$pending Simulation Gets Gallup in a Frenzy

Spending Frenzy Full-Logo

In April, First Nations worked with Gallup Central High School financial literacy teacher Arnold Blum and First Financial Credit Union’s Dale Dedrick to provide the $pending Frenzy financial simulation. The goal was to help GRADS students (Graduation, Reality and Dual-Role Skills program) and other Gallup Central students put principles they learned throughout the year into practice. First Nations provided a series of four simulations for all students at Gallup Central (about 100).

The $pending Frenzy simulation allowed students to practice handling a one-year salary of $30,000 to make spending decisions at a series of booths for big purchases like a car and a home (or rental). In addition, students considered smaller purchases such as a food plan and home furnishings. Students also had the opportunity to save money and/or invest money at a bank booth, were instructed to pay taxes on their salary at a tax booth, and were dealt “chance” cards with unexpected life events that either cost them or resulted in money (such as the birth of a child, breaking a leg in an accident, or receiving an award for a piece of art).

Thanks to the coordination of Blum and Dedrick, the various booths were run by local merchants who represented the purchases students had to make. For example, Realtor Jason Valentine from Coldwell Banker ran the home-buying booth, Teri Garcia from Amigo Chevrolet operated the automobile sales booth, Castle Furniture owner Jimmy Villanueva sold items at the shopping mall booth, and representatives from the local First Financial Credit Union managed the bank booth. Additionally, several local officers of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, and representatives from Native Community Finance (a local Native Community Development Financial Institution), Lowe’s Shop’n Save, and Little Singer Community School assisted with a variety of other booths.

Volunteers at the $pending Frenzy

Volunteers at the $pending Frenzy

“This year’s $pending Frenzy was a genuine community event for our school with local business volunteers from a variety of industries,” stated Gallup Central Financial Literacy teacher Arnold Blum. “The vendors gave students genuine pitches for up-selling, allowing our kids to practice negotiating. The business leaders debriefed the students afterwards and taught them financial lessons.”

First Nations financial education consultant Shawn Spruce agreed: “Teaming up with communities to create positive energy is what the $pending Frenzy is all about. It was great to see so much support from local businesses and organizations all focused on financially empowering students.”

Surveys collected from students following the $pending Frenzy demonstrated that the students found the simulations to be very useful. Of all who completed a survey, 97% agreed that the $pending Frenzy was a valuable experience and 85% indicated that they would use the information they learned to assist them in managing money. Senior Shay Billie concurred and noted, “I thought the $pending Frenzy was cool because I learned skills I can use to get ahead in life.”

This initiative was made possible through generous funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information about the program please contact Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer, at bmarks@firstnations.org or (540) 371-5615.

Largest $pending Frenzy Ever Held Is at Omak High School

In April 2015, the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) in partnership with the Colville Tribes Enrollment Program and Omak High School in Omak, Washington, offered the largest $pending Frenzy financial simulation to date. Over the course of two days and six events, the entire student body of 517 students at Omak High School, situated adjacent to the Colville Reservation, participated in the financial reality fair.

The original concept for the $pending Frenzy reality fair was created by First Nations Development Institute and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to offer youth with large impending minor’s trust payments an opportunity to practice handling a substantial lump sum of money and spending it wisely. In the simulation, high school students are given $40,000 in fake money and are asked to make spending decisions to purchase a car, a house, groceries and other items. Students can practice visiting a bank to cash their check and deposit a share of their money into savings, and are also given the opportunity to learn about investing a portion of their money. The $pending Frenzy at Omak High School even featured a legal booth run with assistance from Colville Tribes Attorney Jamie Edmonds.

Since the first pilot of the $pending Frenzy with Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians youth in 2010, the financial simulation has been offered about two dozen times in 10 different states and 13 unique communities across the country. In total, more than 1,200 Native youth have participated in the event and learned to better manage their money. The program has caught fire in 2015, with seven $pending Frenzy events already in the books, including three in the month of April.

First Nations is grateful for the support of Raylene Swan and Margie Hutchinson of the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians in helping the $pending Frenzy reach a growing number of tribal communities and Native youth across the nation. To meet the increasing demand to offer the financial reality fair, First Nations is in the process of developing a $pending Frenzy workshop kit. The full workshop kit will be available for sale and will contain everything a facilitator needs to organize and run a $pending Frenzy event – including instructions, booth materials, play money, budgeting cards, and $pending Frenzy merchandise. Stay tuned for news on the release of the $pending Frenzy kit!

