Growing up, we used to play a fair amount of board games. I love board games for a number of reasons – a topic I’ll touch on later this year. They were great times to bond as a family, even if I lost more than I won.
One of our favorites was Monopoly. Pretty much everyone’s familiar with Monopoly – especially now that there’s so many dang versions of it! Chances are you either like it or you hate it – I’ve met few people who are neutral about the game.
Regardless of your personal thoughts on it, here are a few lessons I picked up from my years of playing.
Free parking is FREE
Alright first off let’s get this out of the way: if you’re the type of person who puts money in the middle for if you land on “Free Parking” you are the worst kind of person.
I half joke. Half.
It’s called FREE parking, not We Pay You To Park!
If someone is giving you something for free I assume they’re generally doing it out of good will. Instead of taking advantage of that to the tune of having them pay you, just be thankful that you’re not landing on New York Ave (my brother’s favorite monopoly) with a Hotel on it.
Sure sometimes there will be some sort of catch, and it’s important to see those when they happen in real life.
Property > Cash
Every now and then we used to play a game for fun where one person would start with all the money and the other person would start with all the property.
Of course as a kid, you think “Oh man!!! Look at how many $500 bills I have, there’s no WAY I could lose!” The game would drag on for a while until you realized that your inevitable demise was approaching quicker and quicker as your opponent built his real estate empire.
Here’s the thing: All the cash is awesome. It makes you feel flush and secure.
But cash doesn’t earn you money. Cash doesn’t win the game.
Investing that cash wins you the game. Properties win you the game. And without those investments, it’s impossible to get ahead.
Likewise in life, if you’re sitting on a ton of cash, it may feel nice to have some extra cushion. After all, we’re entering a recession soon, right? Some may tell you to stop investing and hoard all of your cash.
But without investing you aren’t going to win. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to hit your financial goals unless you invest. Sure the market may tank the day after you put money in. But guess what?
Historically it’s always bounced back. Depending on your timeline you may want to choose something slightly less volatile to help soften the blow. Volatility when you have a short time horizon can be crippling.
If you don’t invest though, your cash is guaranteed to slowly be eaten away. Better to get started sooner than later. Even if it’s something simple like contributing more to your 401(k) at work, it’s at least a step.
Jail Makes Everything More Difficult
Unless you had a ton of properties, time in jail sucked. It was perhaps nice to delay your doom if you needed to play it safe for a while, but winding up in jail almost never was a good thing.
I always get out of jail ASAP if it’s early in the game; losing out on the ability to purchase properties because you’re behind bars just puts a bigger delay on your investments. Time is a great ally when it comes to Monopoly – the sooner you build up your properties the better position you’ll be in.
Make Beneficial Deals
The art behind Monopoly is making deals with other people playing the game in a way that you perceive as advantageous to you. Most of the time these deals involve swapping one or two properties for another.
If you make a deal that gives someone else a monopoly but doesn’t give you one, it’s probably a bad deal. You need to weigh the pros and cons of all exchanges, of course. When the goal is to be able to build houses and wipe your opponent out, though, you need to make sure that the agreement you’ve reached is beneficial for you.
Passing Go Won’t Win The Game
Each time you pass Go you get $200. It’s nice – it’s like a little paycheck for your endeavors. At the beginning of the game especially this is the majority of the money you bring in.
Hopefully though over time your properties will start to bring in money. Maybe it’s semi-infrequent and maybe it’s not as much as passing Go.
But when you reinvest the money you get from your properties, you can start to build houses and/or hotels. This is like reinvesting dividends in your portfolio to help you earn more money more quickly.
Passing Go is always nice – but it’s never going to win the game by itself. It’s like having a paycheck but never investing it, and hoarding it all in cash or spending it all.
If you want to not rely on that Go money, you need to invest it.
Luck’s Not All
Sometimes luck is on your side – sometimes it isn’t. Those that are prepared for the worst and who can make a plan even when things go awry tend to do better overall.
The Chance cards always made me nervous. Sometimes they’d be okay but a lot of them were not great. It was always easier to deal with the bad Chance cards, though, when you had some sort of moderate cash cushion. It wouldn’t save you from every catastrophe but it at least would be a good first line of defense.
Enjoy Your Time
Monopoly was a game we played to have fun – not to really learn anything. It was about enjoying the experience and getting to talk with the family.
Sure it was nice to win but what’s the point of going through a game if your only goal is to win and not enjoy the company of others? What’s the point of life if not to live the one you enjoy?
We can pick up some queues from silly board games, but at the end of the day you need to enjoy your time here on this earth. Sometimes it’s not about winning or losing – it’s about the journey and the connections you make along the way.
What were some of your favorite games growing up?