Pandemic essentials: Breaking through bad money habits


Ignacio R. Bunye Ignacio R. Bunye

When the government first implemented the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) from March 17 to the end of May 2020, a study released by AdSpark, Inc. — a portfolio company under Globe Telecom’s 917 Ventures — revealed that searches and media consumption on personal finance as a topic grew by 800 percent among Filipinos.

Now that the National Capital Region (NCR) and adjacent areas are once again under ECQ, it wouldn’t be surprising if financial stress and recovery would be among the top most searched topics online, as more Filipinos feel the impact of the situation on their finances. The question in the minds of many would be: “How can we best manage our money during these uncertain times?”

In a World Bank (WB) Policy Research Talk in 2017, Bilal Zia, an economist from the World Bank research department, gave an overview of a decade’s worth of research on what works and what doesn’t in boosting households’ financial capabilities. This includes financial education.

This groundbreaking research prompted WB and its partner countries to shift towards people-centric tools to improve the understanding and use of financial services and products. For the WB, “there is an unprecedented opportunity to use entertainment media to change the lives of billions of people, especially in urban areas. Entertainment education or edutainment can be a game-changer for development.”

Following the WB recommendation, BPI Foundation, the social responsibility arm of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), launched a mobile game called “Breakthrough: The Financial Choices We Make.” This is the first-of-its-kind mobile gaming app that has the primary aim of educating Filipinos about personal finance while keeping them entertained.

“Proper financial understanding helps us make better-informed decisions. It helps us manage our money in good times and especially in bad times, just like this ongoing pandemic,” said BPI Foundation Executive Director Owen Cammayo.

Edutainment format

“Breakthrough” is a board game played through an app that allows players to test their skills in personal finance and show how financial choices affect their daily lives. It is available for free on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

“The intent of the game is to make learning about personal financial concepts more accessible, enjoyable, and effective,” said Cammayo. “This is fully aligned with our commitment to empower and enable our fellow Filipinos through financial education.”

Going against Artificial Intelligence (AI) opponents, players roll the dice to travel around the digital board. They will encounter common life events at every turn, and make “adulting” decisions that could affect their score. Should they save? Go on a vacation? Invest in stocks? Get insurance? Throughout the game, players will either amass or lose wealth depending on the path they decide to take.

The player has to make smart and practical decisions to gain the most assets, investments, and FinEd coins, and whoever ends with the highest net worth wins the game. Aside from the actual board game, the foundation said that the app also includes a Financial Wellness Journal, quizzes, and tips for a more immersive learning experience.

With the mobile game format, BPI Foundation hopes to engage senior high school and college students, as well as OFWs and their families, and others who seek to improve their financial literacy. This will help BPI Foundation in guiding ordinary Filipinos towards the proper mindset and behavior when it comes to financial decision-making.

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge and prolonged lockdowns are expected, the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic will continue to be felt into the foreseeable future. Losing money or missing out on opportunities due to uninformed decision-making is the last thing you would want to add to your growing list of worries during this pandemic.

These trying times make it more important to equip ourselves with the necessary skills and knowledge on how to protect and manage our finances. And it’s good to know that there is now a fun way for Filipinos to get it done — to breakthrough and break free from financial anxiety.

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