Financial freedom is a goal many set for themselves but doesn’t always know how to achieve. Quality education and a great job do not guarantee financial freedom – financial literacy does. But unfortunately, many people lack such literacy.
The lack of financial literacy is a problem that runs deep even in the US, despite its global status as an economic powerhouse. The Milken Institute, a US think tank, in its 2021 report “Financial Literacy in the United States,” describes the situation as “worrisome.”
According to the report, financial literacy levels in the US have shown slight improvement over time. Financial literacy gaps among adults and youth persist across racial, gender, and socioeconomic lines. Moreover, the disparities in financial literacy in the US are markedly greater than those in other developed countries.
The report, citing data from Standard and Poor’s 2014 Global Financial Literacy Survey and the 2018 results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), includes these statistics:
- From Standard and Poor: Only 57% of US adults are financially literate. Along gender lines, financial literacy is higher for men (62%) than women (52%). Along socioeconomic lines, financial literacy is higher for adults in high-income households (64%) than those in low-income households (47%).
- From PISA: On a financial literacy scale of 1000 points, 15-year-old students in the US scored an average of only 506. Only 12% earned the highest proficiency level of 5, while 16% scored below level 2.
Students from higher-income households scored 98 points higher than those from low-income households. In addition, white and Asian students in the US scored higher than the US average at 532 and 554 respectively, while Black and Hispanic students scored much lower than the average at 446 and 475, respectively.
From 2012 to 2018, US students’ scores showed no change, statistically. These findings are borne out by data from the 2020 TIAA Institute-GFLEC Personal Finance Index (P-Fin Index), also cited by the Milken Institute report.
The survey, conducted annually by the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America Institute and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center, contains questions covering eight aspects of financial literacy presented in real-life situations.
Only half of the survey questions, on average, were correctly answered by US adult respondents, indicating that many US adults cannot make sound or knowledgeable financial choices in a broad range of real-life contexts.
Why is financial literacy important?
Financial literacy consists of two components: knowledge and skills related to financial management, and an emotional and psychological disposition for seeking out and applying such knowledge and skills when making decisions on money and personal finances.
Financial literacy is the key to making sound financial decisions. It is even more important today because more diverse and complex financial services and products have become available to people. However, without the knowledge and skills to make informed financial choices, many risks making costly mistakes that could negatively impact their future.
Among developed countries, these potential risks are most concerning in the US, where individuals rather than the state shoulder a greater share of the responsibility for education and health care for themselves and their dependents.
The US also has among the weakest social safety nets among developed countries. As a result, Americans have to take on most of the risks from their financial decisions without the buffer of state support to make them more resilient when financial disasters hit them. To avoid such disasters, Americans must raise their levels of financial literacy.
Basic financial literacy is expressed in having and using various skills related to personal finance management. Among the key elements of personal finance management are budgeting, saving and investing, and managing debt and credit. These elements are interrelated.
Budgeting is planning how money is spent, to balance expenses with income. It is about allocating portions of your income, after taxes, for different types of expenses, for savings and investments, and for paying debts or donating.
A popular formula used as a budgeting aid is the 50-30-20 “rule” .Where 50% of post-tax income is allotted for needs (e.g., utilities, rent or mortgage payments, groceries, minimum debt repayment, health care, insurance), 30% for wants (non-essential, optional expenses), and 20% for savings and investments. Other variants of this rule are in circulation, reflecting efforts to find ways to meet needs, wants, and obligations while staying “within budget.”
Budget rules also help ensure that money is set aside regularly for savings and investments, the linchpins of financial freedom. For example, a savings account must include at least three months’ worth of emergency funds as a buffer for job loss or other contingencies. Additional funds should be set aside for retirement and other financial goals.
Investing involves risks and rewards. The safest investment instruments are bonds. In ascending order of risk, other instruments are mutual funds, ETFs, and stocks. To reap financial rewards from investing, it is important to study these instruments, understand how they work, and make investment choices founded on accurate and timely information.
Keeping track of debt (how much is owed and to which entities) and available credit (how much can be borrowed and from which entities) are crucial to financial health.
In general, managing debt and credit starts with avoiding or limiting debt by keeping expenses within budget, and wisely choosing when and for what purpose to use credit. Fully understanding debt or credit payment terms and keeping payments up to date are best practices for keeping out of money troubles.
