Despite the country’s struggling financial situation, educators find it hard to convince people to put down their celebrity magazines and educate themselves about basic finance. So why not combine the two?
Equipped with three degrees from Harvard, including a master’s in business, Professor Peter Tufano recently founded the nonprofit Doorways to Dreams Fund (D2D), which uses new media to teach consumers how to manage their money.
Tufano employs an innovative education tool: video games. Celebrity Calamity, D2D’s first financial entertainment product, is an entertaining video game that aims to give players financial information they can use in daily life. In this game, players become the business manager for three up-and-coming celebrities—Alice Albudget, Buster Buyin, and Missy Moolah—who spend beyond their means. Players must effectively use a bank account, debit card, and credit card to be successful. Statistics show that women aged 18–35 years old play more of these casual games than men do—and that’s Tufano’s target audience.
“We can design the best curriculum in the world, but if nobody is willing to spend time on it, it won’t work,” Tufano told Fast Company. “Our goal in all of these things is to find something people will voluntarily do.”
D2D is working on three more games, including Groove Nation, the first-ever dance-budgeting game. Tufano believes that too many Americans don’t understand the basics about saving and managing their money. One of his goals is to leverage financial innovations to serve the financial services needs of the poor. His work includes field experiments, course development, and statistical research. Fast Company reported that “testers [of Tufano’s games] showed a 15–30% increase in confidence in their financial skills, and a 55–70% improvement in knowledge of concepts like credit limits, credit vs. debit, APR, and finance charges.”