Monopoly mirrors life lessons [UPDATED]Published 6:25am Thursday, October 18, 2012 Updated 8:26am Thursday, October 18, 2012
To help my daughter with her math skills (and lured by the cool end display at the store), my wife decided to buy the game of Monopoly.
When I saw the game, a part of me was jumping up and down. I loved Monopoly as a kid, and welcomed the opportunity to play it anytime I could.
If it teaches my daughter to count money, so much the better. (Too bad it couldn’t teach her how to tie her shoes as well.)
After an evening of Monopoly, especially during this political season, it occurred to me that there are many parallels to the real economy, and lessons that one can use in real life. Here are a few:
1.) It doesn’t hurt to be lucky. While going around the board the first couple times, the players who happen to land on unpurchased property usually get a distinct advantage over those who, say, land on free parking, jail or chance.
Obtaining property means moving toward monopolies, buying houses and hotels, charging other players massive rents if they land on your property, and ultimately, winning the game.
In real life, of course, being lucky means having relatives who are multi-millionaires, or being athletic enough to compete in professional sports.
2.) High risk means high reward. When I play Monopoly, I typically try to spend (invest) my cash as soon as I can. I buy every piece of property I land on, pay a lot more for a piece of property in a trade than the opponent paid for it, and load up monopolies with houses and a hotel as soon as I’m allowed to.
At some point in the game, I’m left with a few dollars in front of me. If I’m lucky — there’s that word again — my opponents will land on my high-rent property, and I’ll avoid theirs.
If I’m unlucky, I’ll land on their high-rent property, forcing me to sell back houses and hotels at half-price, mortgaging and selling property, and ultimately, losing the game.
In real life, there are certainly stories of risk takers who made it big. There are also stories of risk takers who went broke.
Of course, in real life, risk takers who went broke have to figure out how to feed themselves and their families. If I lose Monopoly, I go in the living room and watch TV.
3.) It’s much easier to take a risk when you have money. Near the end of the game, players are typically in one of two positions.
Some are loaded — having multiple monopolies piled with houses and hotels and cash overflowing in front of them —while others are barely hanging on, having mortgaged all their property and sifting the ones and fives.
The loaded person at that point can typically make a risky deal, even a bad deal, and it won’t matter much.
For the not-so-well-off opponents, every deal they make has to go exactly in their favor, or the game is over.
In real life, it obviously works the same way, except that many of those who have a lot of money don’t quite understand why those who don’t can’t just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and create their own business.
4.) Ruthlessness usually pays off. Most experienced Monopoly players know who the least experienced ones are, and go after them with trade offers that, knowing the game, are less than fair. That said, it’s just a game.
People in real life are also ruthless. But the consequences of losing are much larger than getting to watch television in your living room.
Clearly, I hope my daughter someday understands the lessons beyond subtracting $500 from the $280 pricetag for Marvin Gardens.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org