How Monopoly taught my kids to be money savvy.

By Priyanka Elhence, 15 October 2017 2623


Trying to get kids to play simple board games seems like an uphill battle these days when you're competing with the likes of x-Box, Wii and smart phones. Luckily, while online football games can teach children a little about physical strategy, nothing beats mental stimulation like strategic board games such as Monopoly. Unbelievably, the game has been around since 1935, I grew up playing it and even now, it still brings the same thrills and excitement, making it one of our favourite family bonding activity. I’m a mom of 10 year old twin boys now, and playing Monopoly is in fact one of my most favourite childhood memory of playing any board game. So naturally I couldn’t wait to introduce Monopoly to my boys, knowing it would also bring them endless hours of fun entertainment as a family or with their friends.

But there's more here than just spending quality time with children – this fantastic game actually subtly teaches kids the function of money in real life. Two important concepts my kids constantly take away from playing Monopoly is firstly mental maths – think mentally calculating how much something costs, what has been paid for it, and how much change is due; and secondly, drawing comparisons to real life and asking questions like how much our house costs to rent, or that you only earn money when you receive your salary (and that money doesn’t grow on trees as they thought till now to cover their every whim and demand). Thank God for that!

Concept 1: How money works 

Money is a necessity in life, so the sooner you can instil financial wisdom into your kids, the better off they will be. Monopoly helped to introduce spending and investing in a subtle and non-intimidating, fun way for my twins, so they never felt pressurised about learning life’s money lessons, since they were too busy having fun to even realise the maths skills that the game encouraged. But this only applies to the original versions of the game, which use dice and paper money, not the advanced versions using credit cards and autopay. At our house, we actually don't enjoy playing the electronic pay version of Monopoly because there's no fun in ringing up a credit card, and it's not educational because no money changes hands, so there is nothing mentally challenging.

With the traditional version, my children learnt how to take calculated risks and how to plan their next move wisely (read immediate future). They showed immediate improvement in their mental sum skills, which was amazing, because they were solving more complex mental math problems,  playing banker, collecting 'money' and returning change. My 10-year old twin boys always fight for who gets to be banker and it's lovely to see how quickly they can do simple arithmetic in their heads now. Likewise, when it comes to real estate on the board, they understand which property is more lucrative and are progressively better able to plan the best strategy to get their opponents bankrupt. I could never get the same results from forcing them to open up a maths textbook.

Concept 2: Don’t take things in life for granted 

It doesn't matter how many times you play Monopoly, it's always fascinating that despite each player starting off with the same amount of money at the beginning of the game, anything is possible and everyone ends up with a different financial status by the end of the game. Everything boils down to the choices you make in life, and while luck does play a hand, my children quickly caught on to the concept that they had to make their money work harder for them.  For example, my twins understand that although you don't want to go to jail in normal circumstances because that means having to forfeit picking up the salary, sometimes, being in jail is the safest place on the board because it means that you are safe from having to pay rent or other expenses. In the same way, just because you're winning right now does not mean that you will be immune to bankruptcy 4 rolls down the road. As in real life, anything can happen at any time, and it's the unexpected curveballs that you have to prepare for.

Family Bonding

On top of the financial and mathematical concepts, Monopoly really is a game that can bring the whole family together (once the kids playing are older than 8 years old), allowing for hours of fun, quality time together for everyone. As a parent, it’s very reassuring for me to know that my twins always walks away a tad wiser after a competitive game of Monopoly, despite being on the rollercoaster wheel of excitement and frustration of losing properties or the risk of going bankrupt. Education comes in many different forms, and Monopoly perhaps is one of the best examples of out-of-the-classroom learning, allowing for real bonding at the same time. Plus, it's available in so many different versions (be it a Singapore backdrop, Star Wars or even the Minions), you just can't go wrong with Monopoly.

Different board games cover different aspects of financial intelligence

Just as Monopoly teaches money management through financial and investment choices, it also creates new situations through its use of Community Chest and Chance cards, and the underlying winning note is always the fact that things can change very fast so always save at least half of what you earn, spend wisely and be prepared for the unexpected.

Here are some other finance based board games that you can consider for your children as well:
  1. The Game of Life 
    This game endeavours to mirror life's larger events such as going to college, raising a family, buying a home, working and the importance of planning for retirement ()

  2. Cashflow 101 
    A fun spin on the world of investing, cash flow and building up your assets, famously created by Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad ).

  3. PayDay
    A close peek into the world of personal finance, teaching children how to budget and better manage their money every month after receiving their salary, and basically, learning how to make ends meet till the next pay check.