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Tired of March Madness? Here’s A Final Four That Can Save Your Life

obama2010-march-madness-picks-screenshot-med-wide-sortaDo you have the NCAA bracket buster blues?

The tournament upsets so far have given new meaning to March Madness, no doubt.

Maybe it’s time to play a different game.

The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA) have created an interactive game that mimics the NCAA tournament and allows players to work their way through a bracket of 32 financial goals to address their money issues.

“Identifying and managing priorities is the key to keeping your financial life in order. The NEFE/FPA Financial Four takes the madness out of ranking your fiscal responsibilities,” Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE, said on the endowment’s website. “Everyone wins by participating in this bracket.”

To play, just visit http://www.financialfour.org/ and roll your cursor over the picks in each region (i.e. Emergency Savings, Pay Yourself First, etc.). Each provides a brief summary of what the financial goal aims to do. Next, you click on your choice. Work your way through each round picking teams until you come up with a final winner and then submit your bracket. You will see how your final pick ranks among all the options chosen by financial planners and advisors.

Based on voting results so far, NEFE and the FPA already have identified the 2013 Financial Four:

  • Live Within Your Means. Financial advisors and planners favored this choice by nearly 2-to-1, saying that spending less than you earn and living within your income allowance is the best way to meet financial goals.
  • Protect Yourself with Adequate Insurance. Ensure your financial security by having adequate health, disability, long-term care, auto, homeowners’ and renters’ coverage to protect yourself and your assets.
  • Tackle Debt. Stop procrastinating and create a plan to pay off debt, stop running up new charges, cut expenses and create priorities for reducing the debt.
  • Build an Emergency Savings Account. Nearly everyone knows the old saw about having three to six months of living expenses on hand in case of emergency, but far too many people are living check to check. Rather than blow your tax refund on a vacation or some other “want,” think of depositing that check into an emergency fund.

“It will be interesting to see if the planners and consumers are on the same track,” Ryanne Enyeart, assistant director of consumer services for the Financial Planning Association, told Atlanta Black Star.

Enyeart said the endowment contacted FPA with the idea to link financial advising to the college basketball tournament. The FPA then reached out to financial planners and members for feedback.

The planners filled out their brackets and the results on the Financial Four website.

“You have all these issues and it’s hard to know which one to choose,” Enyeart said.  “And it’s hard to know with the economic climate constantly changing.”

After submitting their brackets, “users are directed to a planner search program and they can search by specialty, for a consultation and they will be given a list of certified planners in their areas based on the specifications they fill in,” Enyeart said.

The game will be available through the conclusion of the NCAA tournament. Results will be tracked to see how closely consumers’ top picks for the Final Four and the ultimate winner are to those of the professional financial planners.

Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”

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