Learning Personal Finance the Fun Way

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.

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13 thoughts on “Learning Personal Finance the Fun Way

  1. JT McGee

    I love Monopoly!

    It really is a great way to teach people the basics of personal finance, and even institutional finance and economics. Heck, I’d say its a great intro to risk management, too.

  2. retirebyforty

    I used to play “Life”, but I don’t remember anything else about that game. Monopoly always started fights. Someone would cheat or get bored or something… There must be a better money game out there.

  3. krantcents

    Games are very important! They can teach some financial skills and a lot of soft skills which are important for your success. In fact, I wrote a post discussing the importance of games a few months ago.

  4. Hunter

    My kids are crazy about UNO at the moment. We purchased the kid’s version of Monolopy last year. We play it only occasionally, but it’s still good fun. Like you say, games are a great way to teach valuable skills.

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  6. Marie @ familymoneyvalues

    Monopoly and Life are great choices. We use Cash Flow 101, Cash Flow for kids, Thrive Time and Hot Shot Business as well to teach our grand kids. Check out the games I have on familymoneyvalues under the resources tab and on the ‘play’ menu item!

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  8. Christina N

    I have to say, the best thing monopoly taught me is that “You have to HAVE money to MAKE money!” I was always very bitter about those property owners with hotels on them!

    Even today, into my 20’s this still holds true, and I’m still bitter as I’m commonly reminded of those school loans…

  9. Kris@HerniaSurgerys

    Agree that such board games are great learning tools. When you have fun, you are more motivated, learn better and remember things better. And the best thing is that children see learning as something to look forward to and not a chore!

  10. Amy M

    I never really stopped to think about it but yes, Monopoly is a really great teaching tool regarding finances. It is a great way to get kids thinking about money, applying decision making skills and learning the value of money. It is so important to learn how to properly manage our money so we don’t end up in real bankruptcy!

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