A while ago I wrote on this site how having a family game night can be a great way to have some fun with the whole family, without spending a ton of money. But playing games doesn’t have to just be a way to have a little fun, if you play the right games it can be educational as well.
Over the years I’ve played a lot of board games, and a few of them stick out for the things that you can learn while playing them. So today I thought I’d take a look at some of the best board games to play to learn about personal finance.
Game of Life
The Game of Life is one of those games that most of us have probably played at one time or another, it’s an old standby of the family game closet.
So what can the Game of Life do to help teach you about personal finance? Quite a bit actually, it can really help to spur discussions around things like insurance, emergency funds, career choices, the effects of having children and more.
The idea behind the game is that you’re going through the life of your player, and are presented with a series of life choices where you have to make wise decisions. The game board is a long curving path made from a series of “life event rectangles” with important lfe events on them like having a baby, or negative events like going to the hospital and having to pay a big bill. The game does a good job of enforcing that life is often not only about having good fortune, but also about making wise choices and planning ahead. Make the wrong decisions or avoid making wise financial choices (like buying insurance) and you could end up paying the consequences -and be bankrupt at the end of the game.
At the very least the game is a good opportunity to discuss important financial themes with your kids.
Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan has quickly become a favorite at our house after we were introduced to the game by some friends in our church small group at a weekend retreat. The game is a lot of fun for families because even if you’re not winning the game you’re always involved and can have a lot of fun trying to build your little empire, or block others from doing the same.
The game surrounds the idea of trying to build cities and roads around the island of Catan, and to do that you have to become proficient in gathering the resources of the island that include wool, wheat, wood, ore and brick. The first one to get 10 points wins the game, and to get those points you have to build roads, towns and cities by collecting resources and trading with other players and the bank.
So what can the game teach about personal finance? It teaches the importance of diversifying your resources (income) to ensure you’ll have the best outcome. If you don’t have certain types of resources, or work with someone who does – you’ll never win. It also teaches how working with and giving to others can pay dividends. Often those who are most successful are the ones that are able to help others along the way. It also teaches the importance of thinking strategically and for the long term end goal, much like how in life we’re best off if we plan for our long term goals.
Monopoly is a classic game of real estate and investment, and just about everyone has played it at one time or another. I can remember playing this game with my cousins into the wee hours of the morning many a time.
The idea behind the game is that you’re trying to buy up various real estate, railroad and other properties and investments, trying to become the player with the most money at the end of the game – avoiding bankruptcy.
So what can this game teach you about personal finance? It can teach you how certain investments can really pay off in the long run, and how some will have better returns than others. It also teaches the importance of not becoming over-leveraged and in debt, or you may risk bankruptcy to the bank or another person. Plan ahead for negative events, and don’t buy up every property just because you can.
Use the game as a good teaching tool about the importance of investing, planning ahead and not leveraging yourself into the poorhouse.
As an aside, for some people Monopoly can help you to figure out just what your spending style is.
Payday Top Ten
Payday is another game I’ve heard of from several sources as a good game to teach kids about how personal finances works.
The idea behind Payday is figuring out how to get from Payday to the end of the month. The game board looks like a calendar month, and each space (day) has a different event associated with it including buying “deals” and receiving virtual “mail” that can have things in them like bills, insurance offers and more. The object of the game is to have the most money at the end of the game, which is ended after however many months as the players want.
The game can be a great teaching tool in that it helps to show kids that the financial decisions that they make have a big impact on how successful they are. It also shows how random events can have a big negative impact if you have too much debt or haven’t planned ahead with insurance or savings.
Games As A Financial Teaching Tool
The games above are all ones that we’ve played or have been recommended over the years. All have their good points when it comes to the lessons they teach, but some also have some ideas you need to be careful of. For example, newer versions of Monopoly are much more focused on using credit cards and debt, and could have some confusing messages if you don’t explain them. It really comes down to you as the parent to make sure that you’re teaching your kids the message that you want them to hear.
So do you have games that you would recommend for teaching lessons about personal finance? Tell us what they are in the comments!
Johnny Moneyseed says
I love Settlers of Catan, and I am definitely a board game nerd. There’s a Catan Junior as well, which is more family friendly, and can still teach the principles of trading, and how to save up to accomplish tasks.
Peter Anderson says
I didn’t realize there was a Catan Jr. May have to check that out for our son once he gets a bit older!
I definitely agree with Monopoly being a great financial teaching tool. Catan I’m not sure about the diversification, but I do agree with he cooperation aspect. I haven’t played Life or Payday in years (and I think I heard that Life was changed in such a way as to actually teach some not-so-Christian principles).
I didn’t see Cash Flow on there. It’s great for teach personal accounting and introduction to real estate and stock market.
Peter Anderson says
I haven’t played the more modern versions of Life or Payday, so I’m not really aware of how they’ve changed. It’d be interesting to know from someone who has a more recent version.
Cash Flow definitely sounds interesting. Linked it up in case anyone wants to check it out.
Great topic. What about The Allowance® Game? Anyone play that? I haven’t but saw it at Amazon.
I agree that some new versions of classic games take away from sound biblical financial principles. I am reading that the new version of Pay Day vs the old one has no incentive for saving for example. Good to try to get the originals or find board games that stay true to sound advice! but I agree this is good for kids and fun too! My kids love Monopoly.
Peter Anderson says
I haven’t played the Allowance game, but sounds interesting. That’s too bad if the new version doesn’t have any incentive for saving. That would be disappointing. Definitely a good idea to look for the original versions for some of these.
Funny. My kid loves to play Life (he’s 10) and while I try to tell him to make smart deicsions he just loves to gamble. Strange thing is he seems to win more than I would imagine which only fuels his “betting habit.” And when he loses he always has an exucuse! Guess I need to teach him the “BETS OFF” number next. ;)
William @ Drop Dead Money says
They made a game called Stocks and Bonds back in the seventies. I’ve played it with a few teenagers and they all commented on how that taught them a lot about investing. You can still find Stocks and Bonds on eBay. It’s very realistic and ;ets people experience the thrill and disaster of debt, and the value of being patient, with an eye to the long term.
This was an interesting article. I never thought about games this way. I used to love playing monopoly and the game of life when I was growing, so much that when my wife and I were Christmas shopping two years ago I asked if she would have interest in playing them. So I bought both which are now in our closet of games. I have heard of payday but never played but never heard of the settlers of catan.
Scott Hopkins says
Hands down, Settlers of Catan is the best board game in print. Once you play and get comfortable with the rules it easily blows Monopoly out of the water! Game play never gets old and is always different each time you play. There will be stories for years to come for crazy things you do and find out in the game. The ability to trade resources with other players along with the chance in the dice role and development cards keeps everyone realistically in the game.
Yes, I am a board game nut in my free time. I also recommend Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Pandemic and Forbidden Island.
As for The Game of Life, I highly recommend the card version. It is only $5-7 and is a much more relaxed and fun version of the game. Players essentially choose cards to play in order, telling a story as they play them. Building on your story about the family you are raising, the job you have or the vacation you took can be incredibly funny and silly. All cards are worth points and whoever has the most at the end wins. Regardless, everyone has a lot of fun!
Eric Poulin says
We tried Thrive Time with our young family, but it was overly complicated and felt like it dragged on.
Dan Cain says
Act Your Wage by Dave Ramsey.
Reginald Winfrey says
The best personal finance board game is Cashflow. You can play the electronic version of the game for FREE at http://www.RichDad.com.