Social Media Can Be An Effective Outreach to Many Borrowers

The national effort to create healthier financial habits among borrowers prompted by the foreclosure crisis is generating social-media-empowered solutions that are expected to help improve the level of financial literacy among Americans.

"We wanted to do something to help," said Doug Lebda, CEO of LendingTree, Charlotte, N.C., which launched two financial literacy initiatives in April.

The LendingTree Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization designed to provide free financial coaching to families in dire need, and AboutFinancialLiteracy.com offers tips and tools for those looking to get their finances on track, such as MoneyRight, an online budgeting device.

Using an open application process the foundation plans to select up to 10 families at a time to participate in its one-on-one Financial Fitness Academy curriculum that lasts several months. Part of the program is the Financial Future Fund, a grant that will offer individual development accounts for participants who have completed the mentoring program.

In addition, LendingTree plans to share their experiences on Facebook and Twitter, in the hope that more people will learn and benefit from their experiences.

And the idea to use social media as an empowering mechanism to spread information homeowners desperately need but may fail to access is becoming popular.

In 2009 the Financial Services Roundtable, Washington, entered into a five-year Joint Framework of Financial Literacy accord with nonprofit Operation Hope starting what the organization called "a landmark industry agreement" designed to demonstrate the financial services industry's commitment to financial literacy.

Roundtable recently redesigned My Money Management, its financial literacy website which now uses social media channels to engage visitors in a dialogue about their personal finances on Facebook and Twitter, and distributes weekly newsletters.

The Financial Services Roundtable represents 100 of the largest integrated financial services companies providing banking, insurance and investment products.

Innovative games like Financial Soccer created by Visa Inc. have helped financial literacy "to expand beyond education, and become an interactive and technology-enhanced experience," says Steve Bartlett, president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable.

Financial Soccer, a free, multilingual video game Visa Inc. launched in September 2009 that combines the world's most popular sport with an award-winning financial literacy curriculum, helped spread the word to millions of people. Over the past seven months leading up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Financial Soccer has been rolled out in 30 countries including the United States.

NYSE Euronext worked with Visa to incorporate stock market related content into Financial Soccer and now uses the game as part of its financial literacy outreach with teachers across the country. The game is available at www.financialsoccer.com and has already been used 1 million times.

Financial Soccer is part of Practical Money Skills for Life, a free, award-winning, financial education program Visa tailored for use at home and in the classroom. The video game was developed in cooperation with the NFL and its players.

While videogames attract viewer interest more easily, simpler video options also help.

Statistics show that up to 80% of Web users regularly watch online video, says Garth Graham, president of Financial Literacy Solutions of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

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