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer

Muckleshoot High School Gets Jump on Financial Literacy Month

Although April is officially designated “National Financial Literacy Month,” many tribes have already started hosting financial education and money management workshops for their youth. Most recently, faculty members at Muckleshoot Tribal High School, in partnership with the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST), organized two back-to-back financial education workshops for 30 of juniors and seniors.

Most of the students were Muckleshoot tribal members and beneficiaries of the tribe’s minors’ trusts. Tribal members are required to complete a senior portfolio of various projects and activities. They are required to complete 15 activities, including two that focus on savings/investment and budgeting.

First Nations’ financial education consultant Shawn Spruce led two workshops in February that helped students meet these requirements. The first workshop focused on financial skills development and fraud awareness. Students learned about goal-setting and budgeting, using a bank account, basic investing, homeownership, and fraud prevention.

Shawn helped develop the second experiential workshop, $pending Frenzy, approximately three years ago. $pending Frenzy encourages creative interactions with bankers and other financial institutions while educating tribal youth about money and responsibility. Shawn carefully tailors each workshop to meet the specific needs of each tribe and/or tribal community. To date, he has helped organize more than two dozen $pending Frenzy financial skills simulations.

At Muckleshoot Tribal High School, he worked closely with English Teacher Rick Ancheta and OST Fiduciary Trust Officer Marianne Jones to help educate young tribal members on the value of saving, managing personal finances, and healthy credit practices. Approximately 20 volunteers participated in $pending Frenzy, managing various merchant booths such as a shopping mall, car dealer, grocery store and even the IRS.

Financial education classes and workshops need to keep youth interested to be effective. “Teens relate well to experiential learning opportunities like the $pending Frenzy,” says Shawn. “They figure out pretty quickly the costs of living on your own and the importance of avoiding impulsive purchases. Moreover, they seem to appreciate the uniqueness of a financial education program tailored specifically to the needs of Native youth.”

One student who participated wrote this afterward: “Speaking for myself and many other students, I have to say having Shawn come to our school was really wise. Being that many of us are going to receive our trust fund, we learned how we can budget and manage our money but also how fast it can go. I can’t thank you enough for providing the chance for us to attend this workshop. It was a great learning experience.”

It is never too early to get started on the path to financial literacy. For more information about hosting a $pending Frenzy workshop in your community, please contact First Nations Program Consultant Shawn Spruce at agoyopi@gmail.com.

By Sarah Hernandez, First Nations Program Coordinator

Crow Nation Financial Workshops Help Make Sense of Tribal Land Buy-Back Program

What do you get when you combine an innovative and informative financial skills workshop with other financial information geared toward a special land buy-back program? You get lots of attendees – more than 200 – who are highly interested and engaged landowners and their families!

In November 2014, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) worked with the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, the Crow Nation, and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation to offer a series of financial skills workshops designed to assist landowners on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. The full day of outreach also included presentations by senior advisors from the newly formed Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations (LBBP). Information booths were provided by the Office of the Special Trustee, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Crow Tribe to provide assistance to landowners with questions about their offer packets from the Land Buy-Back Program and related issues.

The financial skills workshop was developed in response to demand from certain tribes who wished to prepare their members for the Land Buy-Back Program opportunity. The Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations was established by the Interior Department to implement the land-consolidation provisions of the Cobell settlement agreement. The settlement provided for a $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund to consolidate fractional land interests across Indian Country and will ultimately affect approximately 150 unique reservations that have fractional interests. The Land Buy-Back Program allows interested individual owners to receive payments for voluntarily selling their land. All interests sold are restored to tribes, which helps to keep Indian lands in trust for tribal communities.

The financial skills workshop offered information about buy-back readiness plans, budgeting and spending plans. Another very important aspect featured information to protect landowners from various types of financial fraud they could be targeted for, such as investment fraud and other related scams. Materials were provided to assist individuals and families with identifying different types of fraud, recognizing risk factors, spotting persuasion tactics, and knowing what to do if one becomes a victim. Money tips and skills like record-keeping, organization, consumer savviness, and avoiding “big money mistakes” were also hot topics. (To see more about the FINRA Investor Education Foundation/First Nations effort to prevent financial fraud, visit http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5855/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1310510.)

