Financial Football Tackles Financial Literacy

By Eric Reed

CHICAGO ( MainStreet) --Following its seventh annual Financial Literacy and Education Summit, the Federal Reserve lightened the mood with a visit from Hall of Famer and former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus. The gridiron legend came by to introduce the newest version of Financial Football, a computer game put together by the Federal Reserve and Visa, Inc. to educate children about the realities of the marketplace.

"I know a lot of you students probably never heard of me," Butkus joked to an auditorium packed with local high school students who, based on their cheers, most certainly had.

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Students from Lindblom and Theodore Roosevelt high schools in Chicago attended the event and split into two teams to play a demo game. As staff loaded the presentation behind him, Butkus spoke to the students about the importance of paying attention to finance and budgeting even at a young age. He even credited his start as a football player to good influences about his money at an early age.

"At 14 I lied about my age and I was a furniture mover--I got 16 bucks a day," Butkus said. " My girlfriend worked at a bank, and she was the one who knew how to deposit. So I was able to work and save so that during the high school football season I was able to practice."

Not everyone is lucky enough to have such role models early in life however, as Butkus pointed.

"I was talking to a current NFL player," he said. "He guaranteed me that 80% of the guys who are playing today, they're going to go bankrupt in three year. It's a deal where people think it'll never end. It's like your career, you think it'll never end."

But of course, it always does, and without proper planning, it's easy to end up like those football players who make millions of dollars only to find themselves back in their parents' basement by age

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Financial Football tries to make the learning experience more fun, in an effort to reach students before they grow up and have the opportunity to start making mistakes. According to Visa, the game has been played more than 650,000 times online, reaching a wide audience of young people and stoking a competitive edge.

Many aspects mirror a traditional football video game. Wednesday's demonstration pitted the Chicago Bears against the Greenbay Packers. There's a flip of a virtual coin to kick or receive, and each team selected its plays. After that, the game peppered the students with questions to test their knowledge of personal finances, opening by asking for the definition of "capital" as used in relationship to credit. Right answers gained the players yardage and, eventually points.

Members of the morning panels, including some of the most prominent economists in the world, sat in as lifelines for the students if they got stuck. Ultimately, and unfortunately in this sports town, the student-led Bears lost to Green Bay, although this reporter thought they were robbed.

"Excessive debt can sometimes cause someone to," the team was prompted, losing a chance to score by answering "flee the country." Maybe the right answer was "declare bankruptcy," but that doesn't mean this reporter hasn't seen the former as well.

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