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Monopoly and Early Childhood Financial Education

The other day I began what will be a multi-year process teaching my son about Money.  How did I start?  By teaching him to play Monopoly.  It’s amazing what you can learn from a game.

Play Based Financial Education

I alluded to my teaching philosophy last year on this blog.  While my kids are young I feel one of the best ways to teach them finance is through games and playI myself learned quite a bit via various video games.  Numerous studies have shown the value of play-based learning and I’m a believer.

Enter Monopoly

Why now you might ask?  Well we have given little bits of financial education to our sons as we go.  They both have wallets, a piggy bank, earn a pittance for the occasional chore, and have had some wants tied to their meager holdings.  But up until now money was still sort of an abstract concept.  It’s only in the last few months that my son has stated to understand that a penny is not worth as much as a dollar.  Now he is ready to really step it up a level.  Enter Monopoly.

I loved Monopoly as a kid.  It was one of my favorite games.  I hope my own child will learn to enjoy it as much as I do.  For now, we’re still in the learning stage.  We’ve played about 5 partial games where I have started to introduce him to some of the concepts.  So how has it gone?

Starting with Risk Adverse Monopoly Style

Well interestingly my son started exactly the opposite of how I would at his age.  He wouldn’t buy properties on his own.  I had to talk him into it.  It’s too early to be entirely sure, but I wonder if his aversion to spending the money without clearly understanding the goal was tied to my prior learnings or if he is just that risk averse.  In any case I got him to make a few conservative purchases after a few times around the board and he began to get the hang of the concept of buying properties. 

Here I was hoping to use Monopoly as an example of regulating your risk.  Instead I’m realizing I must start with the concept of taking some risk while investing for long term reward.  I’m shelving my risk mitigation discussions for now until he gets a basic understanding of why you would want to buy investments.

Randomness and it’s Impact on Finances

The second thing I noticed about my son is how surprised he was to the concept of randomness on your money.  He was either vary lucky or unlucky depending on view point to continually land on Chance or Community Chest.  It would drive him crazy that he would randomly lose or receive more money based on no input from his side. 

I could have used Chance as a discussion on gambling/speculation, and I still may someday, but for now I used this more as an example of the randomness of life.   I.e.  Instead of focusing on the cards namesake as a roll of the die and get rich quick I instead brought up the concepts of the activities on the cards.

Real Life, Like Monopoly, Costs Real Money

 Pay 100 to the hospital, financial error in your favor, Chairman of the board… sure they are made up constructs to give or take your money based on the card.  But in reality life takes and removes money in just as many bizarre ways.  I know my son has seen me get agitated by similar randomness in surprise expenditures and their size.  It made for a good opportunity to connect the dots that many things we experience financially are not entirely under our control.

Obviously, my next step would have been to teach him about Emergency funds and planning to handle those moments, if I could get him to invest at all.    I’m sure that lesson will come to pass as little kids tend to experiment and swing to opposite ends of the spectrum when they start to learn.  For now, I believe the next set of games will continue to help him focus on investing.

Monopoly has Layers of Educational Opportunities

The positive thing about Monopoly is it has layers.  I can already see quite a few more financial concepts for when he gets more advanced.  These could include delayed gratification as personified by owning all of one color, houses, and hotels.  Another area would be Statistical Probability to determine likely return on investment.  Certain areas of the board are more likely to be visited than others.  As such they are likely a better investment per dollar cost.    Eventually even trading can come into play, as people agree to trade individual properties to strategic advantage.  Stepping back the possibilities are quite broad for learning about Finances.

Most Importantly, He Found Monopoly Fun

So far, our son seems to have really enjoyed our game.  He has requested to play some more.  I will continue to slowly educate/play with our son over the next few years.  To monopoly we will add additional games each time he begins to get the hang of or become bored with the last.  I deep down hope Monopoly is one of the ones that lasts for a while and can be revisited.  After all it still holds a special place in my past I’d like to share with my son.  

For those that have helped their kids learn about finances through play, do you have any board game recommendations?  Anyone else fondly remember a childhood playing Monopoly with friends and family?

5 Comments

  1. Dr. Dividend
    Dr. Dividend October 17, 2018

    Now is the best time. Not sure how young/old your sons are, but during the early stages in life is when the their brains are most impressionable. Learning through having fun, and watching their parents will impact their further life decisions. Congratulations on being a role model for your children.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 18, 2018

      They are 6 and 3. We are really kicking things off with the 6 year old.

  2. Joe
    Joe October 19, 2018

    Ugh, I really don’t like Monopoly. It takes way too long and doesn’t require any skill. Everything depends on the dice roll.
    Our son is really into it now, though. We started playing a couple of years ago and he finally gets that buying properties is a good idea. I need to find a better money boardgame.

    • FullTimeFinance
      FullTimeFinance October 19, 2018

      There is certainly a lot of luck, but I still believe the concepts are valuable. Let me know what alternatives you find.

  3. Dr. McFrugal
    Dr. McFrugal October 19, 2018

    Monopoly is such a classic board game! I remember playing with my whole family when my sisters and I were kids. It was quite fun. And it did teach us a little bit about money and the principles of real estate too!

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