The board game Monopoly has been around since 1935. That makes it almost 80 years old, and it’s still going strong. Chances are good that you’ve claimed the shoe or race car as your game piece, rolled the dice and headed toward New York Avenue.
Statistics show the orange properties like New York Avenue and St. James Place are among those landed on the most. So buying those and putting houses and hotels on them gives you a chance to collect rent from the other players. That’s a proven strategy developed by game experts.
At Bankrate.com, we like to think Monopoly also teaches a great deal about how to manage debt and other financial matters. Here’s how.
In the game, you acquire wealth by buying houses and hotels, and charging other players rent when they land on your properties. You must decide if you want several properties or just a few with high rent. Strategists advise buying the railroads and skipping the utilities.
How does this approach apply to your personal finances?
As you strategize and develop a plan for your own income stream, you’ll want to diversify, says Deatra Riley, vice president of community outreach for ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions in Atlanta.
“Don’t put too much of your assets into stocks and bonds,” she says. “Build a balanced and diversified portfolio to prepare for the future.”
With the price of homes now low, you might want to consider a second house or a summer home for rental income.
Collecting rents from your opponents in Monopoly doesn’t take much effort. But when you’re building passive income for yourself, you need to put in a little work upfront before the money starts rolling in. Passive income is defined as income received on a regular basis, with little effort on your part.
“Real estate is one of the best vehicles for creating passive income,” says Phillip Christenson, a CFA in Plymouth, Minnesota.
You also can generate income through investments in the markets, especially a low-cost, highly diversified index fund or exchange-traded fund, Christenson says. Selling products like your photos, posters, T-shirts and even board games also might help you add to your bank account. Or, you can make individual loans on a peer-to-peer basis on sites like Prosper.com.
Spending all your Monopoly money puts you in the loser’s seat, reducing your options when buying properties. In real life, if you don’t have any cash, the consequences could be much worse. Have some around in case you need it.
You don’t need to keep large amounts of money in your wallet or at home. But, have some currency you can access easily if you need it, says Beverly Harzog, author of “Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made.”
Natural disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes or severe storms often put credit card processors and ATM networks out of commission. With your emergency stash, you can still buy needed supplies.
“Another situation that’s more common than you’d think is when the credit card company suspects your card number has been stolen so they cut off your credit,” Harzog says. She recommends keeping $200 to $300 in your home to get you through a short-term emergency and hiding it in multiple locations.
When playing, you need to be clear in your own mind as to why you are purchasing a property, railroad or utility, says Crystal Gifford, a CFP in Portsmouth, Ohio. On the board, will it help you in the long run? In reality, you need to ask yourself the following question about intended purchases: Do you need it or want it?
“What value will the item bring to your life, personally and emotionally, and is the cost worth the value?” Gifford asks. “A car can mean freedom and a way to get from one place to another.” That makes it a high-value purchase and possibly worth a little debt.
What about a pair of new shoes? Are you considering buying them just to feed an emotion? Identify the feeling and find a debt-free way to satisfy the same emotion.
Remember, everything is more expensive when financed by debt. You have to pay for the use of the money in addition to paying for the cost of the item.
Good players focus on a plan, and that may include working with another player. That often helps you win the game. The same strategy also can boost your financial health. By joining or starting a “money club,” you can draw ideas and information from others. In a money club, members gather to discuss financial issues involving members of the group.
“When forming a club, choose people who truly want to make changes in their financial lives and are willing to learn and grow,” says Elizabeth Bryan, strategist with the nonprofit Women’s Institute for Financial Education (WIFE.org). “Avoid naysayers and negative people.”
When you’ve decided on your membership, select a meeting place and a meeting time that works for everyone. At money club gatherings, you’ll set individual and group goals, and cheer each other on as you all get closer to your objectives.
While you’re learning more about money and changing your financial life, don’t forget to have fun.