Helping Military Personnel Achieve Financial Wellbeing

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wanted to safeguard US Armed Forces from financial harm by creating an immersive, digital, and educational game that would coach recruits towards responsible financial wellbeing.

  • 46.5% average debt to income ratio for military members
  • $31,000 average yearly salary for junior personnel
  • 36,000 active service members requested financial help due to debt

Financial Fitness Training Through Gaming

Most don’t think of U.S. Armed Forces personnel as “at risk” before deployment. After all, they receive the benefits of a salary, extensive training, leading-edge equipment, the camaraderie of their peers, and attentive oversight from leadership. However, some enlisted personnel experience a significant delay — from several weeks to a year or more — before service training starts. Young recruits not experienced in money management can fall victim to unwise financial practices during this delay -- purchasing items they can’t afford, taking out risky loans, and financially supporting unhealthy lifestyles.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, tasked with safeguarding US Armed Forces from financial harm, engaged Mad*Pow to improve the financial management education recruits receive by creating an immersive, playful, and educational game that would be highly effective at engaging and coaching recruits during their delay period.

How to Educate and Engage Recruits

Mad*Pow launched the assignment with strategic road-mapping activities conducted with the CFPB, its military advisors, and strategic partners. This helped define project goals, target audiences, and program strategy. Our User Experience research team took that learning to conduct field interviews and ethnographic observations with recruits, military trainers, and military-affiliated financial health educators.  

Through our research, we determined that a mobile game would have to appeal to “digital natives,” foster interest and teamwork between recruits, and provide financial fitness training in a validated, enticing, and effective manner. It also needed to reflect the interests of recruits, the experiences of their trainers, the breadth of financial temptations they might encounter, and a variety of granular scenarios reflecting the “shades of grey” success they might achieve in complex, real-world financial situations.

A Fun Approach to a Serious Subject

Mad*Pow created a game module that presents recruits/players with a car-buying scenario, pitting them against ruthless sales personnel who use common and unfair lending practices to drain the player’s financial resources. Players engage with the car-buying process by choosing their own responses to sales come-ons, print and online advertising, and peer pressure. The complex and granular sales process is presented artfully and playfully through use of dramatic, graphic, novel-style visuals and natural language to add realism.

The game developed by Mad*Pow is now helping recruits learn how to make good consumer choices and avoid bad deals by building their financial muscles and exercising a lifetime of financial fitness.