Poker chips

Money Culture

Is Betting on Fantasy Sports Addicting?

“The best adrenaline rush ever,” says one of the barrage of fantasy sports commercials broadcast into living rooms this football season.

An adrenaline rush is known to be a hallmark of addiction to other types of gambling, which can trigger the brain’s pleasure center much like the triggers in a drug addict’s brain, according to University of Cambridge psychologists.

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans are playing fantasy football and other sports online for money. The Internet has made this so accessible that it could facilitate the rapid-fire betting associated with problematic gambling.

Playing fantasy sports is “as easy as ordering a pizza online … [or] texting your friends,” a relapsed gambler told the New York Times. He said he lost nearly $20,000 on football, tennis, and Japanese basketball. And losing is easy but the odds of winning are long: an investigation by the New York State attorney general found that 1 percent of players “receive the vast majority of the winnings” paid out by two prominent sports fantasy websites. …Learn More

Field Work

What’s Up With Women?

The share of women enrolled in college is increasing, and more women are breaking into the top tier of business, government and non-profits.

But at the same time that women are achieving more status than at in any time in history, we still know much less than men about money and finance. What’s up with that?

Financial literacy is important to women, because they live longer and need more retirement savings. Another reason this matters is that women are, according to a recent federal report, more financially vulnerable than men, particularly when they become divorced, widowed, or retired.

Anyone who is not savvy “will have a much tougher time preparing themselves for retirement,” Roger Ferguson, the president of the TIAA-CREF retirement system, said at the retirement research conference in Washington.

In a now-famous survey designed by Annamaria Lusardi, a professor at the George Washington University School of Business, and Olivia Mitchell at The Wharton School, only one in five American women who were asked three simple financial questions got them all right.

And the problem of financially illiterate women is universal. Lusardi recently fielded her survey on a global scale and found the same abysmal results. “Whether you look at the Netherlands or Sweden or Italy or the U.S. – these are very different countries – women know less than men,” she said.

She is, nevertheless, optimistic, because women are also more likely to admit what they do not know. Half of women in a separate U.S. study said they didn’t know the survey answers, while only one-third of men did. This admission can be viewed as “a good thing for women,” Lusardi said.Learn More

Field Work

Middle Schools Vie in Video Contest

The Massachusetts Financial Education Collaborative (MFEC) had one big reason for targeting its video contest to middle school kids: advertising.

“Hey, you gotta have a cell phone. You gotta have these jeans. The contest seemed like a great way to bring awareness” to the issue of kids and our consumer culture, said Andrea Wrenn, mother of five, education consultant, and the MFEC volunteer who oversees the contest.

Two Massachusetts middle schools submitted videos exploring kid consumerism in the first year of MFEC’s contest: the Norwell Middle School and the Hill View Montessori Charter Public School in Haverhill.

Squared Away encourages readers to support the new effort by clicking here to vote for your favorite video! The voting deadline is April 27.

The contest is among the creative ways communities are encouraging children and teenagers to learn about the money issues they deal with – a play recently staged by Cambridge high school students was another.Learn More

Three pictures depiciting various scenes from the play "Money Matters"

Money Culture

Teen Play about Money is “Eye Opening!”

“Money Matters,” a play that opened last weekend in Cambridge, Mass., demonstrated the financial wit of its teenage actors at the same time that they – and the audience – embraced the complexities of money.

Credit versus debt, income differences among classmates, money and relationships, certificates of deposit, needs versus wants – this only scratches the surface of the subject matter in the Youth Underground theater production, which begins touring the Boston area in February.

The actors clearly were having fun, but their performance served as an educational tool that might be replicated. For example, the screenplay was based on the actors and other teenagers’ 80-some interviews of community residents about their financial viewpoints and mishaps. The stories generated ideas for the vignettes that were stitched into a screenplay.

“Very eye-opening!” audience member Cameron Netland, 16, said after the performance.

“I learned the difference between saving and spending and between debit and credit!” said Aaliyah Nathan, 14, who, wearing black suede boots to the performance, admitted a weakness for new shoes. …Learn More