At Finance Park, kids get to pay the bills

@CNNMoney May 23, 2012: 4:21 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- When kids play house, rarely do they pretend to pay bills. But one organization is looking to change that by giving school-age children a chance to be an adult for a day.

Junior Achievement, an international non-profit that helps teach children financial literacy, assigns kids in its JA Finance Park programs a marital and family status, a job, and an income and then tasks them with making adult financial decisions.

"We want to give them exposure to the challenges that they are going to have, making them fiscally responsible adults," said Andrew Corrado, senior vice president for private banking and professional services at Capital One, a sponsor for JA Finance Park.

Students do as much as 20 hours of classroom work prior to their arrival at the Finance Park. In class they learn about a variety of financial tools and how to use them properly. The curriculum covers everything from how credit cards work, to how to make a budget and to figure out taxes.

"Frankly, kids don't learn this at home," said Joseph Peri, president of Junior Achievement NY. "We sort of consider it to be almost like the modern version of the 'birds and the bees.' Parents don't really want to talk about it."

Once their classroom learning is finished, all that they have learned is put to the test at JA Finance Park. Each child is given a card with their life status on it and they travel from station to station paying water bills, buying clothing, or purchasing cars. Some face a sudden financial crisis and have to pay for braces for their child or repairs to their home after a sudden storm, which impacts their budgets.

"I was over budget and I had to change my nice car," said Kiany Probherbs, who was single and made an annual income of $59,000.

By the end of the day, many of the students said that they had a greater appreciation for their parents and learned the importance of spending their money wisely.

"I noticed that I can't always go to my parents and ask for a phone and other stuff," said Maryan Kabba, who was given the status of married with two kids and had an annual income of $51,900. "Now I realize they have a lot of bills to pay, especially if they have kids."

More on kids and finances:

How high school kids became tax pros

Practicing job interviews at age 10

College kids financial fears -- and tips

Has your employer slashed your health care coverage, 401(k) match, holiday bonus or annual raise? If so, please email with a brief description of your story and you could be included in an upcoming article.  To top of page

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