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Teaching kids to tackle personal finance

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TESS VIGELAND: Super Bowl XLII is set. The New England Patriots and New York Giants won the AFC and NFC title games over the weekend. No doubt players on both teams are looking forward to the possibility of not only a championship ring, but the nice fat bonuses that often go with it. If they need some help managing that money they could call on some high school kids in New Orleans. They were participants in a program sponsored by the NFL and Visa called "Financial Football."

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler has the play-by-play from the Superdome.


JEFF TYLER: I sat down to play Financial Football on the computer with Mike Nobile, an investment advisor with Crescent Sterling.

MIKE NOBILE: You get to choose what team you want to be.

Being from New Orleans, Nobile picks the Saints from the list of football teams.

NOBILE: What city are you from?

TYLER: I'm from Los Angeles. Good luck.

I settle on the Raiders as my proxy. The way it works is that in order to advance down the field each team has to answer questions about money matters. Nobile says Financial Football does a good job covering the basics, but he wonders if kids will expect better video game graphics.

NOBILE: The interaction is not as sophisticated as Xbox, but you get the point.

Nonetheless, Nobile says it could be a valuable tool.

NOBILE: I've always found it hard to engage young people in this kind of conversation. I would just be curious to see what kind of results they're getting.

I got to see for myself. Seniors from rival schools gathered in the Saints locker room at the Superdome. 16-year-old Jacques Landroy was representing McDonogh 35 High. I asked him what kinds of video games he normally plays.

JAQUES LANDROY: Football, basketball, sports -- basically sports.

He dreams of being a pro-football player, so it's a big deal for him when Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie comes in and gives both teams an economic pep-talk. McKenzie confessed that he didn't know how to budget when he went to college.

MIKE McKENZIE: I had this credit card. Man, did I have this credit card, and to me that meant I had instant cash. I was like, alright. Take the guys on out. We going to eat. Anybody got money? Nope. We'll just put it on here.

He fell into debt. He owed money even before he turned pro and collected a paycheck worth $300,000.

McKENZIE: Before I knew it, before I made it through my rookie year, I was broke.

After he spoke McKenzie took a seat with the team from McDonogh High.

WHITNEY MARTIN: Are you all ready for some football?

Whitney Martin reads the Financial Football questions to each team.

MARTIN: Which of these is not a liability, not a liability? Pay check, credit card balance, hospital bill, or money you owe a friend?

In the end McDonogh High took it.

MARTIN: That is a touch down.

The kids definitely got into it, but does the game cover everything they need to know? I put the question to investment advisor Mike Nobile.

MIKE NOBILE: The only shortcoming from my perspective is that it doesn't include many types of savings vehicles or investment vehicles that are available to young people today.

Michael Rolnick helped create Financial Football for Visa.

MICHAEL ROLNICK: This is to get kids started, and we can't overwhelm someone and make it daunting. That's why I think the game packaging really helps get this education message across.

For more sophisticated stuff Rolnick refers people to the website PracticalMoneySkills.com. It's got college and graduate school level curriculums. As for our high school students, will they give it a try outside the classroom?

LANDROY: Yeah, I'll check it out. Yeah.

I asked Jacques Landroy how Financial Football compares to the video games he normally plays.

LANDROY: It's as good, but it's educational. You learn stuff. Even if you don't have the right answer you'll learn something. It's good to play games like this.

Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie says playing this game is a first step.

McKENZIE: And getting into the next step, which is investing, but you have to talk to them about saving it because it's hard to invest when you don't have anything.

Financial Football has been adopted by schools in seven states. The Visa spokesman says there's a reason his company is involved in teaching kids. He says responsible consumers make better long-term clients.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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