Monopoly Jr and Behavioral Finance: How playing a game can help children with money

Shari Rash
June 12, 2022
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Playing a game can help your children with money: What’s their money personality?

Everyone has a money personality and biases. I can not believe that a simple game of Monopoly made my daughters’ biases crystal clear.

Have you ever thought about your Money Personality? Check out my blog post: Seven Ways Understanding Your Money Personality Can Make Your Life Better!

Do you like money? Love money? Hate it? Does money make you nervous? A combination of those feelings? Everyone has a money personality. Our money personality dictates our relationship with money, our traits and attitudes: how we use it, feel about it, talk about it. These traits and attitudes can also shine through during a board game.

Playing Monopoly Can Help Your Children with Money: A Lesson in Behavioral Finance

My 9-year-old is very responsible and conservative with her money. She puts half of her money in the bank and keeps the other half in a jar in her room. In Behavioral Finance, this is called mental accounting.

Her Money Personality would be a Compulsive Saver.

Her goal with the money in the bank is to buy a car when she gets her license and help pay for her college. (Be still my heart…) The money she keeps in her room, she likes to count, organize, and buy trinkets for herself. She likes the Dollar Tree because you get more for your money versus Target.

My 6-year-old spends every dollar she receives. Her bank account has cobwebs, and her piggy banks are empty. She likes to go to the store because she buys toys, gets “more money back” aka change from the cashier and a receipt, which in her opinion is worth more than money. (Face-palm) Her decision making with money is usually driven by emotions, which is a concept in Behavioral Finance called the Emotional Gap.

Her Money Personality would be Compulsive Spender.

Financial Essentials for Young Families

Both girls are taught the value of a dollar, the bank half/keep half methodology and that you must work hard and do your chores to receive an allowance. But the way they treat money is so different that you would think we have completely different rules and lessons for each of them. Their money management styles though, reflect their personalities: my eldest is conservative and responsible, the 6-year-old is my wild child.

Playing a Game Can Help Your Children with Money: Your Biases Are Evident

The younger one is buying every property she can, laughs when her money gets low and somehow earns more and digs herself out of any financial hole she’s in. My older daughter is very selective when buying properties, neatly piles up her play money and wouldn’t purposely dare get close to running out of money.

I fall in between, so I can emphasize with both. My Monopoly personality is pretty like my real-life money management. During the game, my stomach sinks a little when my pile of money isn’t high as I’d like, but I also like to buy everything I can.

Financial Essentials for Young Families

Playing a Game Can Help Your Children with Money: Helpful Tips and Tricks When Playing Monopoly

When it comes to playing the game of Monopoly, there are tips and tricks to implement to ensure your kids are getting the most financial lessons out of the game, while still having fun. Consider implementing these discussion points next time you play:

Helpful Tip 1: Mortgage and Home Ownership = $$$$

Getting a mortgage in real life isn’t always as easy as Monopoly shows. The concept of home buying within the Monopoly game is slightly unrealistic as most homeowners don’t purchase their houses outright.

Remind your kids that you must take on debt from the bank sometimes when you purchase a home. It is also prudent to put a down payment on your home. This down payment should not deplete your savings.

You should have ample savings in addition to your down payment. This may be a good time to bring up credit and co-signers as well.

When contemplating buying a home, may people only think about what the payment is going to be. They may forget about insurance, property taxes, escrow that beef up your monthly bill.

Also, home ownership is expensive! There are costly impairs and improvements that you must factor in when buying a home.

Rule of Thumb is to set aside 5-10% of your home’s value each year for maintenance and improvements.

Helpful Tip 2: Establish an Emergency Fund

Accumulating debt can create a money trap down the road. In the case of my 6-year-old who bought every property she could, I remind her that maximizing her buying power can harm her down the road.

What if something unexpected comes up like going to jail? (In Monopoly, not real life). Can she afford to pay her way out? This is a great learning lesson on money management when it comes to saving for unexpected events, much like adults have an emergency fund.

Helpful Tip 3: Having a business is not as easy as it seems

Keeping track of a business can be time intensive.

Owning multiple rental properties in Monopoly is similar to running a business in real life.

How close are your kids watching their properties?

Are they missing collecting rent payments? Did they make a purchase that can generate a return on investment?

Understanding the time it takes to properly run a business is a strong life lesson to teach at a young age.

Helpful Tip 4: Too much cash could be a real issue

Creating an emergency fund to help pay for unexpected expenses, is essential – My 9-year-old has this one more than covered as she hoards money in fear of not having enough, but there is such a thing as having too much cash. . An emergency fund is great to plan for unexpected events, but you want to hone in on the importance of not hoarding too much cash.

