By kendecker

Connecting the Dots

May 2014
by Lorraine
Decker, CLU, ChFC, MSFS


Financial Mentors leadership made a strategic move to put the high school Game of Real Life on the back burner while patiently  waiting for the Texas State Board of Education and Texas school districts to digest the implementation and implications of House Bill 5.  HB5, as it is called in the education community, overhauled the graduation requirements for Texas students.  While FMA waits, we have shifted direction and are actively planning to bring a second curriculum, Connect The Dots to middle school students.

Because of HB5, Connect The Dots is more relevant and important than it was in July 2012 when I first analyzed the data from Real Life graduates and decided that they could have greatly benefited from an earlier intervention.   HB5 requires students to make elections as to which of 5 possible endorsements they will take in high school.  Each endorsement consist of a series of courses, designed to prepare the student to graduate career and college ready. To optimize their graduation plan, students need to know by 8th grade which high school they will attend, what endorsement they will pursue, and which AP and dual credit courses they will take while in high school.  They need a plan.  That plan should be influenced by the interests they have, the careers they may pursue and the post secondary education they will need to be career ready.  Connect The Dots allows the students the time and information to make informed decisions and enter high school with an “exit strategy.”

This is our new direction.  If you wish to help make it happen, call me at 713-256-8643 or email me at


FMA R&D Team


FMA R&D Team

Jan. 22, FMA hosted its first monthly research and development team meeting to brainstorm ideas for middle school and university programs. The meeting reviewed strategic plans and established a timeline for targeting 3,500 students between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.
The R&D team consists of talented and devoted individuals who include:



  • Polly Shouse
  • Ken Decker
  • AhsanRahi
  • Amanda Ton (California)
  • Caryn McGriff (California)
  • Edmond McGee
  • Eric Donnelly
  • Jay Garrison
  • Gayle Kamen
  • Henry Ha (Dallas)
  • Jacob Magin
  • Kenley Clark
  • Mark Proegler
  • Martin Bailey
  • Melissa Halow
  • Kim Pham
  • Paula Coggins
  • Ron Huffmaster
  • Kathy Rose
  • Varsha Shaw
  • LaTasha Young
  • Christopher James


To learn more about the individual members of the R&D Team click the menu About FMA.

The middle school program group, chaired by Kamen and McGee focused on facilitating interpersonal and team dynamics. They found that stair-step coaching would satisfy a predisposition to instant gratification by allowing career professionals to mentor university undergraduates;undergraduates to mentor high school students and high school students to mentor middle school students. The rule being “If you don’t mentor, you don’t get the benefit of becoming a mentee, ”said McGee

The group discussed the idea of adopting the methodology of Saul Coplan, a mentor in Florida – kids are coached and held accountable. They also discussed how to ease major transitions in life, such as the transition from middle school to high school.

The university program group, chaired by Rose and Clark, focused on the true costs of college, including making poor financial and academic decisions. They advised the program address how to find jobs in specific career areas through networking, internships and mentors.They recommended the program present a roadmap to graduate with students meeting specific requirements each year. They also considered the sociological and psychological issues facing students. The university team is developing a proposal for CUNY.



Financial Mentors of America’s research team met on February 4thto discuss the Game of Real Life Case Study, the structure of future FMA research and research currently being conducted by others on college success, underserved youth and critical thinking that may impact curriculum development in the GAME

The research team consists of a diverse group of professionals with strong credentials. The dedicated team includes

  • Melissa Halow,masters in sociology and masters in clinical psychology;
  • PollyShouse, officer at Chilton Capitalwith a masters in economics from Stanford University,
  • Gail Kamen, mastersof social work with a specialization in mediation and its application to education,;
  • Jay Garrison,BSEE and an MBA;
  • Chris James, senior at Houston Baptist University majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication;
  • LorraineDecker,founder of FMA, author of the Game of Real Life,masters of science in financial services;
  • Amanda Hang Ton, candidate for the masters of education at University of Melbourne,
  • Kim Pham,financial analyst at JPMorgan Chase
  • Julie Cates, co-founder of Alearn, masters in electrical engineering from Stanford.

