Finance Park

Areas of Focus

Finance Park is an outstanding example of a joint partnership between the business and academic communities. Pinellas County Schools provided the basic idea, land, park staff and curriculum. Through the Pinellas County Education Foundation, businesses made a contribution toward the construction of the Stavros Institute which houses Finance Park and Enterprise Village. Gus Stavros was the driving force whose vision and financial support helped create the world’s first free standing economic education facility.

The Finance Park curriculum teaches 8th grade students how to make wise financial decisions, how to handle their money. During their Finance Park visit, students will formulate a household budget and pay all of their monthly bills.

So what is a typical day like at Finance Park?

Students are assigned a life situation for the day. They will be:

  • Married or single,
  • With children to provide for or without children,
  • 25-35 years old,
  • Making Gross Annual salaries ranging from $20,000 to $76,000.

There are 4 sections of the day.

The first section is called “The Truth Revealed”. Students will:

  • Log-in on a computer,
  • Calculate their Net Monthly Income, NMI, the exact amount of money to budget for the month,
  • Calculate Budget Guidelines, a percentage range within which expenses must be made.

The second section is called “The Big Search”

  • Students will collect Option Sheets from each business,
  • The Option Sheets will list choices of items or directions in calculating payments,
  • Some of the choice Options Sheets include:
    • Automobiles from Crown Auto 
    • Homes from Sembler
    • Home improvements from our Home Improvement Center 
    • Furniture from Kanes
    • Telephone services from Verizon
    • Grocery lists from Publix
    • Menu items from Outback Steakhouse
    • Entertainment opportunities
    • Clothing packages
  • Some of the Option Sheets that give directions in calculating payment include:
    • Pinellas County Utilities
    • State Farm Insurance
    • Progress Energy

In Crown Auto students will see different car choices and print one. Students must remember that their car has to fit their family. If there are only adults in their family then they may choose a car that has no back seat. If there are children in their family then they may not choose a sports car without a back seat. In the state of Florida children may not sit in the front seat of a vehicle.

In Raymond James the Option Sheet is a stock portfolio. Students will record stock prices throughout the day from the Raymond James’ ticker tape.

“The Budget Puzzle” is the third part of the day.

Some students will receive a life zinger at this time, an Unlucky Chance card. Some costly mishaps that affect your budget could be:

  • The car broke down,
  • A vet bill for a sick pet,
  • The air conditioner no longer cools the house.

During this time, students will plan their budget. Drawing from Finance Park instruction and their previous knowledge, students must be conscious of the following:

  • Students must budget for all areas, with Charity and ValPac being the only exceptions,
  • Budget decisions may not fall below Minimum Guidelines or above Maximum Guidelines,
  • Family must be considered in all decisions,
  • Family must be included in all activities (ex. entertainment and dinner at Outback),
  • Minimum Guidelines total 73% of the NMI (Net Monthly Income),
  • Maximum Guidelines total 127% of the NMI (Net Monthly Income),
  • The Total Amount Spent cannot exceed the NMI (Net Monthly Income),
  • Alternate choices must be made if the Total Amount Spent exceeds the NMI (Net Monthly Income).

The deciding moment...balanced or not? Once the balanced budget has been achieved, students haven’t spent more than their NMI (Net Monthly Income), they’re ready to complete the Finance Park Check register. The Check Register follows the double entry and ongoing balance format. This is the format taught throughout the Finance Park curriculum.

Did the portfolio value increase or decrease? It’s time to find out. Return to Raymond James and record the midday stock prices.

Now it’s time for “The Final Commitment”. Students will return to each business and follow computer directions to make final payments.

Oops, wrong amount. Just start over at that computer. Computers will only take the last payment made in each business, not add them together.

Now what’s happening? The amount entered wasn’t between the minimum and maximum guidelines. Students will take another look at the option sheet for that business, decide on a payment that falls between the Budget Guidelines, make the new payment and correct the checkbook register.

All bills are paid a balanced budget has been achieved, maybe or maybe not. The Finance Park staff will check students’ work for accuracy. If the balances do not match, staff members will assist students in determining where the error occurred and how to correct it. Some common errors are in:

  • Calculation
  • Computer entry

Once it is determined that all bills were paid and that the checkbook balance matches the computer balance, students may shop. “A deck of cards, a calculator, pens and pencils, a mystery bag, what should I choose?” Students will select from their Valpak coupons.

One final thing to do now is to record the closing stock prices from the ticker tape in Raymond James. Students will be able to see how their stock portfolio faired throughout the day.

The day at Finance Park has come to an end, their hands on experiences at the Park will become the corner stones for their future financial decisions. Learning will continue. In unit 5, students will investigate their personal interests, aptitudes and desired lifestyle as they relate to their future career goals. Finance Park will be followed by Career Cove, the high school program, offered through The Gus A. Stavros Institute.


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