This leads to missed business opportunities and ways to grow your wealth, such as by buying a rental property, in Monop0ly, or your money not outpacing inflation, in real life.

These are just a few of the life lessons that you can work into a fun game of Monopoly. Be sure you bring these items up at the right time. You don’t want to bog down the game and make it unenjoyable for your kids!


Are your kids tired of playing Monopoly or ready to try the real thing? Luckily there are financial institutions and apps designed to help give your kids a hands-on approach to money management. Research the following resources to find the right fit for your children:

  • Allowance – Giving your kids an allowance for performing various household duties, such as doing the dishes, can be a great way to instill a work ethic. Consider creating a list or chart of chores they can easily complete and assigning a value to them. Many parents choose to let the funds build up and give one payout either weekly or monthly. This shows them the harder they work, the more money they get. If they do not contribute to the household duties for the week, no allowance for them.
  • Kids Checking Account – Many financial institutions are making strides towards creating kid-friendly checking accounts. Some popular accounts are at Capital One, Greenlight, and UW Credit Union. Most of these accounts come with a debit card that the parents can track to help their kids make strong financial decisions. The introduction of a checking account from an early age helps instill financial independence.
  • Apps – Just like financial institutions are taking financial literacy initiatives, so are app developers. Savings Spree, Renegade Buggies, Bankaroo, and PiggyBot are among the list of apps that focus on financial literacy and development for kids. Similar to Monopoly, these platforms provide a fun experience jam-packed with learning.

These are just a few of the additional resources that focus on money management for kids. The learning style of your child will impact which method works best for them and if one doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to move on to the next one.

Playing a Game Can Help Your Children with Money: The Benefits of Teaching Your Kids Money Management Skills Young

Money management is a lifelong skill that will be utilized on a daily basis. From effectively spending their first paycheck to saving for their first large purchase, teaching money management skills young is critical.

One of the top complaints about the education system is the lack of formal training on areas kids need it most, like finances.

This is when you need to take matters into your own hands to ensure your children are on the path to financial success.

The traits they learn by playing Monopoly or having their own checking account will form habits that they will rely on for the rest of their lives. Poor habits taught young can be detrimental to their long-term financial success.

In addition, properly managing money gives your kids a higher likelihood of less financial stress throughout their lifetime. Instead of struggling to pay their rent or car payments, they will have acquired the skills to plan and budget while still enjoying life.

Financial Essentials for Young Families
Financial Essentials for Young Families

Playing a Game Can Help Your Children with Money: Look at the Research

The research doesn’t lie. A plethora of studies show a direct connection between financial literacy and financial well-being.

Often times those who are struggling lack the necessary education. This isn’t to say that everyone struggling should simply play Monopoly, but learning the basics of finances is a great starting point.

The National Endowment for Financial Education reports that financial education requirements have a drastic impact on financial behaviors in adulthood and that these students have a higher average credit score

Understanding your child’s Money Personality, educating them on the pitfalls they could face and having a basic financial education will create a Strong Financial Foundation for your child that is invaluable.

Start the Conversation

How I Help Kids with Money While Playing Monopoly

Now that I can clearly see my kids’ money behavior, I am going to use Monopoly Jr to further teach them money lessons.

I am going to encourage my eldest to keep good tabs on her pile and to continue being selective with how she spends her money, but part of the game (and life) is to take chances.

As long as she has a pile of money that she is comfortable with, it is OK to spend and to reward yourself every once in a while, (go ahead, buy Boardwalk… Park Place too!).

My younger child’s lesson is going to be a little different, you need to have two piles of money: a save pile and a spend pile. If you want to buy a property it has to be out of the spend pile.

I am curious to see 20 years from now how much my girls’ real-life money behavior changes, I have a feeling not that much.

Hopefully though, they hold onto the concepts learned while playing Monopoly in quarantine. Most importantly though, I hope they will still play Monopoly with me

Reflect On Your Current Situation, How Do You Feel About Money?

Now onto you. Can you see areas that you struggle with in your own financial life?

Teaching your children financial literacy from a young age is great, but often they learn more from your actions. Ask yourself these questions:

  •  Are you stressed when your bills come due?
  •  Do you feel like you can’t get ahead?
  •  Are you wondering how you’re going to pay for your child’s college tuition and still retire?

Answering yes to these questions indicates there is room for improvement in your financial life. You need to build a Solid Financial Foundation. Luckily, we can help you uncover where you fall short in your financial life and suggest ways to better your situation.

  • Curious about how much you need in your emergency fund?
  • Do your investments align with your goals?
  • Are you putting enough away in your 401k?

Reach out today to start the conversation.

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