Custom Built Team Building and Leadership Initiative Training

Pitfall – AKA Money Pit: Actually a Fun Financial Literacy Activity

As a TRiO professional, I work with students everyday who need guidance in the tricky area of financial literacy (really…who doesn’t need guidance in that area). I often find it so hard to explain budgeting, foolish spending, and even savings to participants who are usually disengaged and disinterested. I like to use this sequence of activities to more easily explain financial literacy in a fun and interactive way. I first play Pit, one of my all-time favorites, to lighten the mood and encourage group cohesiveness and laughter.

Pit Paradigm Shift Activity


This wonderful game is based off of the classic card game Pit. Pit emulates the trading floor on the New York Stock Exchange, and is ridiculously fun and full of energy.


I have used several things as Pit cards, basically you need cards, papers, or play money that is only printed on one side. I like to play Pit with leadership words on the printed side of the cards, however put whatever you want on the front of the cards. There needs to be enough cards for each participant to have nine cards, and each participant has a different word on the front of their nine cards.


To “corner” the market and collect nine of the same cards.

How To:

  1. Shuffle or mix the cards, and deal them to all of the participants.
  2. Open the market by ringing the market bell, or just yelling market is open as loudly as possible.
  3. Start trading cards.
    1. A participant can only trade cards by holding out one, two, three or four cards of the same type (or word) face down.
    2. While holding out the cards, they will yell the number of cards they are trying to trade.
    3. They will then trade cards with someone else who is trying to trade the same number of cards.
    4. Once the player has collected all nine of the same cards, they yell “Pit,” and the game is stopped.
    5. Collect cards, shuffle, and play again.

After a few rounds of Pit, I ask the participants to share a financial goal with the group. It doesn’t matter what goal either, it could be a goal to go on vacation, save $10,000, or even when to retire. After we have set our goals, I like to ask everyone to grab a tennis ball that will now represent their financial goal during the next activity…Pitfall.

PitFall - Paradigm Shift


Number of Participants: 8-40

Time:  20 – 25 minutes

Activity Level:  Low – Moderate

Props:  Tarp with holes cut in it, 15-20 Tennis Balls, Bucket

Objective: To transport the tennis balls to the bucket via the tarp.

Set Up: Set the tarp on the ground about 15-20 feet from the bucket.


  • The participants must keep ahold of the tarp with both hands throughout the activity.
  • If a tennis ball falls through a hole, and not into the bucket, the group must start over from behind the start line.
  • A group can not move to the next round unless all tennis balls from the current round are placed into the bucket at the same time.
  • The group has 15 minutes to complete this activity.
  • The group has a mandatory 2-minute planning period before the 15-minute timed period starts.
  • The tennis balls must start from the corner of the tarp.


The group picks up the tarp, holding only the edges as the facilitator places one tennis ball on any corner of the tarp. The group must then transport the tennis ball to the bucket via the tarp. If the team can drop the tennis ball into the bucket before it falls through to the floor the team will get one point. After each successful round, the facilitator will add a tennis ball to the tarp, thus increasing the team’s chances of scoring points.


I explain to the participants that the tarp is like the road of life, and sometimes our financial goal will make it to fruition, and sometimes it will fall by the wayside. Either way, if we work as a team and openly discuss our goals and communicate them effectively, we will have a much higher chance of achieving them.

I follow up the initiative by asking the participants to relate their observations during the activities to their own financial successes and failures. It is during these times that powerful stories and revelations are discovered.

Try this out, I think it will work with your group. Contact me if you would like more instructions or tips on how to smoothly transition from activities to debriefing and processing discussions.

Ryan Eller
Founder & President, Paradigm Shift


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