Turning events into games is one of those endearing hobbies that a lot of us like to indulge in. Whether it’s Fantasy Football or Fantasy Football, The Bachelor Edition (yes, that’s a thing), we all like to turn things we can’t control into a game.
It turns out even investing isn’t immune to being turned into a game. Fidelity Investments has created a new product that makes investing in the stock market seem like a game. From the review by Time Magazine, the game appears to look like one of the early versions of SimCity. From Time, “as you glide through the virtual city [StockCity] that you’ve designed, buildings represent the stocks or ETFs in your portfolio, the weather represents the day’s market performance, and red and green rooftops tell you whether a stock is down or up for the day. Who wants to be a measly portfolio owner when you can instead be the ruler of a dynamic metropolis—a living, breathing personal economy?”
FIdelity’s tool uses Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset, to get you into the game managing your own city and investments. The consumer version of the game won’t be available for a few months and, unless you’ve got your hands on an Oculus Rift, you’ll have to use the 2D version of it. However, it got me thinking: many Americans don’t like investing, and would this technology get them more into it?
Virtual Stock Market For All?
There are obvious pros and cons to this type of investment-gaming. First of all, it’s your actual money. You don’t want to get so into a game that you start throwing money into dubious investments just because it’s more fun. It’s like gambling in Las Vegas: while the bright lights and free drinks make for a fun environment, that doesn’t mean you should shell out an extra $1,000 just to keep that party going.
It’s also not clear you’re getting any sort of advice on these investments. Stocks by themselves are not right for everyone. Some people are better served with index funds, dividend stocks, etc. Without any type of guidance on the investments you’re buying, we’re again back to gambling.
That all said, I do think there is a case for making investing more fun. When roughly only half of Americans are investing in the stock market, I do think it’s a signal that the message of why investing is important is not getting across to people. So how can we make investing more appealing, while still making sure people understand the risks associated with it?
Making Personal Finance Enjoyable At a Young Age
If virtual investing is not for you (whether you already find investing fun or think Fidelity’s game is a gimmick), there may be some people in your life you’d like to get into investing. Personally, I think making investing more fun is beneficial. At the very least, getting the next generation involved in investing is a worthy goal, and sometimes people just won’t listen to you unless you make the topic more fun or relevant to them.
While the virtual stock market may be too much for most people, it’s easier to go back to the basics: board games. Now, this may be too basic for those of us reading YourPFPro.com, but it’s not too basic for the younger people in your life. Given the sorry state of financial literacy in the US, you may want to play some of the following board games at your next family gathering.
Monopoly, while not one of my favorite financial board games to play, can teach people a lot about planning ahead. While it’s nice to buy up every property you land on in the early rounds, that strategy quickly goes out the window if you land on something important, like Boardwalk, but have spent all your money on Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues (among others).
Even more importantly, Monopoly teaches you to save for emergencies. You never know when you’ll land on someone’s Pennsylvania Avenue with three houses and immediately owe your jubilant cousin $1,000. While in real life, your cousin would hopefully give you a deal on rent, any other landlord won’t be so forgiving.
In addition to teaching your loved ones the value of having an emergency fund, Monopoly also teaches budgeting skills. When you’re looking to add a house on to one of your properties, not only do you have to save up to purchase that house, but you’ll also want to have money left over for contingencies.
The Game of Life
One of my all-time favorite games, The Game of Life immediately forces you to make some tough life choices. From the beginning, you have to choose whether or not you want to go to college (and take on debt) or start working immediately (and command a lower salary throughout the game).
As with all board games, there is an element of luck to the game. Sometimes I’ve played without a college degree and still ended up winning, other times I’ve played with the college degree but landed on tough spots and never fully paid off my debt. However, other times I’ve been the Doctor with a $100,000 salary and completely shredded all of my opponents (beloved family members) halfway through the game.
In addition to evaluating college choices, The Game of Life also encourages you to think about home and auto insurance. If you have the Mobile Home card for $60,000, you may think less of home insurance than your $200,000 Mansion card. However, if you can’t afford home insurance at the time, do you risk it and cross your fingers your home doesn’t flood? While your younger family members might not understand the gravity of a home flood in relation to a game, it at least starts a conversation about what insurance is and why it can be beneficial.
Whether making investing fun through games is for you or not, it is interesting to see how companies are trying to make investing more interactive. With only half of Americans in the stock market, the market is obviously there for more people to become investors.
Personally, I’d like to see more gamification of saving and budgeting. Creating a budget and planning long-term isn’t glamorous or sexy, but you have to wonder if some people are avoiding the stock market because they simply don’t have any money to invest. Unless we tackle the problem of getting people to not live paycheck-to-paycheck, I’m not convinced these games will be that effective. While playing board games may seem frivolous, it’s one way to open a dialogue with kids and teens about investing and planning for the long term.
Track All Your Accounts With Personal CapitalPersonal Capital lets you see all of your accounts in one convenient place. Sign up now for free.
What do you think of Fidelity’s StockCity? Do you think it will get more people into investing, or is it only a marketing ploy? How do you think the next generation could be more financially literate – in schools, at home, or both?