$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.

$pending Frenzy Kits Have Arrived!

First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) is very excited to announce the release of the highly anticipated $pending Frenzy kit! The kit comes with everything you need to host a successful financial reality fair that will help prepare Native American youth for their “Big Money” (also known as a minor’s trust payment). Several satisfied customers have already ordered kits and begun implementing the popular financial simulation event in their home communities.

“Demand for the $pending Frenzy has been huge since its inception about five years ago,” stated chief architect of the kit, financial education consultant Shawn Spruce. “Moreover, the new kits now make the program scalable, allowing us to reach a much wider audience of Native youth.”

The $pending Frenzy financial reality fair was designed by First Nations to offer youth expecting a large minor’s trust payment an opportunity to practice handling a substantial lump sum of money and to spend it wisely. In the simulation, teens are given $40,000 in fake money and are required to make informed 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.

Surveys from $pending Frenzy events held in Native communities across the nation have revealed that more than 90% of participants found the event useful and believed they could use the information from the event to assist them in managing their money.

Since the first pilot of the $pending Frenzy with Seneca Nation youth in 2011, First Nations has helped facilitate the financial simulation about two dozen times in 12 different states and 18 unique communities across the country. In total, nearly 1,400 Native youth have participated in the event and learned to better manage their minor’s trust payments. Tribes, community organizations, schools and others have been in… well, a frenzy for the simulation! To keep up with the demand of the $pending Frenzy, First Nations answered the call by producing an all-in-one, do-it-yourself kit.

The box kit comes with everything you need to host a successful simulation, complete with all booth materials, a facilitator’s guide, stacks of play money, a professional bill counter, budgeting cards, $pending Frenzy merchandise and more! The all-inclusive kit can be yours for $1,200 and is sent free of charge to your door.

To place an order or to ask a question about the kit, please contact Sarah Dewees by phone at (540) 371-5615 or email at sdewees@firstnations.org.

By Benjamin Marks, First Nations Senior Research Officer

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

Nearly 200 Kids Participate in Colville $pending Frenzy

Financial education classes and workshops are mandatory for tribal youth residing on the Colville Indian Reservation in north-central Washington. In early January 2015, 193 students at Lake Roosevelt High School participated in a $pending Frenzy workshop.

In 2012, First Nations partnered with the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST) to offer the $pending Frenzy with Colville youth. The $pending Frenzy is an interactive financial education workshop that allows tribal youth to practice budgeting and spending a large lump sum of money. Developed by consultant Shawn Spruce and First Nations Development Institute, the workshop’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past three years and more than a dozen tribes have adapted the $pending Frenzy model for their tribal youth.

At Lake Roosevelt High School, students received $40,000 in play money to pay for real-world-like expenses such as rent, utilities, car payments and insurance. Additionally, students learned to budget money for educational expenses such as tuition and books.

Students also learned how to manage their Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts, which they can access when they turn 18. They learned about current IIM interest rates versus commercial banking interest rates, what their account options are, and how to best manage their monies.

Tribal leaders and educators on the Colville Indian Reservation have experimented with a number of different financial literacy models for tribal youth. According to Fiduciary Trust Officer Margie Hutchinson, “The $pending Frenzy has been the most effective model so far. Students and teachers love it. In fact, we are planning more workshops in April and May for our other high school students.”

More and more tribes like the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation are making financial education classes and workshops mandatory for tribal youth. 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 

Folks in a “Frenzy” at First Nations L.E.A.D. Conference

First Nations Development Institute held its 19th Annual Leadership and Entrepreneurial Apprenticeship Development (L.E.A.D.) Conference at the Tulalip Resort Casino on Sept. 24-26 this year. Over 175 participants came to learn more about a range of topics related to economic development on Indian reservations. One conference track was dedicated to Youth Development and featured many innovative youth programs that support youth employment, education and financial empowerment.

Shawn Spruce

On Friday, Sept. 26, financial educator Shawn Spruce conducted a “Spending Frenzy” training workshop that was designed to help tribal colleges, CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions), internship programs, and Boys and Girls Clubs offer financial education programs.

The Spending Frenzy is designed for youth and provides participants with a pile of play money and lets them go on a spending frenzy where they can make a series of financial decisions related to buying a car, buying a home, and paying for life’s expenses. Participants travel between stations where they are asked to make a payment using the play money and record that payment in a ledger. The goal is to finish the workshop with all the bills paid and some money left over. The first stop is at the Big Money Bank, but people are often disappointed when they learn they also have to visit the IRS and pay taxes on their income.

Shawn plays the "taxman" at the IRS stop

“People have been asking us to offer a training so they can learn how to conduct this workshop in their home community,” said Shawn, who is a financial educator and a First Nations consultnt. “There is a lot of demand for financial education that is interactive, fun and relevant to the lives of Native youth. Kids love to learn in a hands-on setting, and the Spending Frenzy offers that.”

More than 30 practitioners from programs across North America participated in the training. Staff from First Nations and Chief Dull Knife College helped work at the stations and conduct the workshop.

A participant studies her expenses

“We are honored that so many people are interested in this interactive financial education program,” said Sarah Dewees, senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs at First Nations. “We look forward to hearing more about how our partners implement this program in their home communities.”

