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Money Lessons Learned from Monopoly

For many of us, the classic game of Monopoly is a fun pastime for a rainy day. We huddle around the board, shuttling our metal tokens around and around. We roll the dice with excitement, anticipating the purchase of a hot property and dreading the possibility of winding up in jail. Although it may seem purely recreational, the game of Monopoly holds some valuable lessons about money.

Build your assets for the long-term

When I first started playing Monopoly, I used to avoid purchasing many properties. I thought they were very expensive, and I liked having a cash cushion. But as the game wore on, increased rents started to deplete my cash flow. Before I knew it, I was mortgaging the few properties I owned to pay the bills.

In real life, you need to constantly be investing to grow your wealth and protect yourself against inflation. If you just hoard your money, you risk losing it later.

Have a cash cushion

Although it is important to invest, it is also important to be prepared in case of an emergency. When I realized my “cash hoarding” strategy wasn’t working, I moved in the opposite direction. I recklessly bought every property in sight, regardless of expense. I reasoned that in the long run, these properties would pay for themselves. But when I landed on people’s houses and hotels, I didn’t have enough cash on hand. I was forced to mortgage my properties to pay the bills, and ended up losing most of my earning power.

Having a cash cushion can protect you from risks in the real world as well. You can cover short-term costs such as medical bills without selling your investments. Plus, it’ll help you sleep at night knowing you have an additional layer of financial security.

You never know what’s going to happen

In Monopoly, the roll of the dice determines your fate. A single roll could either bankrupt you or help you create a cash cow. Life is no different. There are many variables out of your control, but you must always make the best decision with the information you have.

Monopoly is a lot of fun, but there’s also a lot to learn. The next time you play, think about the decisions you make, and how they can apply to your life. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Vik Tantry runs kanjoh.com, a video blog focused on providing relevant financial information in bite-sized chunks. He writes about topics such as asset allocation and the financial crisis.

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About the author: This is a guest post. You can read more about the author in the biography above.

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • DG July 7, 2009, 8:24 am

    My wife always tells me that Payday taught her about money when she was a kid.

    In Railroad Tycoon (the boardgame, not the computer game), you start with zero money and have to fund your operation by issuing stock on which you have to pay dividends every turn for the rest of the game. You cannot buy it back. I am always amused to see people’s real life debt aversions come into play during this game, usually to their detriment.

    Dan.

  • FT FrugalTrader July 7, 2009, 8:54 am

    Interesting, thanks for the board game suggestions. What other board games teach financial lessons? So far we have:

    Monopoly
    Payday
    Railroad Tycoon

  • Novice July 7, 2009, 11:03 am

    The best game that taught life lessons was RISK.

    1) Attacking is a far better position to be in than defending.
    2) Over-extending your reach is the fast way to lose everything.
    3) Strategic alliances are key. Knowing when to break them is vital.
    4) There can be only one winner.
    5) Taking Australia first is much less important than taking South America first. (ok, that one might not apply to life)
    6) If an opponent has just taken a whole continent, take one country of theirs back just before their turn. (In other words, discern your opponents objectives and react to weaknesses).
    7) Consider a massive strategic retreat and a new direction if previous attempts prove unsuccessful — embrace change.
    8) Make sure you earn a card each and every turn — even a small act of planning can pay big dividends.

  • Ben July 7, 2009, 11:05 am

    Well, there’s the game called Life, but it’s not the greatest for teaching financial lessons. The money just rolls in based only on the luck of the dice. Everyone finishes rich – it’s only a question of how rich you will be. Things just fall into place.

    So I suppose the lesson to be learned from Life, is that life is not like Life when it comes to financial matters!

  • Kwvin Beitel July 7, 2009, 11:08 am

    My wife & I enjoy playing CashFlow 101… I find it more interesting watching others play the game as it usually forecasts their financial habits…

  • cannon_fodder July 7, 2009, 11:36 am

    When my sister and I used to play Monopoly, I almost always won. That was because I was more ruthless, cheated and never took pity. I was the crotchety old banker in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. My sister always placed the nice guy and it cost her.

    I quickly built up hotels on properties and would try to secure all the properties in a section to make it hard for her to pass by. I eschewed the railroads since their upside was so low.

    The point of the game is to bankrupt the other players – there is no partnership building.

