Super Bowl a good peg to teach kids about finances

By David Pitt
AP Personal Finance Writer / February 5, 2010

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DES MOINES, Iowa—There's no denying that the Super Bowl is all about money, and lots of it.

Consider that advertisers will spend as much as $3 million to grab your attention during the football championship in hopes of convincing you to buy their products.

Also consider estimates that the average host of a Super Bowl party will spend more than $140 on food, drinks and supplies.

Payment processing giant Visa Inc., the NFL and educators believe the combination of football and finance creates an ideal teachable moment for youngsters.

"People spend a lot of money this time of year be it on a giant TV or just on chips and dip and the kids often get involved," said Jason Alderman, Visa's director of financial education. "What we're saying to parents is this is a great time to get kids involved, help them be a part of the decision-making process."

Kids can also learn about the basics of spending, borrowing and budgeting from a football-themed video game called Financial Football that is now used in high schools in 25 states.

Versions for high school and college-age kids can be played on the Practical Money Skills for Life Web site at

Players move the ball down field by answering correctly multiple choice financial questions. An example: Which is not a way to decrease your debt to income ratio? The choices are: a. Increase your income; b. Decrease your debt; c. Take a loan to pay off your debt; or d. All of the above would decrease your debt to income ratio. (The answer is C).

Wrong answers can cost a team yardage.

For Glendale, Ariz., high school teacher Deb Moore, the game has captured the attention of her students as they've become involved in their own playoffs leading up to a championship game held Friday.

The students have chosen the Colts and the Saints as their team names, tying their game to Sunday's big matchup.

Moore teaches accounting and marketing at the Raymond S. Kellis High School in Glendale, which is about 10 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Playing the game has become so popular in the school that students outside her class are coming in to participate.

"They want to play the game even though they're not in class," she said.

The game fits well into her accounting and marketing curriculum. Students have fun playing and absorb personal finance management skills required by state standards, which require students to understand credit cards, interest rates and loans.

Typically, Visa holds a launch event when the game is introduced in a state, often bringing along an NFL player to draw attention.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Seneca Wallace talked to students at East High School in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 26 as the game was distributed to schools in the state.

The 29-year-old former Iowa State University star quarterback said he didn't have the luxury of learning about credit card debt and other financial issues early on. He thinks it's important, particularly as high school kids get their first job and even as they enter college and start getting numerous credit card offers.

"You find yourself signing up for credit cards and you don't know what you're getting yourself into," he said.

The Des Moines students responded quickly to the game, Wallace said. Some understood the questions, some need some prompting, but they became quickly engaged.

"Even for me, playing that game was fun. At the same time it's challenging. You get to play a sport you love even though it's computerized, you're in the game but you're learning at the same time."