Money on Our MindsMoney on Our Minds

Money on Our Minds

The election wasn't the only headline-grabber in the fall of 2008. Rivaling John McCain and Barack Obama for front-page ink was the nosediving economy, which, by the way, is one of the top three issues on the minds of America's youth. All this talk about bankruptcies and job losses is enough to scare anyone away from a future that has anything at all to do with finance, which happens to be one of New Jersey's most important industries.

Fear not. The economy works in cycles and the stock market will rise again. Just to lighten the mood a bit, njnextstop.org has devised a few ways for you to have fun with finance:

 1. Pass "Go" with Games & Puzzles: The boardgame Monopoly is a fun way to get into the money game, because it helps you get comfortable with money and real estate. The Web is a great resource for challenging your financial knowledge in other ways. You can play online games and simulations about credit management, buying a car, paying for college, budgeting and more at www.italladdsup.org. Also, stop by Money Puzzles at www.money-puzzles.com for puzzles and problems that will test your critical thinking skills and your financial literacy.

2. Get Face-to-Face with Finance:  While you may spend a lot of time on Facebook, online social networking is not always as much fun as getting out there in the real world. Finance is actually more than bills and budgets, it's also a big money-related industry that does lots of business in New Jersey. Your home state is a great place to do some career exploration, even in these tough times. Look into big companies like Pershing and Merrill Lynch to see what kinds of internships and job shadowing opportunities they have available for high school students. Some high schools have co-op programs that allow students to work in real jobs and shadow professionals in different fields. During her junior year in high school, Tasneema Hakim, who graduated from James J. Ferris High School in Jersey City a few years ago, took part in a job-shadowing program at Pershing to learn about spreadsheets, the stock market and actual stock trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Even if your school doesn't have a program like this, you should still work on getting some face time in finance. Professionals love to help students who are eager and engaged. Take a moment to visit www.jerseyintern.com. While many of the internships posted on this site are targeted at college students, it is a site worth checking out because of the useful articles and blog entries from actual New Jersey interns.

3. A Little Portfolio Play Time:  Don't even think about using real money to play the stock market-but there are ways to learn about investing in the stock market without actually taking a financial risk. Several virtual stock market games on the Web let you trade stocks and manage your own portfolio of stocks for free. A few suggestions include: Young Money's Free Fantasy Stock Market Game at www.youngmoney.com and Virtual Stock Exchange at www.howthemarketworks.com.

4. Start a Business—with a Twist: Remember that lemonade stand you ran as a kid? Lemons may be sour, but you won't pucker at this idea, especially if you want to learn about income, profits, expenses, marketing and then budgeting for all the money you may earn. Running your own business-a.ka. entrepreneurship-is a great way to learn about finance, and it can be a lot of fun too. A Website for teen investors and entrepreneurs, www.teenvestor.com, will help you get started. Want a lemonade stand with a twist? Then you have to check out www.lemonade.com. Lemonade.com lets you set up a virtual lemonade stand filled with products that you would recommend to your friends. When purchases are made through your online stand you receive 5 to 15 percent of the cost of that item. You can even connect your stand to Facebook and MySpace. So sweet.