Financial regulations in America are skewed toward those who have money to lend, rather than those who need to borrow it. This imbalance lets unscrupulous lenders gouge customers who have no other options for access to cash. These legal loan sharks can charge exorbitant interest rates or pile on fees to keep borrowers in constant debt.
But it isn’t always easy to tell when you’re being taken advantage of. A new 8-bit online game from Next Gen Personal Finance lets players slip into the role of one of these sleazy lenders. The goal: scam good people out of as much of their hard-earned money as you can, and learn a little about how to protect yourself in the process.
As a new employee at Shady Sam’s, players pick the best loan option (i.e. worst for the customer) to present to a stream of borrowers who can’t get money from traditional banks. Charlotte needs $345 to make rent tomorrow, but she doesn’t get paid until Friday. Offer her a two-week loan with a huge $55 fee. When she can’t pay it all back quickly enough, just tack on $25 fees every month. When Myrtle pays back her auto loan early, don’t take the nice way out. Charge her an early payoff fee. That’s what a lot of banks would do.
Shady Sam is a hands-on boss. He emails regularly with praise or criticism depending on how much profit you’ve squeezed out of the customers. He also lays out the tactics lenders use to maximize costs. It’s exhilarating to watch the coffers fill up, even at the expense of people down on their luck. Do a good job, and Sam will even send baubles for your desk--a coffee mug, a bonsai tree, a red stapler.
Created by McKinney, “Shady Sam” isn’t the first financial literacy game Next Gen has released. “Payback” teaches students how to choose student loan options, “Cat Insanity” uses a pet metaphor for compound interest and “Stax” introduces investing skills.