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Seven Money Lies from Monopoly

Posted By Jim On 06/15/2010 @ 7:09 am In Personal Finance | 33 Comments

When it comes to games, Monopoly is probably one of the most iconic. While I haven’t played a game of Monopoly in years (the last time was on a cruise to Bermuda many years ago), the game and its rules are still fresh in my mind. Nowadays all the board games we play are slightly more complicated than Monopoly (games like Settlers of Catan or Dominion) but Monopoly still holds a special place in my heart.

If, however, you were to look back at the game itself and compare it to real life, you’d find a lot of differences. Some of the differences are inconsequential, like the prices for properties ($400? $120?) because they reflect both and earlier time and a need to improve playability (no sense having people count out $50,000 in $500 increments, a bill that itself doesn’t exist anymore). Others are more subtle and, if a child were to use Monopoly as a proxy for the real world, really misrepresent the world. They, in short, lie.

Bank Error In Your Favor

Bank errors in your favor almost never happen and when they do, you have to return the money! When a bank or another customer makes an error and gives you money by accident, you aren’t entitled to it. Possession isn’t 9/10ths of the law in this case (or any case, that’s just a crazy saying) and in the event you don’t report it, you may be liable for stealing.

This happened to Christopher Wink [3] back in August of 2008. He discovered an extra six grand in his bank account. Fortunately the bank discovered it in time, before he could accidentally spend it, and pulled it out in a “retrieval withdrawal.”

Pay Cash For Property

In real life, how often do people pay 100% cash for their homes and property? Almost never. In Monopoly, you can’t take out a mortgage on a home until after you’ve paid cash for it.

Free Parking

Simply does not exist in real life. Enough said.

$200 Salary

Whenever you pass Go, you collected $200. That’s the amount you collected at the beginning of the game and that’s the amount you collected near the end. It didn’t matter how hard you worked, what schooling you received, what skills you had, everyone who went around the block got a cool two hundred bills.

Real life doesn’t work like that except in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and look how that turned out. In real life, your hard work will be rewarded. While we don’t like to believe that financial fat cats deserve their big paychecks, the reality is that for most people your salary is a translation of how hard and how smart you work. If you don’t work hard and don’t take schooling seriously, the road forward becomes much harder.

Income Tax Is Simple

Income tax in Monopoly is dead simple – 10% of your assets or $200. In real life, taxes are far from being that simple and you don’t really get much of a choice in how you pay. Income taxes in real life aren’t based on luck either, as you can only land on the space once per trip around the board.

Also, how you are taxed is a big departure from real life. You either give up 100% of your salary or you pay 10% of your assets. Those are assets, presumably, that have already been taxed. 100% of your salary seems a bit excessive, don’t you think?

I’ve also read that in the newer versions there is no 10% option, it’s a straight up $200 tax no matter what your assets are.

As an aside, ever notice how populist the game is? There’s a luxury tax (with no test on what counts as luxury, other than dumb luck) in the game!

Jail Is A Good Thing

In Monopoly, going to Jail is great, especially in the later rounds of the game, because it offers you a reprieve from potentially landing on your opponent’s hotel-stacked properties. People long for jail time in that game because you can still collect rents from your opponents while in the slammer.

In real life, jail sucks. It doesn’t matter how you try to portray it, being incarcerated and having someone else tell you what to do every hour of the day cannot be a pleasant experience.

Bankruptcy Is The End

The game of Monopoly ends with a declaration of bankruptcy. When you can no longer meet you obligations, you have to declare bankruptcy and you are out of the game. In real life, bankruptcy is certainly not the end. In fact, people and businesses declare bankruptcy all the time and it can end positively.

Take Donald Trump for example. You might have read in the news that he’s filed for bankruptcy several times, but he, personally, hasn’t. His corporation has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy [4] which allows the company to reorganize its debts and, usually, renegotiate them. This lets the business get more favorable terms on the debt and survive to fight another day. Personally, Trump is better than ever.

Finally, and while this isn’t a outright lie, chances are you wouldn’t win 2nd place in a beauty contest.

(Photo: Monopoly by harshlight [5], Bank Error in Your Favor by Parker Brothers, Monopoly Money by mtsofan [6], Free Parking by alancleaver [7], Go by billselak [8], Income Tax by shaynekaye [9], Jail by 427 [10], Poor Tax by oh02 [11])


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[2] Email: mailto:?subject=http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/seven-money-lies-from-monopoly.html

[3] Christopher Wink: http://christopherwink.com/2008/08/31/bank-error-in-my-favor-for-a-day/

[4] Chapter 11 bankruptcy: http://www.bargaineering.com/articles/types-of-individual-bankruptcy.html

[5] harshlight: http://www.flickr.com/photos/harshlight/3235469361/sizes/m/

[6] mtsofan: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/2450496004/sizes/m/

[7] alancleaver: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4104988795/sizes/m/

[8] billselak: http://www.flickr.com/photos/billselak/1161880994/sizes/m/

[9] shaynekaye: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shaynekaye/3736194565/sizes/s/

[10] 427: http://www.flickr.com/photos/427/2215248753/sizes/m/

[11] oh02: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oh02/192778150/sizes/m/

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