Let's get fiscal with Budgetball!
By Kevin Gaudet
In the United States there is a new game growing in popularity that combines financial learning and physical exercise. It is called Budgetball. Given the state of our federal and provincial finances, it is time Budgetball came to Canada.
Budget Ball. It is more than just a mental game. It is a way to learn how to manage money. Budgetball is an active sport of quick passes, tough defense, and bold comebacks designed to increase awareness of the national debt and reward strategic thinking and collaborative problem-solving around the issues of fiscal responsibility.
The game is played between two teams of 6 to 10 people on an area roughly the size of a basketball court. In order to win, players must use compromise and persuasion to achieve a consensus about debt and savings. During a game, teams score points by passing the ball to a player in the end zone, while strategically managing their Budgetbucks. Budgetbucks may be borrowed, earned or spent by taking advantages such as an extra offensive player or by taking team sacrifices such as wearing oven mitts during play. To win, a team must creatively and responsibly use debt and savings to gain sufficient advantage over their opponents and score more points.
Financial literacy may sound boring but it is an important topic that our federal Finance Minister has chosen to work on – trying to help improve knowledge levels on financial issues. In Budget 2009 he announced that he would establish measures to help consumers of financial products, including launching a task force on financial literacy. The Task Force on Financial Literacy will make recommendations on improving the coordination of financial literacy efforts, outlining a national strategy.
Financial literacy is an important life skill. Canadians make financial decisions throughout their lives, many of which involve significant risks and rewards. Improving financial literacy helps consumers act knowledgeably and with confidence in managing their personal financial affairs. Informed consumer decision-making, in turn, contributes to the maintenance of a well-functioning and stable financial system and a stronger economy.
Simply put, the better one learns to manage one's own finances the better the economy can work as a whole. When people don't do a good job of managing their own finances it can have dire consequences. Look at the recent financial meltdown in the U.S., for example.
One of the large and underreported drivers of the recession in Canada, and especially in the United States, is the large amount of debt taken on by individuals. With stronger financial literacy people would likely assume less risky and less total debt than they have in the past decades. As well, people would better understand the impacts of large government deficits and growing debt loads.
Reversing the trend of growing debt is important. There are numerous initiatives currently underway to improve financial literacy in Canada. All levels of government and many private sector and non-profit organizations are supporting financial education. For example, there are in-school education programs in certain provinces and budget counseling provided by many volunteer organizations.
In typical government fashion the federal Task Force will conduct consultations and meet with experts in order to develop recommendations and to issue a report in the fall of 2010.
In stark contrast to this government approach, Budget Ball is gaining popularity in the United States. It is being championed by a coalition of not-for-profits groups led by the National Academy of Public Administration. There have been tournaments played on university and college campuses across the country. Even Las Vegas junior high school teachers have held a tournament to increase their financial literacy.
By playing Budget Ball students gain financial knowledge while playing a sport. Minister Flaherty should add 'getting fiscal' into his financial literacy plan.