We all played monopoly as a kid. For most of us, it was the first time we got a taste of investing, buying and selling, and being broke. As a father of a 12 year old, I’ve come full circle and now it’s time to teach my daughter a little about my favorite game. The art of making money and doing what it takes to win aka end up with the most money. Ironically, much of what I’ve learned in business, including domains, I learned early through countless hours of playing monopoly. Here are some examples.
1. Some times you have to use leverage. If I didn’t have the cash, I always mortgaged my properties to buy more. I knew in the long run, whoever had the most property had a higher chance of winning. So if I landed on it, I bought it. If you landed on it and didn’t want it, I always won it at the auction (most people don’t even follow the auction rule). Teaches you that if there are a finite amount of investments, you need to do everything you can to buy them early.
2. Timing is everything. I add houses when people are coming towards my property and wait when they are away. It teaches you that you have to take advantage when opportunity is approaching and to save your money just in case until that time approaches.
3. Learning to count money. Most kids working at McDonalds can’t give you the right amount of change without the register giving them the total. I make sure my daughter is the banker so she can learn to give back the right amount of change and quickly. Two games of Monopoly and she’s already better and counting money than half the teens in America.
4. Learning how to trade or get the property you need. Inevitably there are going to be times when someone else owns a property you need. You have to figure out how to get it. Maybe you buy it from them, maybe you trade. Either way you need it. As a kid I used to pay big bucks for a piece of property and everyone thought I was crazy. They soon learned that you could make your money back with hotels very quickly. $1000-$1500 for a property was nothing towards the end of the game. It was going to come down to how many times you landed on a property. The money could never last if you didn’t have a matched set.
5. Business involves a lot of luck. Monopoly or life. There is always a small bit of luck involved in everything you do. You certainly can make your own luck but there are just some things you can’t control. It will always be the case and monopoly will teach you that early. My daughter has hotels built on her properties and I don’t land on them once, yet she lands on mine three times. It was pure luck on my part, but if she really wanted to get me she should have gotten that last property around the corner and owned the whole corner. Then the chances of me rolling past without paying would have been slim to none.
6. You can cheat but if you get caught, you lose your reputation. We all knew people that cheat at monopoly. Maybe they stole from the bank when they were the banker. Cheating on movement of their piece was always one you had to watch. But like all business, cheat once and you build your reputation as a cheater and nobody wants to play with you again. And as we all know, finding someone to play a full game of monopoly is not an easy task.
7. Sometimes the cash hoarding strategy can pay off. We’ve all played with those players that hoard their cash. Waiting for the time when someone is broke to buy their mortgaged property cheap. Teaches the lesson that cash is king to saving when you find someone that desperately needs it.
8. Shit Happens. Things are going to happen like luxury tax or drawing a card with fees. You shrug it off and keep heading towards your goals. I seem to land on luxury tax more than any human I know. I almost expect it now.
9. Plan ahead. As an avid player I always planned ahead. I wanted every railroad I could get and then I wanted light blues and oranges in that order. 3 houses on each property is the best return for your money so always build to three and then start on the next property.
As you can imagine my daughter was a little overwhelmed how serious I took the monopoly game on New Years. In all honesty I thought her luck was going to overcome my 30 year strategy but eventually it paid off and she left in tears like all my opponents do. Just kidding, we had a great time and knowing my daughter I fully expect her to come up with her own strategy to make sure I don’t win. I imagine her Mom is helping her as we speak. Another lesson in business. When you’re on top, everyone is going to come gunning for you.