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Monopoly Memories: A Grandpa Moneybags Story

The following story is part of the Grandpa Moneybags series. Created by Hurlow Wealth Management Group, Grandpa Moneybags is a fictional character who shares lessons that parents and grandparents can use to teach the next generation of wealth holders. This lesson begins with a game of Monopoly as a way to start conversations with young teens on real estate investing and financial planning.

Monopoly Memories: A Grandpa Moneybags Story 

by T. Claire Kest

Intent on working remotely over Spring Break, Katie drove from Chicago to Bloomington, Indiana, so her dad, Charlie (affectionately known as Grandpa Moneybags), could help keep her sons, Keith and Bobby, busy over the week. 

The first day proved rainy and windy, so the hike at Griffy Lake would have to wait. After breakfast, Charlie found Keith busily texting on his iPhone, Bobby plugged into the Xbox, seemingly content to spend the entire day gaming, and Katie sitting at the desk in the corner of the room, typing away. 

Sensing the need for a change of pace, Charlie proposed, "How about a game, everyone?" Charlie pulled the well-worn box from his game cupboard and set it up on the dining room table.

"What game?" Bobby asked without looking away from the screen.

"Monopoly," Charlie replied with glee. Catching Katie's eye, he was instantly reminded of the last time he and his girls played Monopoly together. They had been about Bobby and Keith's ages, and his late wife, Elizabeth, dominated the game as always. 

"Katie, I know you're working, but if you have time, we'd love for you to join us." 

"Come on, Mom. It will be more fun with you," Keith pleaded, then turning to his brother, he said, "Shut the TV off, dude."

Bobby complied, slowly joining his brother and grandfather at the table.  

Katie sighed and shut her laptop. "I guess work can wait. It's been forever since I played this game." 

Excitement filled the air as Keith, in the banker role, doled out $1,500 to each player. Now, who wants to know Grandma Moneybags' secrets to winning Monopoly? You boys might have been too young to remember your Grandma, but she was a mean Monopoly player."

"I do!" Bobby chimed in. "Keith thinks he knows everything, so he doesn't need help." 

Keith made a face, implying his brother's comment was immature. Shaking his head, he then turned his attention back to his grandfather. "I remember her; she had soft hands, and we made homemade playdough together." Keith smiled. 

The additional memory brought a tear to the corner of Charlie's eye. "Yes, she was a genius in the kitchen and a master at board games. So, here are the tips to dominate Monopoly from Grandma Moneybags:     

  1. Start investing (buying property) as soon as possible. (Don't wait!) 
  2. Set aside some cash for rent, taxes, jail, and other unexpected expenses triggered by Chance or Community Chest cards. (Your emergency fund) 
  3. Monitor your properties. It's your responsibility to request payment when someone lands on your space during their turn. (Pay attention to what you own).
  4. Exchange bills regularly with the bank. (Don't keep too many bills, as they might be too hard to track.) 
  5. Diversify with properties in different areas of the board. 
  6. Complete a property set (prepare to negotiate with other players).
  7. Monitor your competitors' financial status and leverage it to your benefit. (The best time to negotiate is when another player is short on cash). 
  8. Maximize rental income by adding multiple houses to the properties. 
  9. If you need cash, consider mortgaging properties (or sell something).

"Any questions?" Charlie paused. 

"Yes, since we were here two years ago, I couldn't help but notice there are so many new apartment complexes in Bloomington. Is that an example of how landowners are maximizing rental income? And if so, why do we only have the choice to own a house or hotel, not an apartment? Katie asked her dad.

"How about this? You can imagine the hotel is an apartment if you want." Charlie appeased his daughter with a wink.

Anxious to get started, Bobby said, "OK, let's roll the dice to see who goes first." 

About a half-hour into the game, Keith landed on Park Place, but having just shelled out money for the luxury tax, he was short on cash. "So I can take a mortgage on Boardwalk to pay for Park Place?" 

"Yes, but keep in mind that you cannot collect rent while that property is mortgaged, so be sure to pay it off as soon as possible. You'll also owe 10% interest." replied his mother, Katie. 

"Ten percent interest sounds high," Keith remarked. "Is that negotiable if I have good credit?" 

"Haha, you've learned about credit, that's awesome," his grandpa chuckled. "When we bought our first house, the interest rate was 18%. Today, you can get a mortgage for around 6%, but for the game's sake, let's keep the interest at 10%."

As the game progressed, the grandsons grew bolder, making shrewd moves to develop an alliance. Bobby traded St. James Place for Keith's Kentucky and agreed not to charge him rent for two rounds. 

"Do you have any real rental properties, Grandpa Moneybags?" Bobby asked. 

"Yes, we go to the beach house in Florida for two weeks in the summer. Other families rent it for the rest of the year. Many people have made Boku bucks with rentals in this area, but I prefer to avoid dealing with tenants and collecting rent myself." As he said this, he landed on Bobby's Illinois Avenue. Having rolled doubles, he quickly rolled again before his grandson could catch on and charge his rent.  

"Hey, you owe me $100, Grandpa Moneybags!" Bobby shouted. 

"You caught me!" Charlie leaned on his left hip to pull his wallet out of his back pocket. Reaching into the leather billfold, he said, Here you go, my last C-notes," giving each of the boys a real $100 bill. "Remember that life's greatest investments are often ones you can't see or touch. That was a fun game. How about you boys clean up the game? I'll make some lunch, and then we can go to the mall and let your mom do some work?" 

"Thanks, Grandpa Moneybags. Maybe instead of going to the mall, we can talk more about investing after lunch," Keith suggested. I don't know if there's anything I want to buy right now, and I like the idea of buying real estate someday."

"But I want to go to GameStop," Bobby whined.  

"We can do both." Charlie smiled proudly, thinking about how his financial lessons were sinking in, at least for Keith, which gave him hope for Bobby, too. 

As they walked around the mall following Bobby to buy a new video game, Charlie asked Keith, "so what do you think are the real lessons from Monopoly? 

"Well, I think it's important to keep some cash aside to make purchases or pay taxes and emergencies. Also, you have to be patient. You can't buy every property that you land on. Grandma's lesson of getting invested early is good, but only spend some of your money in the first round. Keep some for later. 

"Good, what else?"  

"Well, there's something about luck because Bobby landed on the free parking spot three times, and Mom went to jail twice and got stuck there for a couple rounds. You can't really plan for those things. Going to jail significantly set Mom back and the extra cash gave Bobby a considerable leg up." Keith reflected. 

"Quite observant. You're right, we can't always control our circumstances or the market. So we focus on the things we can control. Right now, you work at a fast food restaurant. You control your time, so you're not late. You bring a good attitude to work and keep your grades up so you can stay employed. You control how much money you put into savings and how much you spend out of your paycheck. When you start investing you might lose money because you cannot control all the market factors, but you will have some control over the amount of risk you want to take to take based on your goals and needs."     

Although they didn't play Monopoly again that week, it prompted the boys to ask further financial questions. Grandpa Moneybag fielded questions about mortgages, leverage, and what is interest. Katie, too, was inspired; as she drove back to Chicago, she resolved to discuss the opportunity to invest in real estate with her husband. 

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