Games that are right on the money

There are some great games available that can help kids learn financial concepts while having fun. Here are a few of our favourites.

I believe the best and easiest way for kids to learn how to manage money is by actually doing it: when they have control over their own allowance, gift money or earnings they learn through experience. Having said that, I know these experiences can only take them so far — they’ll certainly learn the value of money and how to spend, save and share — but how can parents convey larger concepts such as debt, interest and property tax?

To my surprise, my nine-year-old son, Adam, already had that covered. About a year ago, a friend gave him a hand-me-down copy of a video game called Animal Crossing, which neither of us knew anything about. Turns out it’s a cute, age-appropriate life simulation game, where players get to work at Tom Nook’s shop, earn bells (the game’s form of currency), make mortgage payments (!!), then take out a second mortgage or loan to expand or renovate their house. Before long, Adam was asking me to explain “de-B-t” and excitedly telling me how much of his mortgage he paid off.

When my brother saw how much fun Adam was having with Animal Crossing, he brought over some of the finance-related board games we played as kids (he kept them all, God bless him) including Monopoly, Payday and the original life simulation game — The Game of Life. The first two haven’t really captured Adam’s interest yet (he might be too young for them; there are now junior and licensed versions of the games designed to appeal to younger children) but he’s played a few memorable rounds of The Game of Life.

For those of you who need a reminder or aren’t familiar with the game, players travel around the board (“the road of life”) in a car, choose a career, have a family, earn and spend money until they reach the end of the game: retirement. The player who retires with the most money wins. The game introduces concepts such as insurance, stocks, risk, taxes and even philanthropy. On one particular course of play, Adam landed on spaces requiring him to donate $100K to save a polluted lake, and $50K to an orphanage.

When he got to the end of the game, his only chance of winning was to risk everything he had, or be “Declared destitute and disgraced!” and live on social security. But he wasn’t buying it. “How can I be disgraced,” he said, “when I’ve spent my life saving lakes and orphans?”

And that, of course, is where the true value of these games resides: in the fascinating and unexpected conversations that are sparked in the process of having fun.

Keep the conversation going

What are your favourite finance-related toys, games or apps for kids?


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.