Learn to Invest by Playing Games
Games that Teach About Investing in Stocks, Real Estate and Business
The American staple for money games for the past 70 years or so has been Monopoly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t teach you anything about money other than you pay more rent in better neighborhoods and you should always keep $50 in your pocket to Get Out of Jail. My family and are avid board and card game players and are constantly on the lookout for something challenging. Coupled with an equally avid interest in real estate and stock investing, puts us in a great position to test the financial-game waters.
We’ve found 2 games that we play almost on a weekly basis and feel entertained, inspired and educated in the end:
The first is StockMarket, the Wall Street Trading Game by Herbco International. The Stock Market consists of 8 stocks, one each for the following industries: Internet, BioTech, Banking, Retail, Computers, Airline, Utilities and Real Estate. Information that an investor in the real stock market might need to know is provided right on the playing board:
- Ranking: Indicates the volatility of the stock, A+ to B-.
- Annual Dividend: 4 stocks pay cash dividends, 2 pay dividends in shares
- Price Range and Median Price: For example, the WEBNET has a range of $6-16, STATE POWER has a range of $11-21.
Each player starts with $10,000 to invest. Play begins when a player turns over a Ticker Tape card. You can then buy, sell or short the 4 stocks listed. Since you have what the range of the stock typically is, just like in real life, you can make a decision to wait, if it’s near the Median Price, buy if it’s low, sell or short if it’s high or sit on your cash for a better opportunity.
After each player has made their trades on the Ticker Tape, a News card is turned over. The News cards are just like getting a bulleting from CNBC, stocks rise and fall on the news; City Bank goes up $3, Webnet falls $3, etc. The News cards are also where you are notified of your dividends, or if the news is bad enough can actually drive the stock price below the price range. Any player can also buy or sell the stocks mentioned on the News cards.
We can’t even remember what the original monetary goal was for StockMarket. We keep playing until all the cards are turned! After almost every game, we are inspired to take another look at our portfolio. Our youngest daughter, now 19, beats us on a regular basis. While she doesn’t trade stocks herself, she has a keen eye on her mutual fund portfolio.
StockMarket really is a great game, but it just cannot hold a candle to the regular financial indoctrination that comes with every game of CashFlow 101 by Robert Kiyosaki. If you have never read his book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” you’re missing out on a great little financial primer. In fact, Kiyosaki and his wife wrote that book as a training manual to play the CashFlow game.
CashFlow 101, or as we call it around our house; “Rat Race”, is a complex, interesting game that helps train you to look at money and investment possibilities in accordance with Kiyosaki’s vision of personal finance. The goal of the game is for you general enough investment or “passive” income to cover your monthly expenses through smart investing. Unlike Stock Market, the investments include real estate, from houses to Apartment Buildings, Stocks, and Businesses.
To begin the game, each player draws a Profession Card and is given a financial worksheet. The Profession card determines your financial starting point by providing a snapshot of your finances. Here are the categories on a typical Profession Card:
- Income: Salary
- Monthly Expenses: Taxes, School Loan Payments, Car, Credit Card debt
- Per Child Expenses: You start with no children
- Liabilities: Mortgage, Loans, Car, etc.
- Savings: Always paltry
The 2 most key pieces of information on your Profession Card are the Total Expenses, which are surprisingly accurate, and Monthly Cash Flow. Monthly Cash Flow is your Total Income – Total Expenses. All this information is then transferred onto your financial worksheet.
The board is made up of an inner circle which represents the proverbial Rat Race, and an outer loop which a selection of dreams, charities and more lucrative business opportunities. As you roll the dice and move around the inner circle, you collect your paycheck and are provided with the opportunity to invest. The outer loop is where you identify what your Dream is, Mediterranean Cruise, Buy a Forest to protect, start a Cancer Research Center and many more. Once you have developed enough passive income in the Rat Race section, you graduate to really pursuing your Dream!
The key to our interest in CashFlow 101 is the realistic financial situations and investment opportunities provided. As you move around the Rat Race circle you may have the opportunity to buy a House, 3/2 with $5K down and cash flow of $160/month, or a Stock that may go up or down, or Start a Business Part Time that may be purchased someday. Some of our favorites are the business opportunities like invest in an Limited Partnership or buy an Automated Car Wash. Of course, any of these opportunities could completely tank! For example, there’s one card you might draw where interest rate issues cause you to lose your investment property, sound familiar? You also are presented opportunities to lend your brother-in-law money, invest in a mutual fund or Duplex where the numbers just don’t work. Since we do invest a bit in real estate and the stock market we can attest to the accuracy of the opportunities presented as well as the pitfalls that inevitably take place.
As you buy and sell opportunities with the goal of increasing your cash flow, you are recording them on the CashFlow worksheet and constantly updating your financial picture. One of the most interesting phenomena of the game that we’ve noticed is that the lower paying your job is, the more quickly you exit the Rat Race. It’s a matter of expense to income ratios. The Lawyer makes $7500/month, but the attendant expenses are $5,420 for example. How many Houses will you need to add to that portfolio to make $6K? On the other hand, the Janitor that only makes $1600/month, if he can save up enough to make just a few smart investments, can more easily cover his $950 of bills each month.
In the end, CashFlow 101 trains you to think differently about money and the goals of your financial life. The more you play, the more you start looking at your financial picture differently. It trains you to use your money for a specific goal, to invest your money for income rather than a fictitious retirement, track your finances with cash flow in mind. Play it with your kids, your friends, your family, and watch their financial intelligence grow!
The only caveat is that CashFlow 101 is an investment in itself at right around $100. While it’s the most expensive game we’ve ever bought, it’s been worth every dollar!