Gil C. Schmidt
Too many of us keep treating money like it’s not real.
Take “Monopoly,” the famous game of real estate buy and sell. It’s almost certainly the first thing we think of when the phrase “funny money” is mentioned. We even say “Monopoly money” for “fake” currencies or to describe how some people treat money like it’s just cheap pieces of colored paper, right?
Here’s the thing: Your level of financial literacy is directly tied to how serious and realistic your concept of money is. I do not mean that you treat money like an end-all and be-all. I mean that you have to learn to see money clearly for what it is: a multi-purpose tool that must be adapted to your needs and goals.
Notice my definition gives you three levels of control: your needs (that includes your wants, because your needs have to take precedence over your wants), your goals and ultimately, your money. That’s what financial literacy is all about.
Too many of us think that learning to be financially literate is too hard, too overwhelming to even attempt. So rather than start learning, we skip it altogether. But we actually know more than we think, and in fact, we are already on the path to financial literacy.
Now back to “Monopoly.” If you want to see how much you already know about financial literacy, then I suggest you play “Monopoly” with one simple change: use real money.
Now I don’t expect you to use $1,500 or even $150; I suggest you use $15.00 and adjust all prices, taxes and rents accordingly. In this version, buying Boardwalk wouldn’t cost $400 of “funny money,” but $4.00 of real money.
If you play the game until one player wins, you’ll find yourself automatically thinking about needs, wants and goals, because the game itself “frames” these and you make your choices according to your plans. For example, you may want Boardwalk and Park Place, but you need a red property for a monopoly advantage. Or you may want to build another set of houses on your monopoly and even need to (to stay competitive), but you’re too far from “Go” and have to pass major rents along the way, so maybe building will have to wait.
The purpose of using real money is not for you to gamble, but for you to realize that you already automatically do the basics of financial literacy. You balance needs and wants and control your money according to a plan. If you can do it in “Monopoly,” you can do it in real life…because you’re already in “the real game”: it’s your real money already in play.
Final thought: financial literacy is not some dull harness. It is fun and liberating, a truly powerful knowledge set that will change your life for the better. And if you can make progress in getting enthused and learning about it playing “Monopoly,” well, I did say it was fun, right?