In the summer of 2019, Ally Financial gave four interns from HBCUs a challenge: devise a way to teach middle school kids about money so they can be prepared to lead financially healthy lives. That is how Fintropolis came to life. Now, Big Sean is teaming up with the minds behind a game for the wildly popular Minecraft and Ally to spread the word.
Launched this month, Fintropolis has already been downloaded nearly 700k times.
Fintropolis, a new world in Minecraft, is designed to teach financial concepts to its young users in an effort to help build a foundation to close the racial wealth gap. While financial education is not the only contributing factor to wealth disparities, it is one important component that is part of the remedy.
“They came up with a boss solution,” Big Sean said. “Fintropolis is just one example of what HBCU students can do when given the resources and platform to support their dreams.”
Data tells us less than 12% of students are required to take a stand-alone personal finance course to graduate high school, outside of the six states that mandate it.
When it comes to Black students, only 7.4% are required to take the class.
Financial literacy rates in the U.S. have been dropping since 2009. Less than one-third of adults ages 18-54 can answer basic questions related to personal finance, creating urgency for new approaches to early financial education.
This critical issue became the focus of four interns hired through Ally’s 2019 Moguls in the Making student pitch competition: Erin Martin from Alabama A&M, Earl Perry and Keishon Smith from Florida A&M, and DeMari Tyner from North Carolina A&T. After research and field study, the four created the concept and design for Fintropolis, which Ally then brought to market.
“Students who don’t learn how to handle money and make smart financial choices will have a tougher time throughout their lives,” said Smith, who was hired by Ally after he graduated. “Ally challenged us to find a solution, so we dug in and did our homework. We quickly realized to get middle schoolers to pay attention and learn, we had to make it fun and hands-on. I played Minecraft throughout school and knew how much kids of all backgrounds loved it. When we tested our concept on students, I wasn’t surprised to see how quickly they took to it.”
Martin, Perry, Smith and Tyner worked with Ally’s concept development lab, TM Studio, and video game developer, Blockworks, to create Fintropolis. As players explore the Fintropolis world, they learn about earning money, paying taxes, budgeting, building credit and managing debt, as well as investing. They also are introduced to different careers and how early financial decisions can impact their futures. Minecraft: Education Edition also comes with lesson plans to connect the money concepts in Fintropolis to the classroom curriculum. Minecraft users can access Fintropolis for free.
“When Erin, Earl, Keishon and DeMari presented their idea, we knew then and there we had to pursue it,” said Diane Morais, president, Consumer and Commercial Banking at Ally Bank. “We have been experimenting with fun, interactive games as a powerful way to teach financial lessons and saw this as a possible cornerstone in that strategy. Now, Fintropolis has the potential to give millions of students the knowledge and confidence needed to make better money decisions, which can affect their lives in profound ways.”
Ally’s Executive Director of Customer Strategy and Innovation Emily Shallal added, “The entire journey to launch Fintropolis demonstrates how injecting diverse experiences and perspectives leads to innovative and impactful problem-solving. If we want to promote financial and social inclusion, it starts by bringing a wider spectrum of people to the creation table.”