SBA alumnus working to make personal finances fun ... and mobile

The financial decisions we make today can impact every aspect of our lives for years to come. Tom Palka, B.A. Finance ’84, is trying to make people think a little more strategically about these types of decisions through his Money Shift line of educational products.

The latest of these products is a video game application he is currently developing for mobile devices. The game, which Palka plans to cater to a broad audience from high school students to adults, gives players realistic financial decisions and then shows them how their decisions would affect their financial future.

Palka said incorporating “real-life scenarios” into the game is important because everything has repercussions.

“Do you hang out with friends or do you work overtime on a Saturday night,” Palka said. “When you make different decisions, you get different results. The beauty of the video game is it is modified as the game is played.”

Seeing an unmet need

While the mobile game is still in the works, Palka’s quest for educating the public with the Money Shift enterprise first hit shelves in 2010 with the release of a book and then a board game.

The inspiration for these products came to Palka when a speaker at a financial planning symposium he was attending revealed that 80 percent of Americans do not get any professional financial assistance. He immediately began to think about how he could meet the need.

“I thought, ‘People will read my book,’ but then I thought, ‘There are a lot of books out there, but they like playing games,’” he said.

Palka said he can expand the amount of material he originally covered in his book through the mobile gaming platform.

Money isn’t everything, but it is important

When Palka began his college career at Wayne State, he admittedly chose his major based on potential income. Years in the financial world have taught him that a passion for what you do is also important.

“If money were the ultimate goal in life, we wouldn’t have millionaires who commit suicide,” he said. “Money cannot buy happiness. Money can pay the bills and enhance life in many ways, but having fun is part of life too.”

Following his own advice, Palka sold his advising firm to focus his time and energy on the Money Shift. His ultimate goal is to have the game used in classrooms across the country.

“We want the teachers to be able to use in the classroom. The purpose of having the free game is so everyone can have access to it,” he said. “Kids that are from the poorest families need the most help. If you grow up with a family that is extremely successful you are learning finances at the dinner table. I want to make sure that is available to everybody.”

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