First Nations Consultant Shawn Spruce explained: “It was wonderful to see such a fantastic turnout of over 200 landowners. People were really excited to be there and feedback following the event was extremely positive. Of course none of this would have been possible without so many great partners to help bring us all together.”

There are several more land buy-back events planned in 2015, and First Nations plans to coordinate with the Office of the Special Trustee, the BIA and the Land Buy-Back Program to continue their outreach and training on avoiding fraud and successfully planning for windfall payments.

By Tawny Wilson, First Nations Program Officer

Gila River Goes Crazy for “Crazy Cash City”

Once again, students are going crazy for First Nations Development Institute’s “Crazy Cash City” workshop. In December 2014, 84 high school students from the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona participated in a “Crazy Cash City” financial education simulation in which students navigated a series of simulated financial tasks and challenges designed to teach basic budgeting and banking skills. The goal was for them to successfully balance their personal budgets through a simulated month of spending.

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) staff conducted three two-hour reality fairs at the Gila River Indian Community’s new multipurpose building in Chandler, Arizona. The event was organized through a collaboration of First Nations and the Pima Leasing & Financing Corporation (PLFC), which is community development financial institution organized by the Gila River Indian Community Council. The mission of PLCF is to promote self-sufficiency and economic development by providing financing and business development services for community members. PLFC sponsored the workshop to promote financial skills development for local youth.

The workshop was a success thanks to volunteer support provided by the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians – Gila River Agency, and numerous Gila River tribal programs and partners. Funding for the workshop was provided in part by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. The event was presented as an exciting, hands-on financial simulation for the students – since they were spending play money and not really buying things – but it was also informative, educational and highly interactive. The “Crazy Cash City” workshop is based on experiential learning principles – the belief that youth learn by doing, which research suggests is more effective than lecture-format workshops.

“Crazy Cash City” students were all given a folder containing a fictitious yet culturally appropriate family profile that listed an occupation, income, spousal and dependent information, and any outstanding debt or benefits, along with a debit card and budget-balancing sheet. The high school students then visited nine merchant booths that provided various choices for housing, transportation, child care and more, and they were asked to make smart financial decisions based on their family profile. “Fickle Finger of Fate” cards were also given to students to help them learn to plan for unexpected emergencies and opportunities that can arise in day-to-day life. The youth also were presented with examples of financial and investor fraud so they could learn when an offer might be too good to be true.

At the conclusion of the seminar, the students were expected to have a fully balanced budget logged in their check register and budgeting sheet. “One of the hardest things is trying not to go over your budget, trying not to go into debt,” said one student. “It’s really easy to go over your budget and get a lot of stuff.”

The main goal of “Crazy Cash City” is to give high school students the opportunity to practice good spending and budgeting habits prior to entering the real world after graduation, as well as to promote smart and informed decision-making skills that will last a lifetime. Learning how to manage finances ensures that Native people will be more likely to save and to challenge financial service providers to develop products that respond to their particular needs. These dynamic, interactive simulation workshops allow students to try out the skills they are learning and gain confidence when managing their money.

At the end of our last workshop, one enthusiastic student commented: “This is a great workshop. I think it should be brought to more communities around the nation.”

We concur young man. We concur!

By Tawny Wilson, First Nations Program Officer

Students Practice Money Management in “Crazy Cash City”

Students received prizes for taking turns in the Money Machine at the event

“Thank you for the experience. I finally got an idea of how things are in the real world.”Comment from a student after participating in Crazy Cash City.

On December 10, 2013, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) partnered with First Financial Credit Union to provide the “Crazy Cash City” money-spending simulation for students at Gallup Central High School in Gallup, New Mexico.  The program was offered to the entire school, and 85 students participated.

The Crazy Cash City event  was held in the school’s gym and consisted of two 90-minute reality fairs in which the students had to navigate a series of simulated financial tasks designed to teach basic budgeting and banking skills. It was all in fun — since they were spending play money and not really buying things — but it was also informative and highly interactive.