With financial literacy so essential to individuals’ and families’ present and future financial stability, learning how to manage money should be one of the top priorities of every adult. Teaching kids about money, its value and management, should also be one of the top priorities of parents and educators alike.
Fortunately, there are fun ways to teach and learn financial literacy. Numerous money recognition and money management games, most of them online, are now available for players of all ages. A good number of these games can be used to augment lessons learned in school.
Following is a guide to 47 financial literacy games you may want to try.
Online Games for Young Kids
Teaching kids about money doesn’t have to be serious, boring, or complicated. After all, you still want your children to enjoy their childhood, and money problems should still be years away from their minds.
But providing them with financial education as soon as possible would significantly help them in their adult life. You can start your kids’ financial education with financial literacy games for children.
Here are some money games that you can play with your child:
1. Cash Puzzler
Cash Puzzler is a perfect financial literacy game for kids aged 3 to 6. It is simple, fun, and engaging, while also teaching your child about money. This is a simple memory game where the child must arrange jumbled puzzle pieces to form a picture of a dollar bill. The dollar bill puzzles are in various denominations from $1 to $100.
This financial literacy game would help familiarize your child with different dollar bills. They can also learn fun facts about the person printed on the bills and start recognizing paper money as their first learning step.
2. Counting with Coins
Ready to level up your kid’s familiarization with money? Counting with Coins is a fun and engaging money game set in a grocery store. In addition, various money mini-games are available on such topics as recognizing dollar coins, adding and subtracting money, and even a touch of budgeting.
Counting with Coins is perfect for ages 5 to 10 since the game teaches the most basic money management skills. It is a game that can give children practice in handling finances appropriate for their age.
3. Making Change
This educational game is perfect for kids aged 5 to 10. Making Change lets your child customize or recreate a coin, engaging their creativity while teaching them how coins are designed at the US Mint.
Through this game, your child gets to know about the metals that coins are made of and the various elements that go into their design, such as faces, words, coin values, symbols, year of minting, and so on.
4. Peter Pig’s Money Counter
Another fun financial literacy game is Peter Pig’s Money Counter which help 5- to 8-year-old kids learn about counting and saving money. This game also teaches kids to budget by buying accessories in the virtual store to dress up Peter Pig.
Peter Pig’s Money Counter is excellent for teaching players how to save money and budget their finances to buy things they want.
5. Wise Pockets
This financial literacy game is playable by kids, parents, and teachers! This game covers different topics, from the most basic concepts like earning income, to more complicated ones such as credit. Wise Pockets is excellent to use as an educational game for ages 5 to 10 since it teaches financial concepts effortlessly and understandably.
Wise Pockets also teaches parents and teachers how they can teach their young ones financial concepts. It offers tips and strategies for teaching kids about saving, spending, earning, and credit.
6. Fruit Splat Coins
The Fruit Splat Coins game is great for kids aged 5 to 10. This game allows the players to add the coins shown on the screen then shoot the fruit that matches the total of the coins. This game is great for teaching students or young kids how to count their money to buy something, greatly enhancing their financial and Math skills.
7. U.S. Mint Coin Classroom
U.S. Mint Coin Classroom is a government website that young learners, parents, and teachers can access. This website holds a variety of financial games that are all fun and engaging, and suitable for kids aged 5 to 10.
This website also has videos and online resources that adults can easily use to teach kids basic finance concepts in fun and exciting ways. All the games on the website are informative and educational, and teach different components of financial literacy.
8. Break the Bank – Sorting
This money game is perfect for children to learn about dollar coins and bills. This helps 5- to 8-year-olds familiarize themselves with money, learn about monetary values, and identify the historical figures featured on the coins and bills.
Break the Bank – Sorting is played by breaking the piggy bank containing the money, sorting coins, bills, or a mix of coins and bills according to their value.
9. Money Bingo
Children around 5 to 10 years old will have fun playing Money Bingo! It makes the players count coins or bills and select their corresponding value in the virtual bingo card. It enhances a child’s mathematical skills and helps in their familiarization with US money.
10. Dolphin Feed
This is a perfect game for 7- to 8-year-old kids that gives the players practice in counting money. In Dolphin Feed, players compete with each other as dolphins. Whoever selects the correct coins and answers fastest will win!
11. Escape from the Barter Islands
This fun money game helps kids understand the concept of money, which is perfect for starting their financial education. Escape from the Barter Islands also helps them learn about the bartering process and realize its pros and cons.
