Playing Monopoly is a great way to teach your kids about money. The key is to make sure your kids learn the valuable money lessons embedded in the game. This is really important as most adults today probably know what they need to do in order to win at Monopoly but very few apply these lessons to the real world.
In this blog, I go through the key lessons about money from Monopoly and how to teach your kids to apply these in the real world. I’ve also included some bonus tips for you so can keep winning, even if you teach your kids the key lessons below.
Opening the conversation about money with your kids
Before you start playing your next game of Monopoly with your kids, I’d recommend you have a quick conversation with them about money. As part of this, I encourage you to get your kids to think of money like seeds. Their goal is to plant some of their seeds (save/invest) and grow their own financial forest.
Using money as seeds helps kids visualize money now and, importantly, into the future (as they picture their forest growing). It also provides a simple language which is fun and easy to connect to many different money lessons, as I highlight throughout this blog.
For the purpose of this blog, I will be referring to the board game version of Monopoly. That being said, I need to make sure that you know about Monopoly Deal. Monopoly Deal is the card game version of Monopoly.
The best thing about Monopoly Deal is that it only takes about 10-15 minutes to play one game (rather than the hours it can take to play the board game). I would highly recommend you buy this version. We take it with us and play whenever we are out and have a long wait. Also, younger kids can play it. I played it with my daughters when they were just 5 years old. Many of the strategies I set out below apply to Monopoly Deal. Check it out here.
Lesson 1: Don’t spend all your money
Monopoly teaches us the need to hold some cash at all times. If you start by simply buying every property you land on, you’ll soon run out of money and not have enough to buy the properties you need to complete your sets. Also, if you land on an opponent’s property and don’t have money, you’ll have to mortgage your properties or give them away. This is not a good position to be in. So, whilst buying everything feels like you might be winning in the short term, you can easily become unstuck as time goes on so make sure you keep some money at all times.
In the real world, this means always having some money saved for emergencies. This is the mistake most people make when it comes to money. In the U.K., over 60% of adults are in debt, excluding mortgages, which implies they are spending all their money and more. If there is an emergency (unexpected expense), they would need to borrow more and make their financial lives’ harder.
Teaching kids a life lesson: When talking to kids about this point, you can let them know that whilst they should be planting their seeds (saving / investing), they need to keep some seeds in case of emergency. For example, a hungry chicken (unexpected expenses) is on the loose and is going to dig up the small trees you’ve planted. It’s best to have some spare seeds to give the chicken and protect the seeds you’ve planted so your forest can grow.
‘Spending less than you earn’ is the first rule of wealth.
Lesson 2: Invest to make more money
At the other extreme, there are some people who start the game by keeping all their money and don’t buy any properties (or wait for very specific properties, like the dark blues). They believe that it’s best to keep this money and build up their wealth by passing go and getting lucky with the chance / community chest cards.
Whilst this strategy might seem like you are winning at the start of the game, as you see the other players’ money reducing as they buy properties, it’s never a winning strategy. As other people buy properties, houses and hotels, your expenses start to increase as they take your money.
To win the game you have to invest. This means buying properties so that you have money coming in from rent. The money you get from your properties helps to buy more properties, houses and hotels (although hotels aren’t ideal as I’ll discuss later) which generates more income.
In the real world, many people rely on just their income from their jobs (i.e. just 'passing go'). For our kids to grow up financially healthy, we should be training them to seek additional sources of income. One of the best ways is to invest their money. Whilst Monopoly focuses on buying property, that’s not easy for kids to do. However, with your help they can invest their money in the stock market. I’ve written many blogs to help parents start investing with their kids in a very simple manner. See link at the end of this blog.
Teaching kids a life lesson: In terms of teaching your kids this money lesson, this one is easy. If they don’t plant any of their seeds (money), they are never going to see any trees grow. If they plant their seeds, a tree will grow and that tree will produce more seeds which in turn grows more trees and so on. This is the wonder of ‘Compound Interest’ which is using money to make more money.
‘Invest what you save’ is the second rule of wealth.
Lesson 3: Diversification when investing
When buying properties, make sure not to focus on just one or two sets. I know a lot of people believe that the winner is the player who gets the dark blues (Park Lane and Mayfair in the U.K. version). Whilst, this might sometimes work (if you get lucky), in most cases just having one set is unlikely to lead to you winning the game.