    Needless to say while I enjoyed playing it, not many others in my family did!

    The author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad recommends playing it. I bought it a couple of years ago hoping to help teach my daughters who are teenagers about money management (paycheques, rent, etc.) but it doesn’t do a good enough job.

    Perhaps CashFlow 101 would. Hopefully someone can speak to experience with the game and where to get it.

  • DG July 7, 2009, 11:48 am

    This thread wouldn’t be complete without a link to the mother of all board gaming sites:

    http://www.boardgamegeek.com (warning: this site turned me into a board game addict!)

    Looks like CashFlow 101 is only available on eBay for >$100.

    Dan

  • Sampson July 7, 2009, 12:44 pm

    @ Ben,

    the problem I have with the game of Life is that there is nothing in their about poor life choices (read: grad school) – you have to learn that one the hard way, or by heeding Marge Simpson’s advice – too bad it was already too late for me ;)

  • Ray July 7, 2009, 1:11 pm

    I love monopoly! FT I thought when you were in TO we’d play…..

    it’s funny because tomorrows post was exactly on this topic…..i’ll just move it down……..

  • Bromoney Banks July 7, 2009, 2:03 pm

    One more lesson, never stay at Park Place, that place is a total rip-off! :)

  • Ms Save Money July 7, 2009, 3:59 pm

    I love monopoly. Lots of great lessons to be learned from the game. And Park Place is a rip off.

  • Elbyron July 7, 2009, 4:39 pm

    I used to play Stock Ticker when I was young. There’s 6 stocks that go up and down or pay dividends based on dice rolls. While in real life there are cycles and indicators, these stocks are completely random. Still, I was only 9 years old and naive enough to think I could somehow predict the stocks based on their past performance or by picking my “favorites”. It’s a good game to teach kids (about 8 – 12 yrs) about the stock market, and can also be a good lesson in the value of diversification.

  • Maiku July 7, 2009, 7:38 pm

    I love Stock Ticker! When I was in grade 7 they had an entrepreneurial business education group come in and teach us the basics of stocks, production methods, etc. (in retrospect it was one of the best lessons in my elementary school career). In any case, I really wanted to invest in stocks on the VSE and kept bugging my parents to allow me to use my allowance to do so.
    They instead bought me Stock Ticker for my birthday. After losing almost every game I stopped bugging them about investing (not sure if that’s a good thing or not :) ).

    Another great game that I can’t seem to find anywhere is “Cartel”. You start in hometown, and then travel around the world (traveling costs money) to different countries to buy commodities. You can buy them in any continent but each continent has a commodity that is priced super low for buying and super high for selling. However, the places with a high price for selling also had spaces that caused you to lose your commodities (so buying diamonds in Africa and selling in Europe, while the most lucrative was also the most risky). So the lesson there is to buy low and sell high but beware because there is no such thing as quick cash.

  • Mr. Charles' debt guide July 7, 2009, 10:50 pm

    those are good lessons, don’t you think they can be used for helping you paying off debt?

  • R Porter July 8, 2009, 3:07 am

    For sure Monopoly is a fun game. And yes there are some lessons to be learned from this game. Now if you want to become rich. Here is my take no games. Start to save 90 percent of your income. You will have to learn to make do with the basics. Forget stocks and bond, put your money in CD’s.
    Once you reach say one hundred thousand. Start putting cash in Swiss banks.
    This is your best way to get rich, think about , then take action

  • Paw Doc July 8, 2009, 12:10 pm

    For me it was poleconomy, something about a Canadian board game with the possibility to be Prime Minister, buy stocks and bonds, and move around beaver game pieces makes this my favorite boardgame growing up.

    See more at:

    http://www.canadaka.net/forums/games-f22/canadian-board-game-poleconomy-t9144.html

  • Blogging Banks July 9, 2009, 10:14 am

    So can you play monopoly for free on the internet? I have been searching for “free sites” but for some reason I could only find free trials..

  • Kathryn July 9, 2009, 6:00 pm

    Great post! My brother always won when we played monopoly. I was far to worried about running out of money to buy too much. He bought everything and creamed me. Serves me right! Lessons learned late in life.

  • London Rental Man September 4, 2009, 12:38 pm

    Cool comparison with the monopoly game :-D

    @DG Yeah the good old Railroad Tycoon that was a fun game :-P

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