Here’s our recipe for a fun and informative lesson in financial literacy:
For 20 students
- Place a one dollar bill into each green envelope and seal the 20 envelopes
- Take three yellow envelopes and place a $10 bill into each. Seal the envelopes.
- Seal the remaining (9) yellow empty envelopes
- Group three empty yellow envelopes with the one “$10″ yellow envelope, placing the $10 envelope second in the group. Paper clip each group. You will have four groups.
- Place the Jamaican $50 bill (or play money) into one red envelope. Seal the envelope and mark this envelope inconspicuously (so that only you can identify this envelope)
- Seal the remaining (9) red empty envelopes and place the “marked envelope” on top
- Group the red, yellow and green envelopes together and place a rubber band around the entire group
- Visit a classroom of twenty students and explain that you hope to teach them important lessons about money. Take out your group of envelopes and make three stacks of red (on your right), yellow (middle) and green (left) envelopes on a table.
- Explain to students you will be describing what is in each group of envelopes and allow them to ask questions. Next, you will ask them to line up behind the group of envelopes that they desire. Explain emphatically that they will not be able to switch lines once they have lined up… so they should listen to your explanation very carefully.
- Describe the envelopes in the following manner (verbatim):
- “This group of envelopes has $50.” Place your hand on the red envelopes.
- “In this group of envelopes, some have a lot of money, some have no money.” Place your hand on the yellow envelopes.
- “In this group of envelopes, every envelope has a little bit of money.” Place your hand on the green envelopes.
Ready to Serve:
- The red envelopes represent financial scams. Explain how they will see financial scams in their lives where people will say things that are either untrue (yes, lies!) or will not provide full information. Red symbolizes the need to “STOP” and ask questions (of their teacher, parent or some adult who has financial wisdom).
- The yellow envelopes represent risk. There are many financial decisions where you can make a lot of money, not make any money or even lose money. Examples include starting a business, investing in the stock market or even buying a home. Yellow symbolizes caution. They should make sure they are aware of the risks so they can make informed decisions.
- The green envelopes represent security. There are many financial decisions where there is little to no risk and you can make some money. This money can grow overtime. Examples include getting a job or saving your money in a savings account or certificate of deposit. Green symbolizes safety… you’re good to go!
It’s important to know the difference between Red-Yellow-Green and make good financial decisions. If you make good decisions, your future will be bright!
OneUnited Bank uses this activity in middle schools and it is a big hit! Students understand because the concepts feel more real to them. We believe it will work with high school students and even adults. The I Got Bank! book that we provide free to schools and libraries (www.oneunited.com/book) tells a story that incorporates “Red-Yellow-Green” decisions including financial scams, financial risks and financial savings.
Try our recipe and let us know how it goes!
 If you have more students, you will need more green envelopes and $1 bills (one per student)