Houston startup launches gamified financial education tool


The fact that the average American struggles to cover a $400 emergency expense shows the urgent need for a better understanding of financial literacy in this country.

But where is the right place to start? What is the best age to start learning about debt, credit, inflation, loans, stocks, index funds and personal finance?

The best time for people to start learning the basics of personal finance and economics is when they’re young, according to Grant Watkins, founder of Earn Your Freedom (EYF) and its startup’s new educational video game, Money Quest. is.

Watkins, a former salesman-turned-entrepreneur, says, “I stress that the biggest advantage children have now is their youth.” “Anyway, we want kids to play our game and learn the value of compound interest. They are young, so start early, plan early, strategize and have fun. Life is work Not only, but the earlier you invest, the more you get later.”

After realizing that it’s best to teach young people sound financial principles, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the best way for them to learn is through educational video games. bottom.

That’s where Money Quest comes in.

Innovative, interactive web and mobile video games, officially launched this month to celebrate Financial Literacy Month, help kids build a strong foundation in money management, economics and investing in a fun and engaging way. Designed to It features challenges and real-world scenarios such as renting your first apartment, opening your first bank account, budgeting at the grocery store, buying stocks and index funds, renting or buying real estate, and more.

They are all set in a fictional city in the game called Prosperity Point.

But before Watkins himself reached Prosperity Point, he was in financial trouble.

The only 27-year-old Katy, Texas, graduate of Oral Roberts University found himself trying to fix his own finances three or four years ago, and immediately knew he needed to be taught how to grow up. I realized that I should have done better. Were it not for all of the various financial obligations that came with it, he could have saved him from racking up thousands of dollars in debt and making other costly financial mistakes.

“After diving into this issue, I said, ‘Well, this is a tough one, but whoever solves this problem, for them, for everyone in society, It would be great,'” he said, living in Beijing, China and working in contract sales before returning to the United States. “So we started working on this idea for Money Quest with a central focus on how we can make financial literacy more attractive.”

In August 2021 on Thread of Ideas, Watkins joined the Houston startup community and started tapping into it. Gamification Advisor Cal started learning how to code so she could build educational video games after instruction from her mirror.

“After it became clear that I couldn’t afford to have someone else do it, I rolled up my sleeves and started teaching myself how to code,” says Watkins. “I started from scratch, learning from free resources like Free Code Camp and Code Academy, and building in the specific programming language that built this game.

“From one small house, we created an 8-bit character, built roads, and now it’s grown into a full-fledged city with banks, grocery stores, and cafes.”

For Watkins, half his job is building games, and the other half is learning how to build them better.

When it came time to pitch Money Quest, he turned to CMO Keely McEnery, a 22-year-old student at the University of Houston’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Grant is a very smart and driven individual, and I am delighted to be on this team. We complement each other very well,” says McEnery. “Money Quest is still a work in progress and has come a long way since its inception. We will continue to add more content to the game each month to create more value all the time.”

The Watkins-McEnnery partnership came at the right time, as they began passing legislation like Texas Senate Bill 1063.

“Before COVID-19, only three states had any financial literacy requirements,” says Watkins. “But now, post-COVID, 17 states have already passed or are in the process of passing financial literacy bills.”

That’s why EYF works hard to ensure Money Quest meets the curriculum requirements of schools across the country.

“All the research currently published on games and education is overwhelmingly positive,” says McEnery. “Things like improved retention rates with gaming education. In fact, it’s dramatically higher.”

Watkins and team are working with school districts like the Texas Department of Education and HISD across Texas, as well as banks that want to connect with local high and middle schools to discuss financial literacy.

“We are the perfect partner to connect with these schools and banks,” says Watkins. “They need to work with us for their Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credits, and it will be much easier for them to use us to connect with their local communities than just use our brochures. increase.”

Watkins continues to bring Money Quest to the masses by experimenting with creative ways to engage supporters of the game, including purchasing special NPCs.

But as EYF began building brand awareness for the game and popularizing school curricula, Watkins said he would give the next generation the knowledge and skills to achieve financial freedom, the highest freedom as far as he is concerned. We continue to stick to our original goals.

“At the end of the day, I want my kids to learn to spend their money wisely, so they don’t spend all their money and go into massive debt in their 20s,” says Watkins. “I would like to see them learn to handle money strategically from the beginning because otherwise it will affect their future.

“I want to instill in them the importance of financial responsibility, wise money management and financial literacy so they can build a better financial future for themselves and their communities. I have.”

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