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Let the games begin: Fun ways to teach kids about money

Financial literacy rates in the U.S. have been dropping since 2009, with less than one-third of adults ages 18 to 54 able to answer basic questions related to personal finance. And this is not a new challenge. Over the last decade, 15-year-olds entering high school in the U.S. have shown little improvement in financial literacy when compared with peers worldwide.

One way we can bridge this widening financial knowledge gap is with educational resources like Ally Bank’s Fintropolis and Planet Zeee . Mary Poppins once said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” Finding that spark with game-based financial education resources has become an essential piece of teaching students how to handle their finances and develop healthy relationships with money.

Start early and often

No six-year-old is going to be diving into the deep end of the stock market, but there are lifelong benefits to starting financial literacy early on . Studies have shown over and over again that kids who are taught about money are better at saving, earning and managing debt. They also generally have a healthier relationship with money as adults.

Games like the U.S. Mint’s collection of free educational resources make learning about saving, earning and the value of money (with a little history and space travel thrown in, too) fun and engaging for kids of all ages. Begin with the basics and make it interactive.  Kids can count coins with a collection of fun characters, choose their own adventure in saving vs. spending or pick up some math skills with a quick game of basketball. With this approach, you can begin to build good money habits that could last a lifetime.

Simplify complex concepts

The ins and outs of a savings account is enough to make anyone’s heads spin, let alone kids, tweens and teens. Games make finances more fun, yes, but also easier to understand. Interactive resources like Ally Bank’s Planet Zeee digital book series and game break down complex financial concepts like saving, earning and even interest rates. By introducing terms such as taxes, salary and income to kids in a fun, interactive environment, they’ll be less intimidated by the concepts as they grow into their financial futures.

Kids under a tree wearing helmets with bikes and skateboards with words: Adventures with Money. Planet Zeee and the Money Tree. Ally logo at the bottom. iPad screen media with scene from the game: reading time: approximately 10 minutes | Book | Quiz | Activities. The kids ride into town to find seeds, tools and books about money for the Zeees. They even find some jars and piggy banks. “You can use these util you have a real bank!” Emma says. Zack, Zoey and Zara are delighted with the gifts. “But we want to give you something in return,” they say. The Zeees huddle together. They whisper… they giggle… they whisper some more, and finally… We know what to give you as a thank you for all you have given us!” Zach announces. Zach picks up his board. “I’ll be right back.” He hops on and flies into the sky, returning just a few moments later holding three new flying longboards. “I don’t really need seventeen of these,” he says, panting slightly. Image shows kid on hoverboard with more hoverboards in hand. 3 kids stare up at him, 2 with bikes, 1 with a board.

Make finances less frightening, more fun

How do you instill the essential knowledge required to navigate tough topics like credit card debt and fraud without scaring young people away from these finance realities? Video games are the perfect avenue to make these topics more familiar.

Digital games like the suite of finance-focused options by Financial Entertainment make these more challenging conversations accessible and relatable by placing them in more familiar —and fun — environments. This ensures tweens and teens are able to learn about financial faux pas in a safe, supportive environment (and carry them along into the real world). You know they’re building essential life skills, while they know they just beat their personal record.

Prioritize economic mobility

Access to financial education resources is essential in setting kids up for strong financial futures. Free gamified resources, like Ally Bank’s Fintropolis map for Minecraft and Minecraft: Education Edition, opens up doors to students who would otherwise not have access to these critical tools for economic mobility. Financial equity drives many of our programs and is why we offer programs and tools like Fintropolis and Planet Zeee. These resources introduce the building blocks of financial literacy (budgeting, saving, smart spending) in a familiar format that’s fun for kids and teaches them essential money management. They won’t even know they’re learning.

ipad screen showing computer-generated city center. Welcome to fintropolis text at the bottom of the screen. A second ipad screen with more computer-generated cityscape “city mall".

Invest in the future

Saving is a strong starting place, but no financial literacy curriculum would be complete without investing. But stocks, bonds, dividends and all that comes with them can be overwhelming and without the right approach, you risk putting young people off from this essential method for building wealth. By gamifying the complex world of investing — something the Stock Market Game by the SIFMA Foundation has built an entire lesson plan for — teachers can create a hands-on experience rather than a dry, complicated lecture.

Finance, but make it fun

The time is now to start boosting financial literacy in the U.S. By making it fun and accessible we can ensure kids get a strong start in finance best practices. Bridging this gap with game-based learning not only creates money-smart kids today, but financially healthy adults tomorrow.

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