Seneca in a “Frenzy” While Northern Cheyenne Goes “Crazy”


Seneca students during their $pending Frenzy

Wouldn’t it be nice if financial education was offered in a dynamic, interactive format where individuals can try out the skills that they are learning and gain confidence to manage their money?  These workshops, often referred to as “financial simulations,” give youth (and adults) the chance to practice managing their money in a safe environment.

On June 30, 2014, First Nations Development Institute (First Nations) offered an interactive workshop specifically tailored to Native American youth receiving minor’s trust payments.  Four certified financial literacy trainers from the Seneca Nation of Indians – together  with experts from First Nations – hosted the “$pending Frenzy” for Seneca Nation youth. This workshop provided the youth with play money in the amount of a tribal annuity payment to learn about a range of spending and investing options.  Students were asked to make a series of budgeting decisions over a two-hour period.  The model was developed in response to demand from certain tribes who were struggling with how to prepare their youth for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Seneca students getting their "cash" to budget and spend

The $pending Frenzy workshop is based on experiential learning principles – the belief that youth learn by doing.  Students learn to use a bank to cash their check, and then are asked to make decisions about buying a car, buying a home, and balancing their wants and needs while budgeting their money.  Unexpected emergencies and opportunities were presented to the youth in the form of “Cards of Fate,” which helped them learn to plan for unforeseen life events.

Justin Schapp, assistant to the Seneca Nation of Indians’ treasurer, coordinated the event and said the $pending Frenzy was well-received by the students.   “People need to be educated as to how long you really can make money last” was the thought of one participant.  Another student noted that “budgeting it out so it will last me a long time” was one of the biggest challenges or hardest parts about handling a large sum of money.

The $pending Frenzy is similar to “Crazy Cash City” events that First Nations has hosted, mirroring the belief that learning by doing is the most effective approach for helping youth develop financial skills.  The Crazy Cash City workshop is a 90-minute reality fair in which students have to navigate a series of simulated financial tasks designed to teach basic budgeting and banking skills.  It is designed to be fun — since they are spending play money and not really buying things — but it is also informative and highly interactive.  All participants are given a folder containing a fictitious family profile that listed what their income is, the income of a spouse, the ages of any children, and any outstanding debt they have or benefits they receive.  The youth then visit about 10 booths that provide various choices for housing, transportation, child care and more, and are asked to make smart financial decisions based on their family profile.

Pondering financial options at Chief Dull Knife

In early June, First Nations conducted a Crazy Cash City workshop in coordination with the Chief Dull Knife College cooperative extension service for youth on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

“There is tremendous demand for effective financial education for Native youth,” said Sarah Dewees, First Nations’ senior director of research, policy and asset-building programs. “We are honored to have worked with so many tribes and Native nonprofits to help provide financial education in their communities.”

By Tawny Wilson, First Nations Program Officer

Purchasing decisions being made at Chief Dull Knife

Trainers Are Trained to ‘Build Native Communities’

In January 2013, First Nations concluded another successful Building Native Communities train-the-trainer event in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We were joined by many of our friends from the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians (OST), along with a high school financial-education teacher and representatives from tribal housing programs.  It’s all part of our mission to provide financial education to Native American people so they can be financially empowered and better control their financial destinies.

As part of our work funded by FINRA Investor Education Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, First Nations provides Building Native Communities train-the-trainer events. First Nations often partners with the Office of the Special Trustee to conduct the train-the-trainer workshops.  The goal of these workshops is to provide training for OST Fiduciary Trust Officers and other employees, and high school teachers who teach financial education to predominantly Native American students.  First Nations is partnering with OST officers because they often provide financial education resources to their clients, many of whom are the recipients of Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts or other tribal trust programs.  In an ongoing partnership with high school teachers in McKinley County, New Mexico, First Nations also reached out to teachers who have participated in other First Nations youth financial-education programs such as the Invest Native online challenge and the Crazy Cash City reality fair.

At the recent training, we had 10 OST officers from all across the country, a high school teacher from McKinley County, and five other tribal employees from the Pueblo of Laguna and Pueblo of Nambe.  The two-and-a-half day event took place at the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indian’s headquarters in Albuquerque.  It served as an introduction to the Building Native Communities suite of workbooks and training materials including Financial Skills for Families participant workbook, 4th edition, and the Investing for the Future workbook.  The train-the-trainer workshop also served as a forum for financial educators to share ideas, resources, and experiences.

On the final day of the training, participants took part in First Nations’ money reality fair, the “$pending Frenzy,” which is designed to address the needs of Native American youth who will be receiving a large tribal per-capita or minor’s trust payment.  The experiential learning model is designed to give kids a trial run at what it’s like to have a large sum of money and give them a chance to practice making smart spending decisions. The purpose of the simulation was to demonstrate to participants how to disseminate financial education topics in a fun and interactive way, and learn how the workshop could be offered to adult participants, as well.

Additionally, on the final day, the participants were required to practice-teach some of the lessons they learned over the past two days of training.  On participant evaluations, many stated that this task was especially helpful, including one person who claimed: “It was very helpful to have us teach a practice session. It brought up issues we might not have anticipated when teaching a course for the first time.”

Many of the participants are already making plans to use the skills and information they acquired at the training.  Some of these activities include facilitating a $pending Frenzy for high school students, making use of a presentation on managing expenses and modifying it for a youth financial fair presentation, and a housing entity employee creating informational materials for one-on-one counseling sessions.

“The training was packed with valuable information and it was a very engaging learning environment,” noted one participant on an evaluation form.

By Benjamin Marks, Research & Program Officer