Junior Achievement (US)

JA Finance Park Project





US. Junior Achievement works all over the world. For this program profile, we focused on Junior Achievement in the US.

Grade Level of Students Participating


Number of Students Participating per Year

264,087 students enrolled (2014-15).

Year Organization Began

The JA Finance Park Program was piloted by Junior Achievement in spring of 2003.

Relationship to the public education system

Greatest majority of work is done in cooperation with schools. On some occasions, JA works together with camps or other organizations such as Big Brother, Big Sister, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts.

Organization’s Vision and Mission

Junior Achievement inspires and prepares young people to succeed in a global economy.

Junior Achievement programs help prepare young people for the real world by showing them how to generate wealth and effectively manage it, how to create jobs which make their communities more robust, and how to apply entrepreneurial thinking to the workplace. Students put these lessons into action and learn the value of contributing to their communities.

Core Values of JA:

  • Belief in the boundless potential of young people
  • Commitment to the principles of market-based economics and entrepreneurship
  • Passion for what they do and honesty, integrity, and excellence in how they do it
  • Respect for the talents, creativity, perspectives, and backgrounds of all individuals
  • Belief in the power of partnership and collaboration
  • Conviction in the educational and motivational impact of relevant, hands-on learning

Brief Description of Program Activities

JA Finance Park®, the JA capstone program for secondary students, introduces middle and high school students to key concepts in personal finance and budgeting, building a foundation for solid financial decisions throughout their lives.

JA Finance Park combines 13 classroom-based lessons with a hands-on budgeting simulation and 21 optional hands-on extension activities. In the budgeting simulation, students receive a simulated life profile, with a family situation, job and salary, and debt level. Students then learn about a comprehensive set of budgeting areas, set budget targets for each area, make spending choices, and discover how to spend within their means.

JA Finance Park lessons cover the following topics:

  • Career exploration;
  • Income and taxes;
  • Saving and investing;
  • Managing risk;
  • Credit and debt; and
  • Budgeting.

For a full list of all Junior Achievement programs in the US, please see here

Program Content: Intrapersonal Competencies

Self-reflection: Students rate their interests, abilities, and values

Financial Locus of Control: Evaluated as a student’s belief in his/her ability to determine for his/her own financial future

Career-orientation: Students identify their career interests and goals as a way to earn future income. They set a career goal they will revisit at the end of the program

Goal-setting: Setting financial and budgetary goals

Program Content: Interpersonal Competencies

Group communication, collaboration, cooperation, negotiation, taking personal responsibility: Project-based budgeting simulation

Teamwork: Working in teams, students debate the use of tax dollars and how they are distributed.

Program Content: Cognitive Competencies

Analysis, applying information, budgeting, determining cause and effect, critical thinking, data collection, decision making, filling out forms, making graphs, interpreting data, mathematical computation, problem solving, reading, research, responsible spending habits, active listening

Program Content: Attitudes and Values

Values regarding the need to save money to afford purchases they would like.

Financial Literacy Disposition: importance placed on financial literacy.

Financial Self-Efficacy: Interest in financial topic/careers

Program Content: Pedagogy/ Active Engagement of Students

The JA Finance Park program is composed of 13 required teacher-taught, in-class lessons (each about 45 minutes in length). It culminates in a hands-on budgeting simulation that is implemented either at a JA Finance Park facility, mobile unit, or virtual site. Additional extension activities are available for each lesson topic. Lessons are offered in a traditional classroom presentation format designed for middle-grade students, and in a Project-Based Learning (PBL) format created for high school students.

Active pedagogical approaches include the following activities:

  • Brainstorming activities
  • Game-based learning
  • Chart making
  • Role-playing
  • Discussions
  • Project-based learning
  • Use of multimedia (4-4.5 hours of experiential budgeting simulation)

Additional Notes

The program is split into 5 theme-based sessions:

Session One (Income): Students recognize the fundamental role of income in managing their personal finances and the factors that affect income and take-home pay. Students begin to understand that the decisions they make about education and career will have an impact on their potential income and quality of life.

Session Two (Saving, Investing and Risk Management): Students explore saving and compare investments as a part of their overall financial planning. They also examine risk and how insurance may help protect savings.

Session Three (Debit and Credit): Students compare financial institutions and their services. Through discussion and a game activity they also weigh the advantages and disadvantages of debit and credit. Lastly, students examine the role of credit scores and credit reporting have on personal finances.

Session Four (Budget): Students discover the importance of spending money wisely and recognize a budget as a valuable tool. They create personal budgets based on saving and lifestyle goals and day-to-day situations.

Session Five (Simulation and Debriefing): Students experience the JA Finance Park simulation, where they apply classroom learning by creating a family budget based on a hypothetical life situation. Students recognize the impact of credit history on budget planning and purchasing options.

Reference List

All information for this summary came from Junior Achievement’s US website, a phone interview with 4 Vice Presidents from JA in May 2016 and the JA Finance Park Evaluation Report (2016)

Prepared by

Ashim Shanker