Bernadine Lee from the Navajo Partnership for Housing explains recreational expenses

All participants were given a folder containing a fictitious family profile that listed what their income was, the income of a spouse, the age of any children, and any outstanding debt or benefits they received.  The high school kids then visited about 10 booths that provided various choices for housing, transportation, child care and more, and were asked to make smart financial decisions based on their family profile.  At the conclusion of the seminar, the students were expected to have a fully balanced budget that they logged in their check register and budgeting sheet.

Jason Valentine of Coldwell Realty (right) pitches a "hard sell"

The event was made possible by a partnership between First Nations, faculty and leadership at Gallup Central High School, and First Financial Credit Union. Other community partners chipped in including volunteers from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, Navajo Partnership for Housing and local retailers. Gallup Central High School Teacher Arnold Blum, First Financial Business Relations Manager Dale Detrick, and First Nations Financial Consultant Shawn Spruce coordinated the event. The event was partially funded by a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation and resources from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Mike Chavez of Lowe’s Supermarkets (right) discusses grocery spending

Students who filled out an evaluation form for the event expressed their support for the workshop and stated that the Crazy Cash City money simulation was a valuable experience.  Most importantly, all agreed that the simulation helped them learn to manage their money and that they could now successfully make and use a monthly budget.   Some students had such an enjoyable time during the first simulation that they participated again in the second event.  Many of the students who repeated adjusted their approach from the lessons they learned during the first go-around and even served as mentors to first-timers when they needed help.

The purpose of the event was to give the youth the opportunity to practice good spending and budgeting habits prior to entering the “real world” after graduation.  The idea was to promote smart and informed decisions that will last a lifetime.  When asked what was the most challenging part about managing monthly expenses for her fictitious family, one student responded, “Keeping up with my bills, and putting food on the table and caring for my one-month old baby. Also, keeping (the baby) in good hands when I leave.”

Liz Sanchez from My Closet (right) sells to a student

“This event really brings together community partners and it is always great to work with the leadership at Gallup Central High School and First Financial Credit Union,” Shawn said. “We are happy that we found an exciting way to teach youth practical budgeting and banking skills that they can soon apply in the real world.”

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Research and Program Officer

Navajos Sharpen Financial Skills Before Windfall


First group of participants, with Leona Begay (third from left)


To help prepare tribal citizens of the Navajo Nation for a potential financial windfall, the Federal Indian Minerals Office (FIMO) teamed with the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) and First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) to offer a series of financial capability workshops in Farmington, New Mexico, in July 2013.

The “Four Corners” area, consisting of parts of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona, has long been a hotbed for natural gas drilling.  However, recent advances in directional drilling technology allow access to previously untapped crude oil deposits that might also exist in the region.  In anticipation, oil companies are busy securing as many potential drilling leases as possible.

One of the groups of participants, with First Nations financial education consultant Shawn Spruce (far left)

A substantial portion of this area is home to the largest Indian reservation in the United States – the Navajo Nation.  FIMO was established in 1992 by the U.S. Department of Interior to provide services to individual Navajo mineral owner beneficiaries regarding their mineral interests and rights. The organization projects that $15 million to $20 million in drilling lease-signing bonuses will become available to beneficiaries later this year, as a result of this potential oil boom.

The workshops in Farmington covered various topics that were especially pertinent to the lease recipients who were present, such as budgeting, credit and negotiation. Participants were very interested in learning more about how to invest future funds, so trainer Shawn Spruce of First Nations spent time offering detailed information about investment activities including asset allocation and types of investing accounts.   Spruce also presented a number of online resources that would be of use to the recipients in preparation for the expected payments.

“We had two great days of training for future oil beneficiaries in Farmington,” said Shawn.  “We’ve provided similar workshops for other Native communities that receive individual lump-sum payments from natural resource royalties, legal settlements, gaming revenues or other sources.  It’s wonderful to be able to prepare people for future financial needs and challenges they might encounter.”

OST's Julia Redhouse (center) with two training participants

All workshop participants indicated on their evaluations that they believed they were better prepared for their distributions.  One attendee stated, “This was very beneficial. This information is a must-know for everyone receiving a distribution.”

The Minerals Revenue Specialist at FIMO, Leona Begay, would like to continue the partnership with First Nations and OST to provide additional workshops in Albuquerque.  For updates about these potential workshops, please visit www.firstnations.org or contact Shawn Spruce at agoyopi@aol.com.