Happy April Fools’ Day. Do you want to play a game? It costs absolutely nothing and it’s fun. It also doesn’t require any batteries! I assure you, this is no April fool’s joke.
Today, I want to present a game that encourages you to stay on your journey towards financial independence and early retirement (FIRE). We are all familiar with this game, but I bet you haven’t seen it in the context of personal finance.
During my recent travel in India, I found an interesting full-page ad in a national English newspaper by one of the country’s largest asset management companies (comparable to our Vanguard or Fidelity).
The entire ad was about this game. They took our familiar ‘snake and ladders’ game and converted it into a series of life decisions that have either positive (ladder) or negative (snake) financial consequences. By presenting it as a game, and encouraging people to play it, the concept exposes you to real-life challenges you face on the journey to reach the final step – that is a ‘happy and comfortable’ retirement. That’s what the last square (#42) represents on their game. In a way, this is a game of life.
This game can be played by anyone (10 year old onwards). It requires at least 2 players (each starting at square #1) but even 5 people can easily play the game together. Each player gets their turn where they throw a dice and move their coin forward by the number of squares that the dice shows. Since a dice is involved, the winner is eventually based on luck but it teaches skill by the information contained in the game. Specifically, it makes you differentiate between a ladder and a snake in your own personal financial journey. Players will learn what will help them move up in their FIRE journey and what will pull them back down.
I have attached the picture of the financial snake and ladders game that you can zoom and print out for your viewing pleasure. I wondered how useful this game would be if similar version was available in the U.S. but you can play the game just as it is. Just substitute financial terms specific to your country.
For example, EMI stands for ‘equated monthly installments’ – which, in the North American context will be ‘monthly mortgage payment’ plus any other monthly loans being re-paid (eg, student loan). Similarly, SIP stands for ‘systematic investment plan’, which refers to the automated investments that you must set up to go from your checking account into your investment accounts (MFs – mutual funds or brokerage). ‘ELSS’ refers to some kind of tax-deferred investment option, which I presume is similar to 401(k) or IRA.
Where ever you find Indian currency (Rupee symbol) mentioned in the game, replace with $, € or £ or ¥ or whatever currency you save your assets in. And, convert the Rs. 1000 (in square #2) into a figure that represents at least 10% of the starting salary of a college graduate in your country.
That’s it. You now have an interesting game relevant to your financial environment that you can play among your family and friends. In the process, you can educate them about the upsides and downsides (some of which are preventable) in the FIRE journey.
Some snakes are funny (“parties every other day“) and some are clear warnings (“spending more than earning“) but the ladders are always encouraging you to fast-track your journey to a happy financial ending.
I cut this from a newspaper at the airport, so it wasn’t exactly a clean cut but I think you can still make out all the squares and the text in them. You can use this directly or you can paste it onto a equal size packaging brown board or a thick plastic sheet to make this a ‘proper’ board game. You can also use this to create a similar one (you have full creative license to do so!) and enjoy the game! This type of board game should be fun to play with kids during the drive to a summer holiday destination.
Let me know what you think about this game in your comments below. Shouldn’t we have more schools in the world teach this game to our kids?
Raman Venkatesh is the founder of Ten Factorial Rocks. Raman is a ‘Gen X’ corporate executive in his mid 40’s. In addition to having a Ph.D. in engineering, he has worked in almost all continents of the world. Ten Factorial Rocks (TFR) was created to chronicle his journey towards retirement while sharing his views on the absurdities and pitfalls along the way. The name was taken from the mathematical function 10! (ten factorial) which is equal to 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 3,628,800.