Children around 5 to 8 years old will be the perfect audience and players for this game. Make sure that you also guide them in playing the game since it involves some reading.
Online Games for Pre-teens and Teenagers
Financial education gets more complicated as your children grow up. By ages 11 to 18, students can comprehend more complex concepts related to money management, debit and credit, and budgeting strategies.
Letting your pre-teens or teenagers play games for younger children would only bore them. However, teaching them directly about money would probably be exhausting. No worries, since there are now money games available online that are perfect for these age groups!
1. Financial Football
Trying to get your pre-teens or teenagers to learn about finances might be harder since they now have a lot of interests, such as sports. Financial Football is the perfect money game for them if they love playing and watching football games. It incorporates personal finance teachings into a game of football!
While playing a classic online football game, your kid will also learn about money management, such as saving, budgeting, spending, and even investing! Learning materials for ages 11 to 18 are also available to help teachers integrate the game with their financial literacy lessons.
2. Financial Entertainment
If you are looking for a website where you can access various financial literacy games for middle school students, visit the Commonwealth Financial Entertainment section. All the financial games available are free and developed by Commonwealth. They cater to ages 11 to 14.
Financial Entertainment teaches students about personal finance and increases their capability to handle their money, helping them build self-confidence.
3. The Stock Market Game
Are you looking for ways to teach your child about the stock market? The Stock Market Game and program helps learners around 15 to 18 years old learn about investing. It is designed to improve a learner’s financial capability, investing skills, and analytic skills related to the stock market and current events.
Stock Market Game gives each user a virtual $100,000 to invest in a simulated stock and bond market. This lets the students practice their investing and trading skills while enhancing their ability to do fundamental and technical analysis.
4. Shady Sam
Young people’s financial education should not focus only on basic personal finance skills like budgeting, saving, and investing. They should also learn about borrowing and credit. Shady Sam is the perfect game to teach 13-to-18-year-old high school students about loans, interest rates, and debt.
This game allows the player to play as a loan shark to learn how the loan trade works and the potential risks in loan terms. The goal is to make a high profit by lending your money to the people in the game.
5. Lights, Camera, Budget!
One of the best games you can let your kids play is Lights, Camera, Budget! This money game teaches learners how to budget their money and handle their finances well. This particular game is available for middle school and high school learners aged 11 to 18.
Lights, Camera, Budget! is a game where you will act as a movie producer with a $100 million budget to create the best movies. It involves making different financial decisions like saving, spending, and investing.
6. Misadventures in Money Management
If your kid is interested in playing and reading, Misadventures in Money Management is a graphic-novel-themed game perfect for teens aged 13 to 18. This interactive graphic novel game teaches learners about money management strategies and skills, and covers such topics as credit, wealth building, impulsive purchases, sales tactics, etc.
The game allows players to choose a character that has a particular money problem to solve. It is also worth noting that this game was developed primarily for US service members but is still playable by students.
7. The Uber Game
Side-hustling or doing gigs is the theme of this money game. It gives young learners an idea of what it is really like to do jobs in the gig economy to make ends meet. It is perfect for introducing students 15 to18 years old to some financial realities that they should be aware of.
The Uber Game is based on the experiences of real-life Uber drivers. The game puts the player in the role of an Uber driver with an urgent financial need. The challenge is to earn enough to meet that need within a week.
8. Claim Your Future
This game allows students to get some idea of their financial situation if they pursue the career they have in mind. Claim Your Future teaches students to set expectations, learn about their assumed annual salary, and make a budget. This game is perfect for students around 15 to 18 years old, or those already considering specific careers.
9. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Games for Students
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Education page contains various in-classroom financial literacy activities with downloadable learning resources that parents and teachers can use to guide their children. The financial learning materials teach different money concepts, and can accommodate middle school and high school learners aged 11 to 18.
10. Various Game-Based Learning Financial Games (University of Ohio)
The Financial Literacy and Money page on the University of Ohio’s website offers teachers several links to financial literacy games and learning resources catering to middle schoolers (11 to 13 years old) and high schoolers (14 to 18 years old). The games teach a range of topics from recognizing and counting money, to financial management skills like saving and budgeting.
Payback is a great game for high school and even college students! This game gives ideas on paying back your student loan and making financial decisions to keep your debt low. The gameplay is scenario-based, and you have options for the decision path. Your task is to keep your debt low while still enjoying your student life.
