These 19 free financial literacy games for high school students add engagement and FUN to teaching personal finance.
How do you make financial literacy fun?
One way is to assign one of these free financial literacy games for high school students from below.
These games will teach your students lots of really important financial lessons, such as:
- How loans work and how loan sharks take advantage of people
- How choices made right now and during college can greatly affect their future finances
- How the stock market works
- How much they’ll need to earn from a job in order to live their dream life
- And much more…
Let’s get on with it!
Free Financial Literacy Games for High School Students
Your students get to play “loan shark” – predatory loan lender and collector – in order to learn all about risky loans and loans in general (like interest rates, what a loan is, loan collections, etc.).
It’s an eye-opening way to show your students how lenders can and do take advantage of people who take out loans. Hopefully one day, this can save them from the payday loan cycle!
Your students are movie producers, and they've been given a $100 million budget to create a 5-star movie.
You can play this personal finance game as a high schooler or as a middle schooler (you choose which). With each question your group answers correctly, they earn more money to put towards a movie they're going to produce.
They must also make good financial decisions in order to produce a star-rated movie (12 different financial decisions they'll make).
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau create a pretty fun online game for teens using a graphic-novel theme.
Topics covered include:
- Avoiding impulse purchases
- How debt can affect a military career
- Importance of building savings
- Protections servicemen and their families can get through the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
Hint: while this is semi-geared towards service members and their families, anyone can play.
Can a person survive on a job in the “gig economy”? That’s what this game attempts to reveal to your students.
They’ll be given an urgent financial need (such as – your mortgage of $1,000 is due in a week), and then will need to accept gig jobs from Uber in order to try and save up enough to pay their bills.
Can they do it?
Pssst: you might also be interested in my article on 15 free financial literacy activities for high school students PDFs.
Students are given a career with an annual salary, and then are asked to make certain budget and lifestyle choices based off of that salary.
Will they be able to afford the house they want, or have to rent with an apartment they share? Is their career choice enough to sustain their organic food tastes, or are they better off eating “basic” food?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a whole section on lesson plans for teen financial literacy games – all are free to use.
- Investigating investing
- Handling a lost or stolen credit/debit card
- Playing a credit and debit game
Online Budget Simulations for High School Students
You can really help to bring a budget alive when you have students go through a budget simulation – meaning, they take a budget that they’ve either made, or was given to them, and they attempt to see if they can “make it” without overspending.
Here’s a few online budget simulations to help high school students test out a budget.
JumpStart’s Reality Check is an eye-opening way to show your students how their wants can dramatically affect the amount of money they’ll need to earn in a career.
They take a student through 1 of X questions, asking them things like what type of housing they want, and what type of car they want.
Then, in the end, they spit out how much the teen will need to earn in order to afford that type of lifestyle.
Really can make a child think about their choices!
2. Money Magic
Students will help Enzo, a magician, save up $50,000 so that he can go to Las Vegas and have a venue to perform.
They’ll be asked to figure out how to spend Enzo’s money to get to his savings goal, with the spending categories being:
- Vegas Fund
- Enzo’s Needs
- Magic Shop Fund
Sometimes I hear from parents that they have no idea how to teach their kids about poverty and homelessness.
This is a wonderful simulation if you’d like to make your students more aware of how difficult it can be to live on a low income. It also can build some empathy to the problem, as teens start to understand how it is someone might end up on the corner of a street, asking for money.
Students are told they are unemployed, have lost their house, and are down to their last $1,000. They must make it to the end of the month with that $1,000.
Can they do it?
Pssst: you’ll definitely want to check out my article on budgeting scenarios for high school students – chocked full of free resources.
You are going to take a cross-country road trip with your friends, and need to keep within a budget (without going hungry, stalling your car because you forgot to buy gas, and actually making it to your destination).
Can your students stay within budget and keep enough money to make it all the way to their destination?
Financial Simulation Games– Personal Finance Games Simulations
Financial simulations games are different from what we’ve discussed above, as they attempt to make financial situations more “real” with students and engage them in decision-making that has actual consequences to their results.
1. Stock Market Games
If your students are learning about investing, then a free online stock market game could be just the thing to help them understand it better.
Kids sign up either in groups, as a class, or as individuals, and everyone is given a certain amount of money to invest at the beginning. Then, students follow along with the real market to see how their decisions are stacking up.
Some competitions even have reward money and prizes that they give out!
- Personal Finance Lab's Stock Market Game
- The Stock Market Game
- How the Market Works
- Fantasy Stock Exchange
- Build Your Stax
2. Finance 101
This is a decision-based, online financial simulation game with changing scenarios depending on what your students choose.
Your student is given a random profession, one of the 13 stops they’ll make that will greatly impact their decisions, finances, and game play.
For example, I went through the game and was given the profession of Accountant. My salary was broken down for me, and then I was shown how much I’ll pay in taxes. Then, I was asked which type of checking and savings account I would like to open, and how much money I want to save from my paycheck.
Paying back student loans has proved to be too much for some students, especially if they fail to find a job on a career path.
This financial simulation game can help your teen students better pick out careers and majors based on simulating what kinds of jobs they might find when they graduate, and how much their student loans might be.
They’ll be asked to make critical decisions that will have a direct effect on their budgets and finances post-college, such as what type of college they want to attend (i.e., 4-year, 2-year, community, in-state, out-of-state).
Also, they’ll decide on more immediate needs, such as whether or not to buy a new laptop for college, or if they should take a low-paying, labor job to help pay the bills.
Financial Literacy Board Games for Teens
Let’s not forget about good, old-fashioned board games that can help teens and high school students understand finances better.
Suggested Age Range: 10 years+
Players: 2-4 players
Everyone starts off in debt in this game. Then, each player is given a life persona that will determine what kind of salary and how much debt they have.
Players choose a “Life” card, and three “Debt” cards to begin the game.
For my round, I was given the following:
- $6,000 in student loan debt
- $6,000 in student loan debt
- $5,000 in business loan debt
Yikes! That's $17,000 in debt to start, which feels slightly overwhelming.
Good thing it's just a game, but one that will show your students how destabilizing debt can be (and also, how to work through it). Kids are also given a salary, and $1,000 in an emergency fund to start.
Free financial literacy games for high school students and kids can really add fun and self-discovery to financial literacy teachings. Tell me below which one your own kids are trying and learning from!
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