Financial Lessons and Myths from the Game of Life

game of life

The game of life is a classic American board game. I grew up playing this game as a child with my family and I continue to play it with my wife and friends. While my wife is not a huge fan, this game represents one of the many fond memories I had as a child. Who wouldn’t want to re-live their childhood memories, while building new relationships?

The last time my wife and I sat down to play with friends, I realized that this game is all about money. Talk about a great post idea, right? I couldn’t stop myself from analyzing the lessons that the game of life teaches young children. If you are playing this game with your children, do you know what they are learning by playing this game? Find out the lessons and lies that this game teaches.

Money Lies from the Game of Life

  1. Life is all about money – In the game, the main goal is to make the most money of all the competitors. You get life tiles for different life actions, like having a child or graduating college. Sounds like it is teaching kids that life experiences matter, right? WRONG! In the game life tiles = money, but this isn’t the case in life – nor should it be.
  2. Good not to have a house/children – If you are a strategy person and have played this game long enough, you will know that it is almost always better not to have a house or children. The main reason is because there is no liability. You never know when you could land on the tile that makes you pay money for not having insurance. This is not the case in real life.
  3. Car insurance is not necessary – Similar to number 2, you can choose to take a gamble and not get car insurance. You may end up regretting this, but it could pay off big. In real life, however, everyone is required by law to have it in real life.
  4. It doesn’t matter when you pay back your school loans – In the game of life, you only have to pay $5000 in interest for every 20k and you can pay it back at any time during the game, including at the end. There is no extra interest for waiting. This teaches people to live with debt as long as possible – otherwise, if you pay it off too soon, you could be force to take out another loan (with more interest to pay back).
  5. There are few career choices – The game of life is simple – you get a college and your salary more or less corresponds to your job. There are very few option in the game of life. In real life, you can think out of the box and earn money from new business ideas. Think how the world would be different if there were no self-made millionaires.
  6. You are stuck in your career – In the game you can only change your career if you land on a special space. In real life all it takes is time and hard work. In fact, you can switch jobs easier today than ever before. Most people switch jobs multiple times in their career, and some switch occupations completely.
  7. Return on your stock investments is a game of luck – While there is some truth to this in real life, investing in the stock market isn’t just luck. There is a lot of research and educated investments involved. It’s not as simple as luck.

Financial Lessons from the Game of Life

  1. Going to college doesn’t guarantee higher paying job – I will be graduating with my master’s this coming December, and even though I live in a place with a high cost of living, will be making less than many with just a bachelors.
  2. Buying a house is optional – Some people think that you have to purchase a home, but renting is a perfectly viable choice. In fact, some people prefer this to have more money to invest. I am looking forward to home ownership for the simple reason of having lower living expenses in retirement, but it will be a few years.
  3. More money you make the better retirement you are going to have – This is undoubtedly true. The more that you make in your career, the better retirement you will have.
  4. Making money on your house is a game of chance – This volatile market has brought uncertainty to the security of the stock market, but is probably more stable than in the game of life.

What has been your experience with the game of life?

11 Responses to Financial Lessons and Myths from the Game of Life

  1. You bring back good memories from the Game of life. I have ben renting for over six years now and I have liked the flexibility of it over buying a house.

  2. Forest says:

    Ha ha, I bet there are plenty of people having a go at life like it is the game of life! At least following the rule that money is everything!

  3. Overall, home ownership in most parts of the country is a good idea. Buy a simple home, pay it off as soon as possible, then you’ll have even more cash to invest.

  4. I remember this game. That spin where you get your career is crucial. I would always respin until I landed on doctor or lawyer. Call it my indecisive 20s!

  5. Life lied about the color of children. Not only are my two daughters not little,pink pegs, one of them doesn’t even like pink!

  6. Interesting that the game of life presents more lies than truths! I’m not sure that not having children is a lie though – kids cost money, plain and simple. If you don’t have them, you will have more money. But kids provide other non-financial benefits of course (though they can equally provide heartache as well).

  7. I always thought of the game as a highly stylized and simplified version of the traditional concept of life, kind of like Leave it to Beaver.

  8. […] game screams family finances more than the game of Life. 20’s Finances talks about real and false notions that the game teaches […]

  9. ImpulseSave says:

    I always loved the Game of Life. I especially appreciated the fact that certain things – like how much money you make, where you live, and how many kids you have – are left entirely up to chance. Those kinds of details in real life have huge impact on your financial situation, but are very often just left up to chance. I also appreciated that you pointed out the problem with repaying debt too early in the game. It is a big problem with the structure of the game and perhaps they could change it in future editions.

  10. I love this game! We’ll drag it out every now and then for a good laugh. It’s so completely unrealistic that it’s fantastic. You’re right–it does focus more on money than on other experiences we’re taught are more important. But sadly, I don’t think that would make a very good game. Well maybe it would.

  11. In the Game of Life…it seems like success is measured by how much money you have. I don’t agree with this. Success for me is being in a place where I am happy and content…and that means with my family (children included).