While useful, the concept of financially educating yourself seems about as fun as it sounds. I’m 27 years old, and although I’m tasked with writing about financial education for a mass audience, I can admit that it’s not the sexiest topic out there. So, if I think like this, how does ‘financial education’ sound to a 12-year-old tween or—even worse—a three-year-old who barely understands the concept of money let alone planning for the future?
I guess my point is this—how do you make a financial education lesson stick when you’re dealing with young children and teens? The short answer: know your audience. Wrapped up in an accessible package, financial education can be as fun and not as daunting as its sounds. Here are some great places to start if you’re a parent looking for interesting ways to teach your kids about personal finance:
1. If your child dreams of working for NASA:
Escape from Knab is a fun online game created by U.S. Bancorp. After winning a trip to the plant Knab for guessing how many grains of sand there are in a beach in Austrailia, play will begin for your youngster when they discover that the planet isn’t as glamorous as previously expected. In order to afford a ticket back to Earth, your child must work a series of jobs (for example, working at an oxygen canning company at $18 per hour) and save enough money for the return flight home. They’ll even be prompted to fill out fictitious W-4 forms, set a budget and even open up bank and credit card accounts. When you’ve saved enough money your child will also be able to purchase a space home and hovercraft. And, just like real life, emergencies like sudden illness will pose challenges to your child’s quest to get back to Earth.
2. For your sports-obsessed child:
I definitely think that if Visa Inc.’s Financial Football had been around back when my brothers were younger and obsessed with John Madden Football then it would’ve been a huge success. The game, which follows the rules of American football and features all of the NFL’s 32 teams, can be played as either a single-player or two-player game.
During each play, a player is given the opportunity to answer a financial question of varying difficulty. Each question that is answered correctly allows that player to gain yardage, while incorrect answers can result in lost yardage or turnovers. The more difficult the question the more there is at stake, so (just like in real football) quick thinking is everything.
Your child can download lessons from the game’s website to prep for their big game, which has three levels: Rookie (best for those ages 11-14), Pro (ages 14-18) and Hall of Fame (18+). And, if you’re child isn’t a fan of football they can also check out Financial Soccer.
3. If your child is destined for a career in the FBI:
Understanding how to invest and detect investment scams is a huge part of financial education, and if you’re child likes to solve puzzles and riddles then FSI: Fraud Scene Investigators may be right up their alley. By following the the game’s main character Kim in her quest to uncover a million dollar investment fraud scheme that her unknowing grandmother bought into, Fraud Scene Investigators can teach young adults (and quite possibly many adults) ways to tell the difference between a sound company worth investing in and a scam.
Who doesn’t enjoy a good spook here and there? If your child loves a good scare here and there then they should definitely check out and online game called Bad Credit Hotel. In the beginning of the game your child will begin at room 205 and, if successful, will eventually make their way to the best room in the hotel: Room 850 (the perfect credit score). Along the way, they’ll learn ways to manage their debt credit history and credit score so that once they get to the Room 850 they’ll never want to leave.
When it’s all said and done, knowing your child’s interest and approaching financial education in a way that holds their attention can ensure they actually retain whatever financial education lessons they are taught. Good luck finding the perfect financial education for your child!
Carolyn Okomo is a financial journalist and the Tuesday columnist covering financial literacy and all other things money-related for MyBankTracker.com. Follow her tweets @CarolynMBT, and continue stay up-to-date on her daily reports with MyBankTracker.com.