Gil C Schmidt: Play “Monopoly” For Your Financial Life

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?

Jan Smith: Higher Education Blues

We’ve all been there – after months of preparation, our student passes the GED exam and has great plans to go to college only to be discouraged by the amount of paperwork required for admissions, financial aid, and class registration.

In addition, funding a postsecondary education can be overwhelming especially for non-traditional students who have had to overcome many barriers already to get to this point of their education.

As counselors, tutors, and instructors for Adult Ed/ESOL students, you play an important role in transitioning your students to higher education.  Rather than re-creating the wheel, use the following FREE resources and ideas to help guide your students through the financial aid maze:

1)  Consider having an OSFA Outreach Representative visit your classroom.  The Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), Florida Department of Education, administers state grants and scholarships for Florida.  An Outreach Representative is available to speak directly with your students about financial aid options and other financial literacy topics such as budgeting, managing credit, school and life management, searching for scholarships, and more.

Did you know that the Bright Futures Scholarship is available for GED students too?  Students must apply and meet general eligibility requirements BEFORE taking the GED exam to be considered.  For more information, please visit their website.

To learn more about OSFA’s free resources and locate an Outreach    Representative near you, please visit

2)  The U.S. Department of Education offers guidance through its  Select “Non-Traditional Students” to find a step by step guide for approaching higher education.

3)  The Federal Trade Commission offers many free resources and lists scholarship scams reported to the agency.  For more information, please and search for “scholarship scams” to read the latest reports of fraudulent activity.

4)  Consider organizing a “Searching for Scholarships” group that meets weekly and allows students to help each other with applications and essays.

Marilyn McMullan: Incorporating Career Awareness into your Daily Curriculum

It’s a rare student who comes into my ABE/GED classroom without the intention to get a job or get a better job.  Students are well aware that without strong literacy skills and a high school diploma or GED, their career options are really limited.  However, I find that only a few have clear understandings of what jobs may be available, or what skills are necessary for those jobs.  For many, the motivator is something like:  “I hear you can make good money as a _______”.  Rarely do students have a clear view of the variety of careers available.  As teachers, we need to help them get this information.   Students also tend to think of the skills they are learning as something for “the test” and disconnected from the skills they would need for a career or for life.   As teachers, we need to bring students closer to the understanding that while the skills we are teaching are for “the test”, they apply to the world of work as well.

An easy way to fill both these needs is to train yourself to use examples which emphasize career reference.  For instance, instead of “The dog (ran, is running, will run) down the street yesterday”, how about “The computer technician (ran, is running, will run) a virus check on my computer yesterday”?  Instead of “One third of the 75 books were fiction”, how about “One third of the 75 prescriptions filled by the pharmacy tech were antibiotics”?  As we teach, we need to constantly use career references in our examples and skills practice so that our students become familiar with various occupations and relate the skills they are learning to those occupations.

Marilyn McMullan

Another way to incorporate career awareness into skills teaching is to structure lessons around a certain occupation.  Take a few minutes to do a quick internet search for information on an occupation, especially one with high job availability in Florida.  Copy or rewrite an article on a radiologist, mix up the paragraphs, and have the students put them in the correct order.  Copy or rewrite a paragraph about legal assistants, leave out the commas and have students correct it.  Use truck drivers or transportation for questions dealing with the distance/ rate/time formula, calculating miles per gallon, or figuring gas cost per trip.  No matter what individual skill your students need or what level you are teaching, you will increase your students’ interest and knowledge by incorporating career awareness into your daily curriculum.