its place is an enthusiasm to participate-the very picture of the educational experience parents hope their children will have.

Developed in 2002, by Creative Wealth International CEO Elisabeth Donati, the camp is designed to teach kids how to effectively manage money and take their financial future into account. The all-day, weeklong summer camp includes educational fieldtrips to business- or finance-related locations. This summer, the 17 young women enrolled in the Santa Barbara girls’ session of Camp Millionaire visited toured Montecito Bank & Trust (one of Camp Millionaire’s sponsors) to learn about transactions that take place in money management at a higher level. They also visited Hotspots coffee shop, where they had the opportunity to make their own drinks while observing some of the basic, everyday functions that keep a business running.

When campers weren’t out and about, they were at the Veterans Memorial Building, in a room temporarily plastered with posters and finance slogans such as “assets feed you, liabilities eat you.” Most of the curriculum is delivered via spirited, interactive lessons. “The Money Game,” for example, is a friendly competition that simulates real-life financial transactions.

Played with fake bills, The Money Game gives kids a chance to practice money management by making their own saving and spending choices. It begins with each player getting a paycheck of $1000. The first thing players do with their paychecks is pay themselves $100. The next step is to pay expenses, which is done by depositing a set value of money into paper bags labeled: Living, Donations, Play, Car Payment, Rent, Education, and Credit Cards. There is also the option of putting $100 into the “piddlyjunk” bag, which signifies the purchase of something that loses value when purchased, or had no value to begin with; the list of “piddlyjunk” items includes clothes, shoes, video games, ipod, music downloads, movies, car accessories, computer software, eating out, coffee drinks, juice drinks, and “other”. According to one instructor, over time, the kids learn that buying “piddlyjunk” is not helpful to finances, and instead they begin saving money, allowing them to purchase assets that will produce passive income. There are three assets available for purchase: business, stock market, and real estate, each represented by a different color of poker chip.

Included in the game are event cards, which represent situations that affect finances, such as car accidents, or bankruptcy. These turns of fate, selected via random card selection, lead to the forfeit of assets or moneya simulation of the unfortunate but realistic financial losses that happen unexpectedly in the real world. Money and assets are kept in an envelope that also serves as a checkbook or “register.” Campers use this to record transactions and document additions and deductions.

Camp Millionaire teaches with the accelerated learning method, which includes multi-sensory teaching-instruction is visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. This technique gets kids more involved, and offers a higher potential for learning by making available the learning style that works best for them on an individual level. “I actually feel like I’m accomplishing something here,” said a 14-year-old millionaire-in-training. “It’s not something I’m going to just go home and forget.” With hopes of early financial comprehension, parents are willing to pay $379 for their children to spend a week in the camp.

This summer, two weeks of Camp Millionaire were convened: One for girls aged 10 to 15; and one for boys aged 10-12. Elisabeth Donati had a simple explanation when asked about the difference in camp age limits for girls and boys, “Oh, that one’s easy,” she chuckled, “girls are cooperative, boys are competitive.” This conclusion was drawn from her own experience with kids in the camp over the years, and her personal observations of gender-related variations in behavior. According to Elisabeth, the older girls tend to help the younger girls, and will form supportive bonds throughout the week. Boys, on the other hand, become competitive, and it is easier to manage the male campers when there is a narrower age bracket.

Although Camp Millionaire is over for this summer, it’s never too soon to start thinking of the future.

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