The key is to have a number of different sets around the board. This increases the chances of other players landing on your properties. Although, as mentioned above, make sure you still have some money to cover the expenses, i.e. landing on other people’s properties.
This is a super important lesson in the real world in terms of investing. If you invest in the stock market, you don’t want all your money invested in one (or a small number) of companies. Whilst you might believe these companies will do very well, if something goes wrong with these companies then you can lose a lot of money.
I encourage parents who are investing (or thinking of investing) for their kids to invest in many different companies. In my blog, ‘How to teach your kids about the stock market’ there is a nice example using lego to help teach your kids this lesson (link to blog below).
Teaching kids a life lesson: When teaching kids this lesson using seeds and trees, help your kids visualize that the best forest is not one with just one or two big trees but with loads of different trees. If a big storm comes, a forest with lots of trees is likely to be more protected than a forest with just a few trees.
Bonus Tip #1 - Own the oranges
As I’m an actuary (a person who loves statistics), I did research to find out which properties are most likely to be landed on during a game of Monopoly.
“Based on the probability of someone landing on certain squares, the best set to purchase is the orange set. The best property to buy is Trafalgar Square (third red square).”
This is because ‘Jail’ is the most common square that people land on. So, the orange set is likely to be the next property they land on after jail. Therefore, if you get the chance to own the oranges then take it.
Lesson 4: Patience is key
As mentioned in lessons 1 and 2, a lot of people believe the extreme strategies of going out and buying everything or hoarding their money is a winning strategy. Whilst these strategies might give them a sense of ‘winning’ in the short term, as they have more to show than others, the truth is that, unless they get lucky, they are never likely to win the game.
If you follow the tips above, you have to be patient and let others feel like they are winning in the short term. Eventually, the tide will change as they will be forced to give up their money or properties as the game goes on. The key is that you need to be patient.
Teaching kids a life lesson: In terms of teaching your kids this lesson, we simply have to remind them that a tree doesn’t grow overnight, it takes time. Those that plant their seeds and wait (in many cases years), will be the ones with the biggest forest.
‘Be patient’ is the third rule of wealth.
Lesson 5: Negotiate
In Monopoly, you are allowed to swap cards and money with other players. This can help both players increase their chances of winning the game. This can be particularly powerful near the end of the game when people are low on cash. You can negotiate to give them cash for properties.
This is a really important life lesson for our kids. In most cases, kids grow up and are told to always follow the rules (especially at school). As a result, when they get to adulthood, they are generally poor at seeing opportunities to negotiate. Being able to negotiate effectively (at appropriate times), can not only help in terms of money, but in terms of work and relationships.
I've actually written a whole blog called 'How to teach your kids about negotiating' (link at end of this blog).
Bonus tip #2 - Don’t buy hotels
Instead of racing to buy hotels on all your properties, just put 4 houses on each property. There is only a limited number of houses in the game, so if you use all the houses, it stops your opponents adding houses and hotels to their properties. If you run out of houses, you then upgrade to a hotel and then buy the spare houses you’ve just freed up.
Important last point: Life isn’t about winning at money
Whilst Monopoly is a competitive game, we should make it very clear to our kids that money in the real world shouldn’t be seen as a competition against others. We need our kids to grow up with an 'abundance mindset', i.e. just because someone has something, doesn’t mean we have to have less. There is plenty of money to go around if we all follow the ‘3 Rules of Wealth’.
Also, just because someone has more money (or appears to have more money), doesn’t mean they are happier. We should make sure our kids focus on growing up to be financially wealthy and not just wanting to be rich. To help your kids appreciate the difference between being RICH and being WEALTHY, I’d recommend you read the blog ‘Rich kids vs Wealthy kids’.
Don’t let opportunities to talk to your kids about money pass you by. Playing games like Monopoly is a really fun way for kids to learn about money. It just requires you to help them make the links between the game and the real world.
Even if they don’t remember all the lessons the first time, you are still helping them to learn. The more you remind them of the lessons, the more they will remember. It’s all part of the training they need to make sure they follow the 3 Rules of Wealth so they grow up to be financially healthy and wealthy.
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