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Quarterback Drew Brees Tackles Financial Illiteracy

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Drew Brees' list of accomplishments is long and impressive: New Orleans Saints quarterback. Super Bowl XLIV MVP. Devoted family man. And now, financial literacy champion.

Brees cites a personal experience for opening his eyes to the importance of money management.

"In my NFL rookie season, I applied for my first mortgage and during the process learned that an unpaid cell phone bill from my junior year in college had negatively affected my credit score," Brees told me. "Fortunately I was still able to secure the loan, but at a much higher interest rate than if I'd had a good credit score. It frustrates me to this day that I didn't understand the importance of my credit score at the time I made those poor financial decisions."

Brees began channeling that frustration by taking a more active role in combating youth financial illiteracy. The statistics he cites are troubling:
  • The average high school senior can answer only about half of basic financial knowledge questions correctly.
  • Although 93 percent of Americans believe all high school students should be required to take a financial education class, only four states require at least a semester-long course in personal finances.
  • Only four in 10 adults understand how to properly calculate how much they'll need to reach their retirement savings goals. Yet for most average earners, Social Security will replace only about 40 percent of pre-retirement earnings.
  • More than one in 10 Americans don't use banks at all, despite the financial advantages they provide.
As you might expect, Brees is taking action. He visits high schools around the country, sharing personal stories, answering student questions and quarterbacking group competitions in Financial Football, a free, educational video game jointly developed by the National Football League and my employer, Visa Inc.

Financial Football combines the NFL's structure and rules with a thousand questions of varying difficulty designed to test students' financial knowledge. To move the ball down the field and score points, players must answer a series of money management questions correctly. Wrong answers cost yardage or loss of the ball.

Brees himself contributed questions for the latest version just released. See whether you can answer the following correctly:

1. Negative financial information (excluding bankruptcy) can stay on your credit report for:
a. Two years
b. Five years
c. Seven years
d. 10 years

2. Which of the following will NOT damage your credit score?
a. Defaulting on a student loan
b. Checking your own credit score
c. Home foreclosure
d. Carrying a credit card balance equal to your spending limit

3. Which are the two most important factors when determining someone's credit worthiness?
a. Payment history and amounts owed
b. Length of credit history and amounts owed
c. Types of credit they currently use and payment history
d. Number of credit inquiries made and amounts owed

Teachers can download free lesson modules for three age levels (11-14, 14-18 and 18 and over) to incorporate the game into their classroom curriculum. For parents, the game provides an opportunity to introduce financial concepts to children in a fun, interactive environment. You can download Financial Football as a free iTunes app playable on your iPhone or iPad, or play online at PracticalMoneySkills.com -- all in English or Spanish versions.

"Financial Football is even being used by the NFL to help teach fundamental personal financial management to the league's rookies," notes Brees.

Financial Football isn't alone. There are several other free, fun financial games your kids can download or play online:
  • You Are Here, an animated site offered by the Federal Trade Commission, where fifth through eight graders wander through a virtual "mall," playing games and learning key consumer concepts such as the impact of advertising, how to spot scams and protect personal information.
  • Hands on Banking, a free, interactive program from Wells Fargo that teaches financial basics and smart money management skills, including dedicated sites for teens and younger kids.
  • The United States Department of the Treasury's Bad Credit Hotel, where visitors to a haunted hotel gather clues on how to avoid bad credit, ultimately leading to a stay in the coveted Room 850 (the top FICO credit score).
  • Jumpstart Coalition's Reality Check, which teaches kids how much they'll have to earn to pay for the lifestyle they want.
By the way, the correct answers to the questions above are: 1 (c), 2 (b) and 3 (a). This article is intended to provide general information and should not be considered tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how tax laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.

Follow Jason Alderman on Twitter: http://twitter.com/PracticalMoney