Learning about finances usually isn’t a teenager’s favorite pastime, and if we’re being real, we can’t really blame them. Financial Literacy class is no P.E., but some might argue that having some money management skills is just as important as being physically fit. So, in an effort to get young people excited about the subject, a new video game aims to teach finance in a way that's relatable to kids.
Financial Football is a free, educational video game and classroom curriculum developed by Visa. It’s a new tool that goes along with the company’s larger initiative known as Practical Money Skills for Life -- a free, financial education program that reaches millions of people around the world each year.
Financial Football is pretty much like any other football video game, but with some finance trivia woven in. The game follows the structure and rules of the NFL, and throughout the competition, players are asked financial education questions of varying difficulty, based on the level chosen. There are three levels: Rookie (ages 11-14), Pro (ages 14-18) and Hall of Fame (ages 18+).
The game is a pretty cool concept. It has all the features kids would want in an NFL game, such as the official NFL theme music. You get to choose the length of time you play (5-minute quarter, 10-minute half, or 20-minute full game), as well as which team you want to be. There’s a coin toss, kickoff and off you go. As your team moves down the field, you choose which type of play you want the offense to run, but before your team can actually make a move, you have to answer a question about money. You only have 40 seconds to answer each question, before a “delay of game” kicks in with a penalty.
If you think about it, this is a great tool for competitive people in particular, because your team is relying on you to answer the questions correctly, so the offense can move down the field toward the end zone. Each time you pick a play (easy, medium or hard), you’re challenged with a financial question. For example, in the Rookie level, one of the easy questions asks for the definition of “credit limit.” The question is multiple choice, and if you get it wrong, the game provides the correct answer in order to help you learn.
The questions serve as a learning tool to teach people of all ages about key financial concepts such as saving, spending, budgeting and credit. The game also offers teachers free lesson plans based on the same major concepts.
Money management skills have been an issue for young people in this country for a long time, but research shows that the situation may be getting even worse. A survey by Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, conducted between 1997 and 2008, showed that over the course of a decade, high school seniors’ financial skills got worse among newer classes of students. In 1997, the average score on the survey’s 31-question financial-literacy test was 57.3%. By 2008, the average score had dropped to 48.3%.
And it seems that state education systems aren’t going above and beyond to improve the situation. Fewer than half of states require high school students to take an economics class, while only 13 states require a personal finance class specifically, according to 2011 survey by the Council for Economic Education. And in the 13 states where a personal finance class is required, students were more likely to go on to save money and pay off a credit card bill in full each month, and less likely to turn into compulsive spenders, max out credit cards and make late payments on bills.
But even if the importance of financial education is clear, the tricky part is getting kids (and adults) to actually try a game that has the word "financial" in the title. If you want people to listen, just figure out whom they’ll listen to. With the spotlight on the Super Bowl, professional football players are a great start.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson teamed up with Visa and Louisiana Treasurer John Neely Kennedy to spread the word about the potential impact of, and need for, a tool like Financial Football.
“It doesn’t matter whether you make minimum wage or millions,” said Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in a statement. “If you don’t learn to budget, save, invest and pay bills on time, the consequences can be devastating.”
The two stars showcased the game and the importance of improving kids’ money management skills at an event in New Orleans in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.
“Kids need to know how to make smart money management decisions early in life,” said Saints quarterback Brees in a statement. “It takes the combined efforts of parents, teachers and mentors within the community to give teenagers a strong financial playbook.”
Need to brush up on your money skills? Check out the Financial Football website and get a game going to improve your skills!