Personal Finance

Janel Meehan finds ways to teach money lessons to her sons when they are playing games.

Source: Janel Meehan

Janel Meehan doesn’t want her children to grow up like she did, not knowing much about money.

So every chance she gets, she incorporates financial lessons into their lives — including during her 11-year-old son’s video games.

“My parents never talked to us about money,” the 45-year-old said. “I made all the mistakes.”

One of her son’s favorite games is Animal Crossing, which he plays on the Nintendo Switch that he saved up for and bought with his own money.

In the game, players upgrade their homes and pay off debt by doing various things, such as selling fish or weeds. Meehan spoke with him about it and what it means to take out loans — and how they have to be paid back.

“He’s learned that doing work equals money,” said Meehan, who lives with her husband and two children in San Diego.

He also saw that the price of turnips changed from day to day, which sparked a discussion on commodities and the stock market.

It turns out Meehan is onto something. Using games to teach about money can make learning fun.

“Studies have shown that children learn best when engaged and active,” said Stephanie W. Mackara, president and principal wealth advisor of Charleston Investment Advisors, based in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. She’s also the author of the book, “Money Minded Families.”

“Concepts learned in games help children understand cause and effect, make mistakes and get rewarded for smart choices.”

It also helps broach a subject that has too often has been seen as taboo.

“It is about just giving kids a comfort level with talking about money,” said certified financial planner Tom Henske, a partner at New York-based Lenox Advisors.

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It also gets parents more comfortable with discussing the topic, as well.

Of course, children don’t have to go it alone. An adult should guide them along, helping to explain concepts and the impact of their choices.

Here are some ways to make financial concepts entertaining.

Board games

Devon Scheitrum uses Monopoly Jr. to teach her five-year-old son, Wolfgang, about money concepts.

Source: Devon Scheitrum

The first game that likely comes to mind when it comes to financial concepts is Hasbro‘s Monopoly. The board game has players buying and trading properties, developing them, collecting rent and trying to force their opponents into bankruptcy.

There is even a version for younger kids, Monopoly Jr., which Devon Scheitrum’s 5-year-old son, Wolfgang, got for Christmas.

“It’s reinforcing basic math while also teaching him about budgeting and preferences,” said Scheitrum, who is 36 and lives in Tucson, Arizona.

“It’s neat seeing him connect early math with real world-ish concepts.”

You have your pick of board games to introduce money lessons to your kinds, including:

For San Diego native Christina McClurg Riehl, Cashflow is her go-to game. Developed by “Rich Dad Poor Dad” author Richard Kiyosaki, the game focuses on creating passive income.

Riehl, a 44-year-old civil rights attorney, and her husband started playing it with their three boys, ages 9, 11 and 13, after the pandemic struck. She was hoping to give them some experiences they weren’t getting through school.

“We saw this as an opportunity to teach some of those skills that my husband and I both wish we understood earlier,” Riehl said.

“We are trying to change that narrative with our kids and we are trying to figure out ways to do it without lecturing them.”

Online games

shapecharge | E+ | Getty Images

Other games

Sorting coins is one way of teaching kids about money.

Michelle Fox | CNBC

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