To save money would you: A. Chew used bubble gum off a park bench or B. Clean a public toilet with your own toothbrush?
It may sound like a ridiculous question, but it’s actually part of a campaign meant to inform people about financial education. For the second year, DoSomething.org, the largest not-for-profit for young people and social change, has teamed with H&R Block Dollars and Sense to help educate young people about money and finance.
“Research has shown that it’s easier to talk to kids about sex or drugs or bullying than it is to talk about finances,” says Christina Lively, director of brand promotions and public relations at H&R Block.
Recognizing that there was a gap in the market for teens to learn about personal finance, H&R Block partnered with DoSomething on the campaign. Its centerpiece is a game called “Would You Rather,” which uses text messaging to challenge young people to make decisions about how they’d manage their money. Texts with outrageous situations are sent to teens, who can then share their answers with friends and invite others to play the game. At the end of the game, teens are given a few tips on how to make saving money a bit easier. Participants are also eligible to win a $3,000 scholarship if they invite six friends under the age of 25 to play.
“One of the reasons we loved this approach is that it is on the phone via texting, which is something teens do every day,” says Lively.
On average, teens send more than 3,300 texts a month and text messages have a 99 percent open rate, according to DoSomething. The game was designed to be played on the phone with those statistics in mind.
“It’s an effective way to engage teens in having discussions about finances in a friendly, approachable way,” says Lively.
Some example scenarios in the game include: Would you rather light your house with candles or flush your toilet once a day to save money? Would you rather be Lindsay Lohan’s personal assistant or do the Dallas Cowboys’ laundry for a month to make money?
Lively says H&R Block wanted to get involved with the campaign again because they want teens to start thinking about making smart money decisions. According to the campaign, only 13 states require a personal finance course for high school graduation.
“We want teens to not be scared to ask whoever they want to ask — whether it’s a teacher or friend or mentor or parent — questions about personal finance. We want them to be able to make good financial decisions,” says Lively.
As a mother herself, Lively says she was surprised to learn that parents oftentimes have a hard time discussing personal finance with their children.
“Sometimes they’re embarrassed by choices they’ve made or they haven’t talked a lot about personal finances in their family,” she says. “We just want them to get the dialogue going.”
Last year, more than 40,000 teens participated in the campaign, delivering more than 62,000 tips to their friends. Lively says participation in the campaign this year has already dramatically increased from last year. The campaign ends at the end of the school year.