In the world of the average teenager, learning about personal finance probably isn’t high on the list of things to do after school. Let’s face it, interest rates, debt and budgets just aren’t something kids get excited about. However, learning how to manage your own money is an important part of growing up, and the young adult that is ill-prepared in personal finance could become the adult who has problems with credit card debt. To try and establish good banking habits from the start, banks and financial advising websites are trying a new way to “make banking cool”: online games that attempt to sneak financial education to kids in the guise of surprisingly fun online games.
As a way to celebrate their sponsorship of the FIFA 2010 World Cup, Visa has created a financial soccer game (or “football” anywhere outside the U.S.) that has you answer multiple choice and true/false financial questions in order to pass, dribble up the field, or shoot. But be careful, questions are harder the more difficult the play. And if you answer wrong, the other team might steal the ball! (Ages 11-18+)
Fun-o-meter: 7/10 – Educational Value: 9/10
This game helps players learn about debit and credit cards, through managing a budget for a needy celebrity. After collecting money (which falls from the sky, not a great lesson about earning) as well as the items the celebrity wants, you must decide to pay for them with a debit or credit card, which must be payed off if you don’t want to be charged interest. (Ages 18+)
Fun-o-meter: 6/10 – Educational Value: 8/10
ING Direct’s Planet Orange is one of the only games that makes kid’s sign up before playing, but offers a wide range of financial lessons from saving to facts about the history of money. Although sometimes the actual information is hidden in the games storyline, there are a lot of things that players can get out of simply clicking around. (Ages 5-10+)
Fun-o-meter: 8/10 – Educational Value: 6/10
The Great Piggy Bank Adventure
Disney partnered up with T. Rowe Price to bring you this expansive virtual board game, that lets you pick a goal (i.e. “Pet Rabbit”) and save toward it by putting “Truffles” (which look suspiciously like gold coins) into piggy bank’s with different savings rates. At the end, break it to see if you made enough to reach your goal. Though the in-game information is basic, you can also click on “What’s the Lesson?” to learn more. Whether or not kids playing will do this is a different story. (Ages 8-14+)
Fun-o-meter: 9/10 – Educational Value: 7/10
Online financial games are a fun, interactive way to help parents teach their kids about an subject that would normally elicit groans and eye-rolling. By combining important lessons with an activity kids already enjoy, these games have the power to make even first-graders sit through a money management course, without realizing that this is something they aren’t “supposed to” enjoy. And parents can finally breathe a sigh of relief, that maybe they are raising a teen that will like saving money as much as they like spending it.