This financial game lets students know how hard it is to live from paycheck to paycheck. It will also help them realize how crucial it is to prioritize needs over wants. Spent is best suited for students around 14 to 18 years old.
The STAX money game is perfect for middle school and high school learners aged 14 to 18. This teaches them about the power of compounding interest and investing. STAX gives players a 20-year term in the play within which they can build wealth through different forms of investments like bonds, index funds, gold, stocks, and more.
14. The Payoff
Help the two video bloggers make decisions, handle their finances, and deal with unexpected events. This immersive financial game helps learners make good financial decisions, apply money management skills, and handle real-life situations. The Payoff is an excellent financial game for learners aged 14 to 18.
15. Credit Clash
Credit Clash is a money game that teaches 14-to-18-year-old learners the concept of credit and how they can build their credit score. This money game is fun, interactive, and very engaging to use to build students’ knowledge of loans and credit.
16. Balance your Checking Account
Accounting skills are important personal finance skills for learners. This checking account simulation game called Balance your Checking Account helps learners practice their accounting skills. They need to input all the cash flow in the checking account and try to balance it.
17. Get a Life
Get a Life simulates real-life situations related to college life and career choices. Players make financial decisions related to budgeting, saving, investing, and others, as they guide their characters in building a life.
The game is available to teachers upon request, for free, on the Game-Based Learning page of the University of Oklahoma’s website. It is ideal for high school students aged 14 to 18.
18. The Stock Market Game
The Stock Market Game teaches students the fundamentals of investing and how to put their money to work for them. In addition, it enables players to immerse themselves in a real-world scenario where they can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in various subjects at school.
The game is recommended for students 18 years old and above. It is designed for use as an educational resource by teachers, though students can also play it on their own. If you are a parent with kids younger than 18, you may register as “Teacher with Classes.”
19. Balance My Budget
This fun game teaches the basics of budgeting. Balance My Budget gets the player to apportion a given amount of money into three categories of expenses – Want, Need, and Give – and Savings. The goal is to use the money without overspending or underspending, thus keeping the budget in balance.
This game is ideal for 14- to 18-year-olds. It teaches the value of creating a budget and spending responsibly.
MoneyTrail is another budgeting game that teaches the importance of making good lifestyle choices. On each click, the player is given a choice of two items to spend on, one more expensive than the other. There are also stages where the player chooses between self-indulgence and giving, and between working for extra cash and spending on leisure.
The game shows students how lifestyle choices can affect their budgets. MoneyTrail is most suitable for 14- to 18-year-olds.
21. Let’s Deal
Let’s Deal is a game that teaches players the convenience and usefulness of money. In the game, the player follows a character, Jayden, as he goes from one market stall to another trying to exchange his load of firewood for eggs, bread, and bananas.
Jayden’s attempt to make a deal fails each time. Meanwhile, another character, Piper, succeeds in buying what she wants because she pays with money. Let’s Deal is great for teaching 11- to 14-year-olds the purpose of money and the right ways to use it.
22. Hit the Road
This financial game takes students on a virtual road trip across the country to learn how to manage money properly. Hit the Road teaches students the value of saving and spending wisely. They can learn the importance of budgeting, prudent spending, and debt management. Thus, it is most suitable for 14- to 18-year-olds.
Online Budget Simulations for High School Students
Bring a budget to life by having your children undergo a budget simulation and see if they can make ends meet.
High school students frequently struggle with low income, poor financial literacy, compulsive spending, and high debt levels. Encouraging your children to engage in real-world financial decisions would teach them the importance of budgeting. You can fuel their progress to financial education by stimulating them with cash games suited to their age group!
1. Money Magic
Money Magic challenges students to budget Enzo’s money so he can save the $50,000 he needs to travel to Las Vegas and perform at a venue. This is a great game for 17- to 19-year-olds who love helping people! Players have to budget for the following spending categories: Advertising, Enzo’s Needs, Maintenance, Vegas Fund, and Magic Shop Fund.
This game is already described in the preceding section, but it also belongs in this category because it is an excellent simulation game. Spent gives young people a greater awareness of the difficulties of living with limited means. It can also foster empathy for those in need, as they begin to grasp how someone might wind up on a street corner, asking for money.
Players are informed that they are unemployed, have lost their home, and are down to their final $1,000, and they have to get through the month on that amount. Challenge your 14- to 18-year-olds and see if they can do it!
