What Board Games Can Teach Us About Personal Finance

Holidays are the perfect time to gather friends, family and dust off your collection of classic board games. But it’s not all play money and dice rolls— some of these games can help educate the whole family about some basic personal finance. Here are three games that aren’t just fun to play, but offer some great financial lessons.

What Board Games Can Teach Us About Personal FinanceMonopoly

Monopoly is won by accumulating properties and becoming the richest player. There are a lot of strategies that can help you win, but a fundamental one that applies to everyday life is being smart about how you budget.

Early in the game, you may be tempted to buy each property you land on. If you do, however, you’ll run out of money pretty quickly. Instead, Money Crashers suggests considering how a budget can help you prepare for the long game. How much money are you earning? How much of it should you spend on building houses and hotels? If you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be better prepared to build that hotel on Park Place when it makes the most sense.

You also need to be prepared for unexpected expenses, notes The Simple Dollar. Before you start building houses all over the place, check to make sure you have enough funds to cover an unforeseen expense. At any moment, you can get hit by taxes, a Community Chest collection or land on one of Aunt Lucy’s expensive hotels on Boardwalk. While you can’t predict the future, you can, as Monopoly teaches, prepare by having an emergency fund.

The Game of Life

The Game of Life is also won by becoming the richest player. The game simulates major life events that happen to most people: Getting married, having kids and working toward retirement.

Like Monopoly, LIFE teaches us to plan for the future by making smart choices. For example, early in the game you must decide whether or not to take the “Business” route or the “College” route. The path for “Business” is shorter, but pays less than the jobs you get on the longer “College” path. While you may be tempted to get through the game quicker by taking the “Business” path, investing the time by taking the “College” path can pay off in the end.

According to The Simple Dollar, LIFE also gives parents a great opportunity to teach their children the concept of insurance. In the game, you can purchase various kinds of insurance, including auto, fire and life. If you have insurance, you won’t have to pay the otherwise steep cost of landing on a space with a disaster. Still, there’s a good chance you can get through the game without ever landing on one of these spaces. So, is insurance worth it? The answer, of course, depends. But the lesson is straightforward: Consider the benefits and risks of paying for something before making a decision.

Pay Day

Pay Day’s goal is simple: save the most cash. The game board is a calendar and every player gets $325 a month salary. There are bills to pay and events that require making financial decisions. The best strategy for winning Pay Day is also a simple financial lesson: Plan ahead.

Because every player has the same fixed salary, the size of your emergency fund plays a key role in how well you do. If you land on a space that costs you a lot of money, you want to have enough in the bank to keep you from going into the negative. Each round, “pay yourself first” by setting a specific amount of money in your emergency fund. It’s a great strategy for winning the game, and, as Money Crashers points out, an important lesson in everyday life, too.

At the end of the day, while these games can teach you and your family some great financial lessons for life, don’t take family game night too, too seriously.

 What’s another financial lesson you can learn from one of these games? What’s another game that teaches financial lessons?

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