> Posted by Beth Rhyne

One of the problems with financial education is that many of the targeted audience think it is BOR-ING, and don’t sign up or show up for sessions. Yesterday at the Microfinance USA conference, I listened to several people who are seeking to make financial education more fun, and in the process, ensuring that it will have a bigger effect on actual behavior.

First, Brooke Berman from  Innovations for Poverty Action (www.poverty-action.org) described how their projects put randomized control trials and behavioral economics to work to design products to motivate clients to save.  An IPA-designed commitment savings account might send you messages about the value of savings and at the same time warn you if you fall off track to meet your goals. It might even tell your (pre-selected) friends if you fall behind. This is not necessarily fun, but it does combine the behavioral economists’ popular idea of nudges with messages about why savings is a good idea.

Squarely in the fun category is www.financialentertainment.org, which creates video games to teach financial education messages.  Care to learn about saving your money in the context of a vampire-themed game?  Try “Bite Club”. Timothy Flacke, from Doorways to Dreams,  said that people stay with a video game much longer than they would stay with a conventional online financial education curriculum, absorbing more of the messages.

Most fun of all was PiggyMojo, a program for couples and small groups who want to help each other save.  As described by CEO Jayson Halladay, Piggymojo (www.piggymojo.com) rewards people for saving not only when they actually put money aside, but also when they resist the temptation to buy something frivolous.  Messages go back and forth among the participants, creating a virtuous competition for people to be seen by their peers or spouse as successful savers.  The name PiggyMojo alone is enough to make me want to sign up.

These approaches all illustrate the broadening of thinking about financial education and financial literacy to “financial capability” in which not only knowledge but also attitude, motivation, and behavior are all taken together. Makes a lot of sense, and much more fun.