Ohio youngsters FETCH! for financial literacy

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At a time when 77 percent of families in the United States are in debt, with 46.1 percent of those families holding credit card debt, the Ohio Society of CPAs is reaching out to educate youngsters about the value of a dollar.

The society's CPAs and volunteers are accomplishing this with a unique a program called FETCH!, which features a colorful dog park where teams of fifth and sixth graders compete to handle the finances of owning a pet.

Short for Financial Education Teaches Children Healthy Habits, FETCH! teaches students to use critical math and thinking skills to earn money for doggie basics, budget for unexpected expenses, and save money for the future. The society hopes that by teaching smart money management skills at a young age, students will make wise decisions as adults.

"FETCH! is a unique way to teach children how and why they must properly manage money", said Jerry Esselstein, CPA and chairman of The Ohio CPA Foundation. "The game is fun, yet requires students to make critical decisions that have real consequences, just like in life."

Nearly 400 classrooms across Ohio were scheduled to participate in today's session of FETCH!, according to Amy Johnson, the society's public relations senior manager. With CPAs and volunteers running the program, students will find out what happens in real-life pet situations and the consequences of those situations.

For example, if your dog is badly behaved, you might have to pay to fix a neighbor's fence. If your dog wins first place in a dog show, you get a financial reward that goes into a savings account. The children play on teams and the teams must make financial decisions throughout the game. In the end, the team with the most money in its savings account and the most items for its dog wins. The game takes approximately two hours to complete.

The Ohio Society of CPAs and its charitable affiliate The Ohio CPA Foundation created FETCH! as a public service for families in Ohio after teachers asked for a program addressing the basics of financial literacy. Both groups collaborated with elementary school teachers and a curriculum developer on the game, which also measures whether students have mastered a basic understanding of financial terms with pre- and post-FETCH! quizzes.

In a spring pilot program, 37 percent of students scored a B or better on the pre-game quiz. After playing FETCH!, the students' scores dramatically improved with 60 percent of students scoring a B or better.

See the game in action.

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