Personal Finance Really Is Fun and Games

BOSTON ( MainStreet) -- Personal finance experts always say early education is crucial for money management success later in life, and games, for everyone from pre-schoolers to college kids living off loans and mom and dad's generosity -- can be the spoonful of sugar needed to swallow a dose of education.

Lessons can creep almost undetected into video games such as The Sims, Roller Coaster Tycoon and World of Warcraft that stress strategy, planning and, in their own way, money management.

Of a more intentional nature, U.S. Bank ( USB) has partnered with Build-A-Bear Workshop ( BBW), through its online, virtual town of Bearville to teach kids the fundamentals of banking. Kids can play with "Bear Bills," deposit and withdraw them via virtual ATMs, learn how to count change and even earn make-believe interest with a certificate of deposit., a government site, features games and tools designed to teach children about saving, spending and earning money.

The Council for Economic Education offers the virtual world of Gen I Revolution. The online game consists of 15 interactive missions in which students complete a variety of activities to help them learn personal finance concepts. In "Angela Faces the 401(k) Challenge," a character questions the benefit of planning when retirement is "so far in the future." The player's is to "convince Angela to invest in a 401(k) plan now to build wealth over the long term," and the game incorporates lessons on compound interest and saving.

Earlier this month, Visa ( V) launched Financial Football, a free video game paired with a curricula for high school and middle school students in 34 states as part of Practical Money Skills for Life, a free financial education program.

Financial Football "puts students' fiscal knowledge to the test in an online simulation game environment by combining the structure and rules of the NFL with financial education questions of varying difficulty," said Santana Moss of the NFL's Washington Redskins at a launch event in Washington, D.C. Visa has also released the game as a free Apple ( AAPL) iPhone app on iTunes, along with an optimized HD iPad version.

With shopping days left until Christmas drawing to a close, we took a look at some games available for children -- naughty and nice alike -- who would benefit from some covert lessons in personal finance, business and all manner of money matters.

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