There are all kinds of life skills that parents are on the hook to impart to their kids, but one that many parents seem to see as a stumbling block is finance. And yet, in a consumer society that is constantly pushing citizens to buy and own, understanding finance and having a firm grasp of concepts like budgeting and investing is extremely important. So here are just a few games that will help you to teach your kids about proper money management.
1. Monopoly. There are two great reasons to use this classic board game to teach kids about financial concepts. For one thing, the money isn’t real, which means that there is no risk involved in giving it to young kids who don’t necessarily understand the value of cash. Second, kids may not even realize that they’re learning how to manage money when they play this real estate game, which means they’re bound to have fun doing it.
2. Payday. Okay, the concept of this board game is pretty blatantly geared towards lessons in finance, but that doesn’t mean your kids can’t have fun learning about saving, investing, and making decisions that will lead to a big Payday. The only caveat: try to find an original version (check eBay). The 30th anniversary edition, while more widely available, has taken out some educational features like the options to buy insurance and earn interest on savings.
3. Mad Money. You won’t see loudmouth money-miester Jim Cramer in this game from PBS Kids, but you will find a relatively simple setup that teaches players how to earn money, spend wisely, and save up for something expensive, even when unexpected costs come up. Easy, fun, and free, this game is a good introduction to simple financial concepts for teens.
4. iAllowance. This app for your favorite iDevice is not so much a game as a money tracker, but it will give your kids a visual budgeting tool, which is a fantastic way for them to learn about earning, spending, and saving. With features that let them set up a weekly allowance input as well as special earnings (for particular tasks), put money into unlimited piggy banks (one for spending cash, one for charity, and one to save for a big-ticket item, for example), and the option to create accounts for multiple kids (plus copy and paste chores, payment amounts, and so on) it’s never been easier to get your kids on board with tracking their own finances.
5. Financial Football. This game was first released to New York City schools back in 2009 as a way to help students learn about real-world financing. Players must answer questions related to finance in order to make football plays and run their team up the field (What are the contribution limits on an IRA? What should you do when you run out of checks?). The goal (so to speak) is to help teens become familiar with the financial scenarios they will encounter in the coming years, and luckily the game is now widely available.
You can find Financial Football (or soccer) on the Practical Money Skills website, along with several other financial games that will teach kids of various ages money-related skills such as counting money, budgeting, and investing for retirement. Your kids may be more interested in playing first-person shooters (like Halo) or PC war games (American Civil War Gettysburg, anyone?) than those that will teach them about money. But with the wide variety of games on this website you’re bound to find at least a couple they’ll enjoy.