For many students, it was a time of either dread or excitement. The civics teacher, or the home economics instructor, would teach the class how to balance a checkbook, calculate compound interest and a few other skills that would go a long way in the adult world. Some children learned more about finances and money, and some learned less, but you could be sure that whatever happened, it involved pencils, erasers and long arithmetic.
Children today live a digital world that in so many ways is more complex than what their parents and grandparents experienced. That’s one reason why Visa, with the help of the National Football League (NFL), has launched the latest, updated version of its Financial Football video game for the 2018 to 2019 NFL season. Visa, an NFL sponsor for more than 20 years, enlisted such football stars as Eli Manning and Saquon Barkley to promote the launch of the free video game.
The game is designed for football fans who are at least 11 years old, though, as Doug Leighton, Visa’s head of community accounts, told Karen Webster in a PYMNTS interview in advance of the launch, “even adults will still be able to learn from this game.” According to Visa, 20 percent of teenaged students in the United States lack basic financial literacy skills.
However, young consumers are not the only ones with problems in that area.
As Leighton pointed out, cautionary tales abound of pro athletes blowing big bonuses and salaries on all sorts of reckless or naive purchases and endeavors, and running out of money that most fans assume would last a lifetime. That can lead to situations — as noted by Leighton — like that of a promising pro player who blew money on nearly two dozen automobiles for relatives and pals instead of saving or smartly investing.
“It can be harrowing, some of the financial trouble (pro athletes) got into because they did not have the financial skills these young people are learning,” said Leighton.
So how does the game teach those skills?
According to Leighton, a player of the Visa video game picks home and away NFL teams for the competition. “You are really just playing it like you would play Madden,” he said. The player also selects the level of difficulty for plays — easy, medium or hard — and then must answer financial literacy questions to move the ball forward.
Incorrect answers result in quarterback sacks and other reversals. Questions can be based on age and come from the wider Visa financial literacy curriculum, and might involve such topics as “what does inflation do to a savings account," or "what does ‘IPO’ stand for,” according to Leighton. “They don’t even know they are learning because they are engaged in the game, but they are.”
The game fits into Visa’s wider financial literacy efforts, which include the Practical Money Skills website, where educators can access free material that can stand as their own classroom lessons or be used with the game. Leighton pointed out that approximately 40 million people have been reached by this material.
The newest version of the Visa-NFL Financial Football video game includes improved 3D graphics and enhanced game play, along with expanded categories that cover such areas as budgeting, saving, financial institutions, credit, debt, identity theft and life events. Leighton said that even some Visa employees have learned new skills from playing it.
“This version takes the game right up to state-of-the-art level,” he said. People can access the game via iOS and Android apps, as well as online.
Society has come a long way from viewing balancing a checkbook as a prime adult financial skill. Money flows in ways that can be maddeningly complex, and — as so many NFL players have shown — even those with lots of money can lose it all thanks to a lack of basic financial education.