Finance 101 – Lessons From Monopoly

Monopoly, Money, and You book review

What finance lessons can you learn from Monopoly?

Have you ever read a book about board games?
We don’t mean reading a bunch of blogs with board game reviews and related topics – but rather an actual book.

As much as I love games, I haven’t read any books about board games before (not even a Chess book). But when Mc Graw Hill sent us “Monopoly, Money, and You: How to Profit from the Game’s Secrets of Success” by Philip E. Orbanes I decided to give it a go.

The title and topic are definitely interesting. As a parent, we have to keep an eye our finances and manage our resources well to have a happy home. So why not see what financial lessons we can learn from Monopoly?

Does Monopoly have a monopoly on teaching financial lessons?
Not at all.
Sure Monopoly may be the most well known board game in the world. And sure it revolves around money. But there are thousands of games that use money as part of the game.

However putting such a strong cultural icon, “Monopoly”, in the title of the book is definitely a way to get noticed.

Most of the lessons covered in the book could be pulled from a lot of other games. There are a ton of boards games that teach these generic lessons.

Even with that said though, these lessons are great to learn.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the chapters:

  • Monopoly makes you think…about money
  • The Rules – why its essential to learn them
  • The Tokens – who are you anyway?
  • The Dice – roll with them
  • The Cards – expecting the unexpected
  • The Players – who you’re up against
  • The Clock – timing of opportunity

A lot of board games have a monetary component because it’s an easy way to keep score. Typically the person with the most money wins the game. The only board game we’re familiar with that flips that formula is Last Will – a game where the player to frivolously spend the most money wins (think “Brewster’s Millions” with Richard Pryor).

In Monopoly however, it’s not just about getting the most money. Winning depends instead on bankrupting everyone else. It’s a good thing the book doesn’t relate that outcome to being an important lesson for a successful financial life. Because being successful in life doesn’t depend on knocking others out.

Monopoly, Money, and You book review

Premises are supported by valid data analysis.

The financial skills Orbanes pulls from Monopoly include:

  • Budget
  • Track spending
  • Reduce debt
  • Maintain a cash reserve
  • Deal effectively
  • Manage risk

All good things to do well in our financial life.

Other Lessons to Learn
While those topics may be financially related, other topics covered in the book can relate to a number of important lessons to learn.

  • Adjusting to the odds: Not every spot on the Monopoly board has the same probability of being landed on. Like the chances of landing on particular spots on a Monopoly board, events in life aren’t equally likely to happen and we have to adjust to the odds.
  • Dealing with luck: Uncertainty plays a big role in life. Don’t rely entirely on luck to lead you to victory. Make your own luck by managing your situations well.
  • Delaying gratification: It’s tempting to jump for the easy reward. But if you can delay your spending and save up for the right time, then when opportunity strikes, you’re able to take advantage of it. And if you invest wisely, you can get a larger payout later.
  • Setting goals: Every game has a main objective to win. Know what the goals are and exert all your efforts to achieve them. Set goals in life that are in line with what you define as “success” then work tirelessly to achieve them.
  • Playing by the rules: This almost goes without saying and is readily learned from a zillion board games. Learning to play by the rules makes a much more pleasant experience and a more fulfilling life.
Monopoly, Money, and You book review

The book even dives into every card in Monopoly.

Other Interesting Elements
Chapter 5 is a fun chapter because it covers the psychosocial aspects of the game token selection and the selection process itself. There are plenty of sites online that take polls and talk about what each token represents about your personality based on what you select. So it’s nothing new, but fun to read nonetheless.

The funniest survey question we saw in the book also related to tokens, “What token would you never choose unless your life depended on it?” (Winner – Thimble)

And for those that hadn’t heard, in February 2013 the Iron token was replaced with a new token – Cat.

Lessons by Example
It’s obvious that Orbanes is extremely familiar with Monopoly. He’s written a number of books about Monopoly and knows his stuff. In “Monoploy, Money, and You” a few of the chapters go through extensive game play examples and parallel lessons along the way. For example, Chapter 4 is the first chapter to go through a full game example – highlighting 21 Secrets along the way. At 50 pages for the chapter it delivers a Secret every other page.

The second chapter that dives into a full game example is Chapter 9. Orbanes provides a 25 page overview of the 2009 U.S. Championship game (with game board images throughout). Did you know there are national championship games for Monopoly?

Well, there are even World Championships. The 22 page Chapter 13 covers the flow of the 2009 World Championship in Las Vegas with the final 4 participants from Norway, Russia, New Zealand, and the U.S.A.

Overall thoughts
While an interesting read, there isn’t anything earth-shattering in it. All of the life parallels in the book can be learned a lot of different ways – including a myriad of other board games. It’s easy to find parallels between life and particular games if you look for them. Pick your game and have fun.

And if you’re curious about the parallels Orbanes has found between Monopoly and life, then pick up a copy of “Monopoly, Money, and You“.



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