|  Register
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Contest Objective

By participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge, you will learn and practice many real-world money management skills: Paying bills, managing expenses, saving money, investing in retirement and more

We consider three skill areas to be the most important and those determine your individual leaderboard score.

Balancing your current and future cash needs: Maximizing your tax-deferred savings while maintaining enough money in a checking account to pay for bills. Your skill at balancing the present while building for the future is evaluated by the amount of money saved into your 401(k) savings account.

Paying bills on time and on budget: Managing your cash flow on a tight budget.  This skill is evaluated by fee avoidance, with a special emphasis on timeliness of bill payments.

Resourcefulness, understanding and practical application of financial concepts: This means being proactive in searching for information and applying it to your benefit on a quiz, or in communicating with vendor customer service to resolve any unexpected issues that may arise. This skill is evaluated by quiz points and any point rewards from negotiation with customer service.

You may have heard the expression: “Timing is everything.”  In this game, like in real life, timing is at the heart of putting all of these skills together in real time to balance your budget and save for the future.

How to Play

During registration, you will need to read the Information Packet and Vendor Selections details provided to make informed choices for each budget category. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the key terminology for each type of vendor contract. Use the Information Packet to complete your Budget and Cash Flow Spreadsheet (CFS). This will help you build a long term plan and manage your daily inflows and outflows of cash. While you cannot know everything that may happen during the simulation (or life), there is a lot of information you can (and should) use to plan ahead.

Once the simulation starts, you will receive courtesy bill notifications and other scenario information via email, dashboard alerts on the website, and push notifications on the mobile app.

Your responsibilities include:

1)  Reviewing and paying bills on time

2)  Saving money into the 401(k) via direct paycheck contribution

3)  Managing your credit card balance/utilization

4)  Answering quizzes/surveys

5)  Using the Knowledge Base and contacting customer service through the Help Desk for issue resolution.

Every participant in each round is managing the same overall scenario. Your individual leaderboard score is updated nightly. The initial choices for each budget category allow for some flexibility. However, the greatest score differentiator will be your performance in the five areas of responsibility listed above.

Throughout the game, your score will be adversely affected by penalty points, utilization penalties, late fee penalties, outstanding and excessive balance penalties, among others to account for poor financial decisions or mistakes that may lower your credit score or adversely affect your financial standing in other ways.

Stay engaged and execute your plan. Adjust your budget and stay on top of your cash flow, pay your bills on time, manage your credit card balance, and save a responsible amount in your 401(k) retirement savings.

Metrics, Scores, and How to Win

There are several performance metrics tracked during the game:

  • Individual leaderboard score
  • Engagement score
  • Real-World Ready score

These metrics will be used to evaluate your individual performance. It will also be combined with your classmates’ scores to evaluate class average performance.

Leaderboard Score

Score = (Savings & Rewards) – (Fees & penalties) + (Quizzes & Surveys)

You will earn points

  • By saving in your 401(k), 1 point per dollar saved in the 401(k) account or earned in interest. (Includes 401(k) employer match and monthly interest earned on 401(k) or checking account.)
  • By earning interest on your checking account balance.
  • By keeping your credit utilization under 50% each day. Reward is equal to 5 points per day.
  • Quizzes can be taken weekly to earn extra points. To get the points for each question, your answers must be correct.
  • Surveys are provided throughout the game to gather your feedback. To get the points, make sure to answer all of the questions, even the open-ended questions.

You will lose points

  • Per dollar in fees incurred at the bank or any vendor. 
  • Daily score penalty points for each day a bill remains unpaid (after it is late).  These daily penalties may escalate if there are multiple unpaid bills at a given vendor.
  • Daily score penalty points for high credit card utilization.  Starting at a small 15 point per day for credit card utilization at or above 75%.  These score penalties will increase with higher credit card utilization. 
  • Additional penalties may be assessed for irresponsible game play. For example, there is a 1,000 point penalty for getting caught driving uninsured.  

Engagement Score

We want all students to actively participate in the game because we believe in “learning-by-doing.” Even if you lose some points due to mistakes, it is important to keep trying and, in the process, keep learning. There is a huge correlation between “sticking with it” and getting better as time goes on during the game. That is why we developed the engagement score.

Student Engagement = Logging in regularly x Paying bills on time x Taking weekly quizzes

  • Logging in regularly = Logging in within the last 5 days
  • Paying bills on time = No late fees incurred within the last 3 days
  • Quizzes = Taking all available quizzes before they close

Each of these three dimensions are measured as a 1 = yes and 0 = no for each day. All three dimensions need to be equal to 1 to get an engagement score of 1 for that specific day. If any of the dimensions are 0, then you are considered not fully engaged for that day.

Class engagement = total # of engaged students that day / total # of students in the class.

Daily engagement vs. Average Engagement: The system calculates engagement for each student and class daily. It also calculates the cumulative average engagement for each student and class over the course of the simulation.

Real-World Ready

To compare scores across simulations (no two of which are alike), we have developed the Real-World Ready score that measures Behavior, Knowledge and Skill as a percentage of target scores.

Real-World Ready score = Behavior score + Knowledge score + Skill score

Behavior is equal to your cumulative engagement score for the simulation. Target = 100%

  • In layman’s terms: As long you log in at least once every 5 days, pay bills on time and attempt all the available quizzes, the target is achievable.

Knowledge is equal to your percentage of correct answers on quizzes. Target = 100%

  • In layman’s terms: Sum of all points for correct answers on quizzes / Total quiz points available.

Skill is equal to the Leaderboard score as a percent of the target score. Target is approximately half of the maximum score. The target score is less than the actual max score because you do not have the benefit of perfect information going into the game. The simulation has unexpected events (as does real life) and it is unrealistic to expect anyone to obtain a perfect score with that uncertainty built into the scenario. These unexpected events can impact the target score as the scenario unfolds.  It is possible to achieve a Skill score greater than 100%, up to a possible 200%.  

  • In layman’s terms: Leaderboard score / Target Score

Maximum Real-World Ready score  =   100% Behavior + 100% Knowledge + 200% Skill

Legend