Monopoly and money: Personal finance lessons from a family-favourite game

Updated 18 Jul 2017, 03:41 PM – By Contributor - Faye Kwan


Nearly a century old, real estate trading game Monopoly has become a firm family favourite ever since it was first introduced to the world in 1935. For generations, it has retained its unique ability of uniting people in one round, and then dividing them in another — we’ve all been there!

Its many versions have created fond memories in households across the globe, and while it may seem like all fun and games, it was initially created during the Great Depression as a leftwing tool to demonstrate economic inequality. The rules are essentially the same after all this time, but there are still valuable financial lessons we can take away from this acclaimed game.

1) Always have cash on hand

Throughout the game, it’s always important to have enough money with you in case your token lands on a tile containing foreign property and you owe rent, or you’re required to pay the Bank a fee. Ultimately, the person with the most cash wins. Having insufficient funds will force you to mortgage your own properties and if you’re unlucky, you might even end up bankrupt.

The same applies to real-world financial matters. Being short on money forces one to cut spendings and, in desperate times, sell off their assets at a discounted price. This is why it’s best to always have cash on hand by putting some savings in an emergency fund. Stock market crashes, unexpected medical bills, car repairs or even a job loss wouldn’t be as daunting if you’re financially prepared for the worst.

2) Diversify your investments

You won’t go far in Monopoly by investing all your money in just one property and loading it up with hotels. Owning various properties across the board is what brings potential victory, because it increases the chances of players landing on your square and paying you rent. 

Similar to investing in real life, you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket and look at different sources of income instead. One such example would be Real Estate Investment Trust, or REITs. While investing, it’s important to build a portfolio that’s spread across a variety of asset classes. It may not ensure a large profit or guarantee against loss, but it’ll help you achieve long-term financial goals while minimising risks along the way.

3) Manage your assets well

Once you’ve acquired different types of properties, balancing your assets is the true key to success in Monopoly. Every move you make in the game essentially involves taking risks using imitation money, as you’d have to plan your purchases and develop them in proportion to your cash flow.

Likewise in reality, you can only improve your balance sheet if you manage your assets well and keep them growing as best you can. Monopoly also teaches you to only take calculated risks when the situation involves a large sum of money, and to never risk more than you can afford to lose.

4) Spend wisely

Monopoly and money: Personal finance lessons from a family-favourite game

This tip may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s always easy to go on a spending spree in the heat of the game. Nevertheless, owning one too many properties may have you in hot water, with insufficient fees to pay rent to others. This’ll force you to mortgage some of your properties to collect enough cash, thus losing your chances at earning rental income from others playing Monopoly with you.

With the real money scenario, it’s essential to stick to a budget that you have created and plan your purchases or loans accordingly. The game teaches one to be vigilant when it comes to personal finance and to always keep tabs on your cash flow, especially when making big investments.

5) Know your marketing and ROI

Buying various properties on the board could, indeed, yield great results, but players should always be mindful at what cost. Recklessly buying every tile you land on without calculating its benefits and growth as the game progresses, could get you wiped out early on in the game.

In relation to Lesson #4, you shouldn’t purchase anything blindly without being aware of how your investment could affect your funds in the future. Learning how return on investment (ROI) works allows you to calculate the possibilities of your investments seeing capital growths over time, allowing you to let go of a large sum of cash with a lighter heart. 

6) ‘Sedikit-sedikit, lama-lama jadi bukit’

There are two instances in the game that ring true to one of our most well-known peribahasa: 1. Earning big bucks with the cheapest properties by loading them up with houses or hotels, and 2. Rolling a double dice and being rewarded with another turn to move, but then finding yourself in jail after rolling three doubles in a row.

It all plays down to the lesson that shortcuts are not an answer to success in Monopoly, and neither is it in real life. They may be tempting, but being greedy never leads to substantial results and it’s truly the baby steps you take that will eventually secure financial stability, allowing you to achieve your monetary goals.

7) Keep moving forward

In Monopoly, every time a player passes the “GO” square, they receive $200 from the Bank. This is exclusively paid each time around the board. Additionally, you only get chances to purchase different properties and increase your wealth as you continue playing the game.

This is applicable in our lives as well, as you’ll only be able to build your fortune if you keep working towards your next goal, be it your next holiday destination, a promotion, or even just the next payday. There will be a series of hurdles towards your financial goals, but as former American basketball player and current politician Bill Bradley once put it, “Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”

To conclude

Despite its age and the plethora of video games out there, Monopoly has undeniably etched itself into pop culture, with over 300 variations of the game in 103 countries and 37 languages produced throughout the decades. Whatever edition you come across, there are certainly some valuable economic lessons to take away.

However, like every other game, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously or seen as a comprehensive financial guide to religiously live by. After all, the main thrill of the game derives from one thing: drive everyone else into bankruptcy!

Now, who’s up for a game of good ol’ Monopoly?