BREWER, Maine — Brewer High School senior Ben Hafford has a debit card and knows how to use it. What he didn’t really understand, until recently, was how his bank card differs from a credit card and how making a small mistake, such as missing a credit card payment, can start a person on the road to financial ruin.
“Credit cards are a lot different,” he said Friday. “You have to be careful with credit cards.”
Hafford and about 80 of his Brewer High classmates are using the new Web-based EverFi Financial Literacy program to learn how to manage their finances.
The interactive program is designed with kids in mind and has 3D gaming and environments, Twitter-like messaging tools, avatars and animation.
The students are learning by exploring real-life examples and making decisions, said Brewer High senior Tyler Libby of Clifton.
“It’s pretty interactive,” he said. The hands-on decision making allows him and his fellow students to reap the rewards of good choices and suffer the consequences of bad ones, while learning along the way, Libby said.
“It would be beneficial for everyone to learn,” he said. It’s “especially good for young students” who will soon live independent lives for the first time.
“It’s good to know,” said Hafford, who is from Dedham. “We’ve never been told very much about this stuff.”
The Brewer students are part statewide pilot program that includes about 500 other students as well. They are learning life skills about saving money, how banks work, loans, credit, what a credit score is and its implications as they prepare to enter adulthood, said Brewer High math teacher Reg Ruhlin.
The program, which is sponsored by EverFi and Bangor Savings Bank, covers more than 10 different areas of personal finance and presents the complex information in a fun, interactive way that keeps students engaged, he said.
“The material really sinks in,” Ruhlin said. “There’s no doubt that by learning these financial management skills, our students will be better prepared to make decisions and tackle their finances.”
The students work with EverFi independently so they can learn at their own pace.
The interactiveness of the program makes it fun to use, said Brewer High senior John Lacey, 18, of Holden.
“Anything that is hands-on helps you focus more,” he said.
In addition to educating students about credit and banking, EverFi, which was developed in 2007 by a trio of Bowdoin College graduates, also touches on stock exchanges, mortgages, the Federal Reserve, taxes, consumer fraud and the pros and cons of insurance.
“We think this information is critical and should be part of everyone’s education,” Yellow Light Breen, Bangor Savings Bank’s chief strategic officer, said in a press release about the program. “We feel we have a responsibility to help young adults with financial literacy, and this program really works. Kids like it.”
Lacey said all graduating seniors should have the basic skills taught by the EverFi program.
“Having the basic knowledge will help you later on in life,” he said.