This is a copy of an interview I did for an online financial education magazine put out by Daniel Britton. Enjoy…

Elisabeth, you call yourself The Financial Literacy Lady. Can you tell my readers a little bit about yourself?

Sure Daniel…I’d love to. Have you ever said out loud that “Someone needs to do blah, blah, blah,” only to realize that YOU are the one who is supposed to do it? Well, that’s what happened ten years ago when I said to a friend “why doesn’t someone just create a money camp for kids so they can learn what the rest of us never did?” Fast forward two years and I taught 39 kids in my first of many “Money Camps” in Santa Barbara.

So that’s when it started?

I suppose, initially, it really began when I was 35 and started learning about money myself. After years of feeling inadequate when it came to knowing about money, I finally realized that the only reason I didn’t know about money was because no one had ever taught me about it. I attended seminars, read tons of books and became a self-taught investor. At that point, I made a solemn vow to do everything in my power to teach as many kids as possible so they didn’t have to learn about money the way I, and most of parents, have had to learn. I’ve been living, breathing, eating and sleeping financial literacy every since!

Why do you feel financial literacy is so important?

That’s a great question, especially considering the fact that financial education is just now becoming a hot topic in our schools and legislatures. The fact is…without money, life isn’t nearly as fun or fulfilling as it can be WITH money. And, the only way to have the money you need to create the life you want is to learn how to get it, manage it, multiply it and keep it. Since it’s so rarely taught in schools in a way that is fun or relevant, most kids are leaving or graduating from high school with little or no financial education or skills under their belts. I’m convinced that if our culture had been teaching great financial education programs in school over the past 25 years, the economic downturn we’re experiencing, along with the credit card crises, wouldn’t have happened as it did.

What is the Money Game?

Oh, The Money Game is our new revolutionary ‘kids are the pieces’ financial education game. We are so excited about this game’s potential to change the world…literally! The game is an experiential activity-based financial education program where the kids really are the pieces. They move around the room, get paychecks, have to work for their money, pay their expenses, and learn incredibly powerful financial lessons many of their parents don’t even know and a whole lot more.

How did it come about?

The game just sort of happened over a 2-year period of time during our summer camps for kids and teens. We tried to play a couple of financial board games during our first The Money Camp for Kids in 2002 (that was the one with 39 kids!) and it was a disaster. Too many rules, too many little pieces…what a mess! It was the only time I have ever lost my temper teaching my programs…it was just too much.

After that little event, I remember saying to Larry Stein (who passed away several years ago) who helped me design that first camp, “Larry, we need to create a game where the KIDS are the pieces.” I didn’t have a clue what I meant or how that was going to manifest itself, but it did.

One day I quickly created some paychecks to give out to the kids and then created some bags with various expenses written on the front. We created a game register on an envelope where they kept their “Pay Yourself First” money. From there, we let them buy assets (real estate, business or stocks) with that money and paid them passive income for every asset they owned. (We LOVE passive income!) After playing a few rounds that way, we started adding Events and additional lessons between the paydays, or rounds of the game. So, it slowly evolved into what it is now… The Money Game!

The best part is that we found ourselves doing FAR less teaching and kids doing FAR more learning. It was a win, win, win all the way around.

How is The Money Game different from other financial education programs?

The Money Game is taught using what is commonly referred to as accelerated learning techniques. This means that we teach to all learning styles…visual, auditory and kinesthetic. The “players” are constantly moving and because they are moving, they are locking the learning in their cells. One of my favorite sayings is “Physical is Memorable”. Because we teach in this active, playful, multi-sensorial way, the kids don’t even realize they are learning so much. They’re frequently surprised and say, “I can’t believe I learn so much and never took a single note!” It’s pretty simple really…we make the learning fun, we make the lessons relevant, and they learn money simply by experiencing money.

What do participants actually learn?

Participants (of all ages, literally) learn more about money than they ever dream. They learn basics like Pay Yourself First, Put Your Money To Work For You and Only Borrow Money When It’s Going To Make You Money but more than that, they learn that THEY are the CEOs of their own lives.

We stress the part about making money while doing good and made DONATIONS as one of the mandatory expenses in The Money Game. This way the kids really lock in that money is not just for supporting yourself and buying stuff – it’s part of one’s responsibility with money to give back and help others.

Where can my readers find out more information or buy their own copy of The Money Game?

Thanks for asking. The Money Game® is available in both a downloadable PDF Do-It-Yourself format (great as a class/family product if you’re on a budget) or a Ready-to-Play Version. We’ve already sold several to people in other countries. One teacher’s goal is to have every kid in her city play The Money Game! I can only begin to imagine all the lives, families, and cultures we’re going to change for the better.

Thanks Elisabeth. This was great. You already know that my passion is financial education as well so I’m excited to watch this game change lives all over the world. Thanks so much for sharing your passion and Money Game with us today. I wish you all the success in the world with it. And I hope you’ll come back and tell us about it!