Is the Game Monopoly or Life?

Playing board games was never a passion of mine. We played games as a family but that was usually as much game playing as I wanted. Anyway, I was always a big fan of Monopoly for the great concepts it could teach. There are many similarities between games, projects, and life. And isn’t life just a long series of projects?

  • You have an objective
  • You agree with other players on the rules and when the game will end – This is not as straight forward as it seems. There are several variations on rules and how to end the game in Monopoly. See them here.
  • You have a strategy
  • You realize that unforeseen events will happen and you may need to adjust your strategy.

Here’s a few of the lessons I’ve learned from playing Monopoly over the years.

  • Everyone starts out the same. We may look different (someone is a shoe, another is a thimble, a dog, or a top hat) but In the game we all start with the same amount of money and no property. In life, we may look different, but we all come out of our mother’s womb naked and broke.
  • You have to work with other people to be successful. You are playing with different people and unless you get very lucky and accumulate all your property by landing on it, you will need to negotiate with the other players to buy or trade properties to follow your strategy. The other players will not trade with you if you do not offer a fair deal. In life, if you cannot work well with people, it will be difficult to become successful.
  • There is no room for discrimination. If the thimble lands on your property (and you don’t like thimbles for some reason) you are not going to tell them to get off your property, you will happily collect the rent money and ask they stop back again sometime. In life, excluding people is bad for business and morally wrong.
  • The accumulation of your decisions has a lot to do with your success or failure. In the game, a lot depends on the type of properties you buy, which ones you put homes/hotels on, and how you manage your money. In life some of us are born into families with money and power that may seem unfair to others. But somehow life has ways of leveling the playing field if you recognize the opportunities. There are many people that were born into wealthy families that ruin their lives, while many people who started out with nothing have done very well for themselves.
  • You don’t need to conquer to succeed. I really like this about Monopoly. In games like Risk or Chess, you need to attack and defeat your opponent. In Monopoly you work your plan and let the other player’s misfortune and poor decisions make you rich. You don’t force them to land on your property, they do it via their own roll of the dice. In life, you don’t need to conquer others.. let them conquer themselves via bad luck or poor decisions.
  • Income is important – Early in the game you really depend on the $200 salary for passing GO to give you the ability to buy more property and pay for unexpected bills. Not passing GO regularly puts you at a disadvantage. Later in the game when you have more properties (investments) the $200 is not as important since you have income from your properties. In life we need to pass GO (have a job) to get the money to build wealth so some day we can live off our investments.
  • Stuff Happens – Things can be doing great, then you land on ‘Community Chest’ and have to pay a Doctor Bill, School Tax, or Street Repairs on your properties. You can’t predict when something like this will happen, but somewhere/sometime it will. In life the unexpected happens all the time, an illness, loss of a job, car repair, etc… You don’t know when so you need to be prepared both financially and mentally.
  • Debt is not a good idea. In the game, not many people mortgage their property, since they cannot receive any income from it if its mortgaged. Most people wait to buy property when they have enough money to PAY CASH for it. In life it may be difficult to buy a home without a mortgage, but you want to minimize and eliminate your debt as quickly as possible.
  • Sometimes life isn’t fair. – You have hotels on Boardwalk and Park Place, but nobody is landing on them. You land on your opponents property every time around the board and are losing all your money. Life is that way too. Sometimes you think you did everything right and still fail. Don’t lose heart, you need to try again, start a new game! Maybe you’ll be the ‘lucky’ one this time.
  • You can’t win if you don’t make your money work for you. – If you just kept going around the board never buying any property (investing) you would soon be broke since other people would be buying the property and you would be paying them when you land on it. In life, spending your money as fast as it comes in, or just putting it in a mattress will not build wealth. You need to invest your money. There is some risk, but the potential rewards are much higher.