I have seen a lot of discussion topics on teaching children financial management at a young age so that they will carry the principles with them throughout life. We need better education in the school systems at the elementary level, and parents need to teach money management techniques to their children as well. Where the others have failed, Milton Bradley, the Parker Brothers, and board games have long succeeded.
The Game of Life, otherwise known as just “Life” to many of use, was invested nearly 150 years ago by Milton Bradley. There aren’t many financial tools that were created prior to 1900 that I would still consider relevant to teaching your children financial responsbility. There is no doubt that the game relishes vain, stereotypical, and antiquated financial decisions that I in no way promote. It assumes that we all have to be married, have children, own a home, and choose between going to college or inevitably ending up in a non-galmorous low-pay career.
I bet you didn’t realize the education you can receive from playing a simple board game like Monopoly. This game has been around for over 100 years, and just like the evolving world of personal finance, this game has kept up with the times. Just as the stock market has become an integral part of our retirement savings, Monopoly introduced a version featuring a stock exchange. Personal finance is built on compromise, negotiations, budgets, deal-making, and more. The creators of Monopoly, Hasbro (Parker Brothers), support creating your own house rules to mimic real life within the game. I remember as a child, I would love playing Monopoly with my family. It didn’t take landing on Boardwalk many times before you went bankrupt, but often times we would make deals in exchange for properties rather than the play money. It teaches you about mortgaging, auctioning, and developing properties. The opportunity cost of ownership verus letting others bid on purchasing the forgone property. In fact, the similarities between the real world of personal finance and that of monopoly are near endless. If you want to teach your children about some of the most basic aspects of personal finance in a fun and subtle way, pick up a copy of the game, you might be surprised by what you learn as well. However, in some ways Life was well ahead of it’s time. Despite paying a large sum of money to “attend college”, Life allows the possiblity of you losing your job. That certainly resonates with me as a person with an MBA that was laid off last year. It teaches you a lesson on the costs of having children, as well as the cost of carrying debt, and the value of a college education. Though I don’t know if I’m keen on their investment lesson, since it involves landing on a square and spinning a wheel, it seems more akin to gambling. Regardless, the Game of Life seems to hit on just about every aspect of personal finance in the book, in some ways good, and in some ways bad.
I’m not saying to go out and buy your children these games, and then simply hand them off. You need to sit down and play these games with your kids, help illustrate the important lessons and values to be learned from them. Even the negative aspects of these games can teach a valuable lesson. Just remember, there aren’t many all encompassing financial tools out there to benefit your children that come with a $15 price tag.