On rainy summer afternoons or cozy Friday nights, there’s nothing like huddling around the dining room table, pizza stacked on nearby plates, with a wad of rainbow-colored cash in hand and the buzz of anticipation in the air.

Whether you’re gearing up to battle for the doctor career card in The Game of Life® (who wouldn’t want the six-figure salary?) or preparing to build mini hotels all over the MONOPOLY® board, you know what’s at stake: game night bragging rights.

But what you may not realize is a night of board games with family and friends can actually benefit you financially. And as it turns out, from budgeting to investing, numerous financial lessons are embedded into many of your favorite games.

A new Ally Invest survey conducted by Harris Poll finds that four in five Americans say that money-related board games are helpful in teaching basic money concepts. And 62% of those who played these games as a child or an adult say the experience improved their ability to make good real-life financial decisions.

Here are some of our favorites.

MONOPOLY® to sharpen basic money skills (and some more sophisticated ones, too)

Certain financial wins are unforgettable: a car or home purchase, a big raise at work, and the first time you buy a property and build a hotel — in MONOPOLY®, that is.

MONOPOLY® is one of the most iconic board games, and its fan base spans generations. That’s because beyond simply being fun to play (and giving you control over A LOT of cash), it incorporates real money management strategy and skills.

The game covers a wide range of financial lessons — from the basics like saving and spending, to those more complex like investing and generating passive income. Players learn early in the game how important it is to spend wisely (i.e. don’t buy more than you can afford) and the necessity of having savings on hand for things like rent and taxes.

MONOPOLY® also teaches players that if they want to grow their wealth, investing — and making strategic investment choices — is a must. And it also emphasizes the importance of budgeting for “Community Chest” charity donations and saving for emergency expenses, in order to cover the dreaded landing on that “Go to Jail” square.

Payday® to boost real-life budgeting prowess

Who knew budgeting for groceries, rent, and bills could be so fun? (When having the best budget means beating your big brother, it certainly ups the ante). In the game Payday®, players learn how to budget for these needs based on their monthly salary, all while working to stash away savings in an emergency fund. With potential cash windfalls and unexpected emergencies, the game simulates the real-life ups and downs of managing monthly expenses. Try out the 50/30/20 budget plan and see if it can nab you a win.

CASHFLOW® to help put investing fears to bed

A lot of people are scared of investing because they don’t know how to get started. Playing games like CASHFLOW® can help. Players learn how to build wealth outside of a 9-to-5 job through investing and acquiring assets, while trying out different strategies and tactics. The low-stakes environment gives you the space to get to know your personal investment behaviors and risk tolerance, so you can avoid emotional investing IRL (that’s in real life).

CATAN® to practice the basics of a market economy

You may know this board game by its former name SETTLERS OF CATAN®, but what you may not be aware of is that playing CATAN® is basically a lesson in Econ 101. The game doesn’t deal with money, but the flow of resources (lumber, ore, wool, brick, and wheat) between players to simulate a market economy. By understanding concepts like supply and demand, players can strategize to get the most value out of the resources they have and work with others to make deals that benefit both parties. And like a free market, the more resources that are available, the better everyone fares economically. Of course, we understand if competition gets in the way of settlers’ cooperation sometimes.

The Game of Life® to explore the future now

As a child, retirement was nothing more than the last stop on The Game of Life® board. You start the game in college and journey through life — speeding tickets, student loans, children, and job changes along the way — hoping you’ve collected enough money by the end to retire at the coveted Millionaire Mansion.

Of course, the game lasts an hour or two (give or take, depending on how often your little cousins quarrel over salary cards). But in the real world, retirement is a milestone you may work toward for decades. But the idea that all your major financial decisions in life are leading up to retirement is similar. The Game of Life® provides a birds-eye view of the winding road of ups and downs people take in order to retire, and it’s a great way to introduce the concept of saving for something that may be far, far off in the future.

Bonus points

When playing a board game, it’s easy to make a move that will provide instant gratification. But to maintain the title of Game Night Champion, you need thought, strategy, and (most importantly) patience. And the same goes for growing your wealth. Building a stack of fake money so you can retire at the Millionaire Mansion in The Game of Life® or fully developing property at Park Place in MONOPOLY® isn’t quite the same as setting aside money for retirement. But learning and practicing how to budget, save, and invest are invaluable skills that board games (and life) certainly reward.

When you played board games as a kid, you probably weren’t thinking about the financial and economic lessons you were internalizing. The magic of games like MONOPOLY®, CATAN®, and CASHFLOW® is their ability to bridge the gap between financial literacy and fun. And whether you’re just learning about money or already have a well-funded retirement account, anyone can benefit from a little classic game play.

Test your financial acumen by taking this quiz.

Discussion questions:

  • What are your favorite board games?
  • What valuable money lessons have you learned from board games?
  • When you play MONOPOLY®, do you aim to purchase the more expensive properties or build houses and hotels on more affordable ones?

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