3. Hit the Road
Hit the Road is already described under the section “Online Games for Young Kids” in this article, but also appears here because it is a simulation game. Players take a cross-country road trip in which they have to budget their funds to keep themselves fed and their car fueled, and deal with contingencies along the way.
This game challenges kids to stick to their budget and save enough money to get to their destination. This is ideal for your 14- to 18-year-olds who love traveling!
Online Simulations Games – Personal Finances
Financial literacy simulation games are crucial because they give your kids the knowledge and skills to manage their money effectively. Without such knowledge and skills, their financial decisions and actions might not help them attain independence and success.
Adult life is difficult, children are costly, and planning and conserving money is essential. The use of simulations to teach students financial literacy and life skills is recommended, and these financial games can help.
1. Personal Finance Lab’s Stock Game
Personal Finance Lab’s Stock Game teaches students to make smart financial decisions and manage a monthly budget. Furthermore, it teaches them how to balance risk and grow their wealth. Students need to know how to manage their money effectively and efficiently. This is well-suited for 17-to-19-year-olds.
2. The Stock Market Game
The Stock Market Game has already been described earlier in this article, but also appears here because it is a simulation game. It brings players into realistic investment scenarios where they have to apply knowledge and skills taught at school in making financial decisions.
The game helps students develop good financial habits and values. The game is best for students aged 18 and above.
3. How the Market Works
How the Market Works is a completely free virtual stock market simulation that allows students to experience investing before committing to real money. Every year, almost 400,000 people use HTMW.
Students can customize and set the best contest dates for their class schedule. There are initial cash amounts and other contest conditions such as commission rates. This game is well suited for students aged 18 and above.
4. Fantasy Stock Exchange
This is a fantastic online game designed specifically for the young. Students can experience the real stock exchange, choosing which companies they want to invest in. In Fantasy Stock Exchange, they are given ten virtual shares and become a Fund Manager. This is great for students 11 years old and up.
5. Build your Stax
This simulation investment game, already described earlier in this article, allows students to select from different investment alternatives. Build your Stax can be played by a class or by individuals, and is best suited for 14-to-18-year-olds. The game offers players 20 years (20 minutes of game time) to save for retirement by investing their money in various ways.
6. Finances 101
Finances101 is a decision-based online money game that simulates real-life situations where crucial financial choices have to be made. This game teaches students about earning, paying taxes and bills, coping with household expenses, and other aspects of an adult’s financial life.
This financial game can expand students’ prior knowledge about finances. It is ideal for 14- to 18-year-olds.
Financial Literacy Board Games for Teens
To become financially literate adults, teens need to begin to understand such concepts as budgeting, investing, borrowing, taxation, and personal financial management. There is a board game that introduces them to these concepts.
Act Your Wage! Board Game
In Act Your Wage! Board Game everyone starts off in debt. Each participant is assigned a life identity, which determines how much they earn and how much debt they have. The game demonstrates to players how disruptive debt can be and how to work through it. This is recommended for 10- to 18-year-old students.
Online Games for Adults
Financial literacy education is not just for children. Adults, above all, need to develop their understanding of financial concepts and their ability to manage debt, credit, and other matters related to their financial lives. So here are a couple of financial literacy games for adults.
Charge! gets the player to go shopping for items. For each virtual purchase, the player types in their credit card’s Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and how much they intend to pay per month. They then click on a dialog box to see how much their purchase will actually cost if bought on credit. There are links within the game that lead to further information on credit-related topics.
Charge! is the perfect game for bringing home the truth about charging purchases to your credit card: the purchases will cost you more over time. It’s suitable for adults of all ages. If you’re old enough to use a credit card, you’re old enough to play this.
2. Check it out!
Check it out! first gets the player to select their education level (high school or college graduate), then their monthly income for that education level. The game then takes the player through a month’s worth of bills, everyday expenses, and contingencies.
The player has purchase and payment decisions to make at each stage of the game. Their goal is to make it through the month with no unpaid bills and without overspending. This is an excellent game for adults of all ages. Students who intend to live away from home should play this game too. It will help prepare them for the challenges that come with independence.
Being financially educated leads to increased financial security, which in turn leads to a better quality of life. By learning the basics of personal finance management, you can ensure a more stable future for yourself and your loved ones. It’s never too early or too late to develop financial literacy. So play some games and learn some lessons now!