WLRN 91.3 FM | By Jessica Bakeman | June 1, 2021
In the video game Money Moves, when you’re 16, you can get your first job. When you’re 18, you can file taxes and apply for a credit card.
Samya Zia thought making financial literacy fun could help kids learn about it, so when they reach adulthood, they’ll know how to manage their money.
Zia, 19, an economics student at Florida International University, first came up with her idea for Money Moves as a junior at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School. Since then, she’s made some money moves of her own: She won $9,000 earlier this year in the National Investor Pitch Challenge, a virtual startup competition.
She has derived her inspiration from her own life, where she faced financial challenges as a teen. She decided at 15 to move from her hometown of London to South Florida to live with her father, whom she did not yet know. A few years later, he lost his job because of COVID-19, and she had to begin supporting herself.
“I was going on YouTube teaching myself all these new things. And I saw my friends coming up to me for advice,” Zia said. “They were like, ‘Oh, Samya, how did you get a loan? How do you file taxes?’ Or, ‘Samya, we need to build my credit. What is credit?'”
In Money Moves, players do all of that for themselves. During her pitch for the startup contest, Zia showed a prototype of the game, in which an 18-year-old high school senior named Jake starts a babysitting business to earn money for his college fund.
In the video, Jake runs through city streets, eventually entering a bank where he deposits the $500 he made, in three weeks of babysitting, into his savings account.
“You get to customize your own character in the game, spend, save, invest, get a job as well as start up your own business, go to college, pay bills, learn about student loans, and you can even have all the fun of buying a car and paying a car note, car insurance,” Zia said during the pitch.
Zia hopes to eventually sell the game to schools as a part of their curriculum, making it free for individual students to access.
“I would have never thought in a million years, with the skills I have, that I could start my own business or even be able to help other people with financial literacy or even be able to myself create a video game at 19 years old, which is insane,” Zia said.
The national competition, held in February, featured another South Floridian: Joaquin Otero, 18, also from Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School, won $1,000 to support his business.
His company, AGRI, is a “next generation multinational Colombian coffee company.”
Image: Adobe Stock Licensed Image