The case study was very useful and eye opening in terms of goals set for FMA and the Game of Real Life. The study was reviewed and edited to ensure clarity and accuracy for future use. The study is shared online and showcases major outcomes of the GAMEas well as improvements for future programs. To review the Case Study on the GAMEclickHERE.

In future articles, we will share with interested readers the structure of our research to assure control and intervention groups.  Additionally we will share some of the modifications we will make to the curriculum to better prepare our GAME students to manage the future.

If there is any additional information needed please contact Lorraine Decker at

Purpose Prize

Purpose Prize

Sponsored by John Templeton Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Purpose Prize is awarded by, which is a non-profit organization that works to engage the millions of baby boomers who are considering retirement to select an encore career, one that improves the lives of others. The annual prize recognizes the accomplishments of five people, over the age of 60, who are making a difference in the community.  Each receives $100,000 to either accept as compensation or donate the funds to a non-profit charity.

On Dec. 5, 2012 it was announced that Lorraine Decker received the Encore organization’s 2012 Purpose Prize of $100,000 for helping low-income adults and teens acquire the financial, career and life skills needed to transform their lives and prosper, through free workshops. Lorraine and Ken Decker are donating the Purpose Prize to Financial Mentors of America to nationally expand the Game of Real Life.

“The growth of the Game of Real Life is extremely important to me for 100,000 reasons.  First and foremost is we have economically disadvantaged teens, living in the shadows of our business skyline, who have no idea about the American Dream and the opportunity they have to make a difference in the world.  The human capital cost is staggering, as will be the cost to our economy.  As a community, we need to act.” said Lorraine.

The Game of Real Life is an innovative, engaging, highly effective financial / economics education, career assessment / discovery and college selection / funding course. The program challenges economically disadvantage youth to develop internal motivation to change their lives, increase their academic performance, graduate from high school and attend college.

Lorraine receives the award on Feb. 11, 2013 at Golden Gate Club, Presidio of San Francisco. The ceremony also honors

  • Bhagwati Agrawal who brings safe drinking water – rain from rooftops – to thousands of villagers in his native India, using his engineering expertise.
  • Susan Burton who gives female parolees tools for rebuilding their lives after prison – housing, legal services, job training and more – and advocates nationally for such support.
  • Judy Cockteron for helping people enrich the lives of foster care kids, through innovative programs.
  • Thomas Cox who uncovered massive fraud among mortgage lenders, leading to a $25 billion settlement – represents in court low-income homeowners facing foreclosure.Lorraine’s award acceptance remarks:

    I’d like to tell a story that illustrates the impact of The Game of Real Life. We were conducting classes at a title I public high school, where all of our students receive free or reduced lunch.  At the beginning of the class I took aside three students and asked, “What type of job would you like to have?”  One girl said, “I want to be an assassin.”  Yes, I said assassin.  I paused and said, “That’s interesting.  Why?”  and she said,“My grandfather and father are assassins with the Knights Templar.”.. I replied – “That’s fantastic, but I want you to hold open the possibility that in the Game of Real Life you will discover your passions, and the careers that will allow for you to love your work.”  I went home and Googled Knights Templar and learned they are a very active Mexican drug gang.      That was in September.

    In December, I visited the class and asked to see the same three kids.  I asked if they had changed their minds about their careers.  The girl who wanted to be an assassin replied,  “I have decided to be a fashion magazine designer.”  As I choked back the tears, I said “That’s fantastic but hold open the possibility that as you continue with the Game of Real Life you will discover something you love even more.”

    I see kids condemned to poverty because they simply do not know what is possible.  And when they try for the possible, they have no idea how to make it happen. The Game of Real Life allows them to step into the future, see what they can become, and put together a strategy for making it happen and be a fighter for the future.  With the Purpose Prize and with people interested in transforming the lives of economically disadvantaged teens we are expanding the Game nationally and scaling it from middle school to high school to university students.

    And we thank you for helping make this happen.