Back in the late 1980’s when I was in college, my major area of study was Finance. I wasn’t sure exactly what type of position I wanted, but I knew the lessons I learned would help me in both my professional and personal life. How to properly handle money, weigh risks and rewards and how the financial world works are things that everyone should master, but few do.
Maybe it’s because the topic of finances isn’t a glamorous subject. I know I regularly fell asleep during my Economics course, but that was more due to the drone of the professor’s voice. My Finance class was very different – we had an instructor that showed us real-life examples of the philosophies he was teaching. He did it with enthusiasm and excitement about the course. He truly loved talking about money, and lived to share his knowledge with his students.
I’ve been able to take a look at my daughters’ class schedules for the upcoming year(s) for middle and high school and am concerned about the lack of basic instruction about finances and money management. At the middle school level they will get a full semester on these topics, but only because they chose to take the elective course entitled “Life Skills”. I insisted they each drop their choir class to make room for Life Skills, since it should, as the title hints, teach them skills that will last a lifetime. But the high school is different.
Our system is tuned to be a college prep school, with tracks chosen early on in their high school career. Unless they go down the business/accounting path, it seems they will receive very little instruction on things all of us have to deal with on a daily basis. Taxes, deductions, bills, expenses, budgeting – none of these appear to be on the course agenda of any class. It is up to us as parents to fill in these gaps.
So, like many other things, we like to turn to games to help teach subjects and keep it light and engaging. When it comes to learning about Finance, we’ve found a few really good ones in the past. Stockpile is still a family favorite, as is Ponzi Scheme, where they can learn about the darker side of the financial world. We also practice for the day we win the lottery by playing Get Rick Quick. Let’s hope that comes true someday! This week we’ve had our hands on another stock-related game, Bulls & Bears by Eliora Games.
I’m going to start by saying that Bulls & Bears is not like many of the newly-issued games of today. It still uses an outdated mechanic of roll-and-move, much like Monopoly, where you roll dice and move a corresponding number of spaces. In today’s game world, this mechanic is frowned upon because it removes all strategy and replaces it with pure luck. That aside, Bulls & Bears is not vying to be your favorite board game. It is leaning heavily into the educational space and giving parents a way to start the conversation about personal finance with their family.
Your goal in Bulls & Bears is simple – you start with $100,000 and the first person to double that into a $200,000 net worth wins the game. Moving around the board causes certain things to happen when landed on. Stop on a News Flash and a card is drawn and read aloud (without uncovering the answer).
Players may then buy or sell (or short) investments based upon how they think they will react to the news (hint – if it is good news, the stock will go up). Once all players have made their decision, the results are revealed and players receive or pay money for each investment owned by the amount indicated on the card.
Knowledge spaces allow the active player to place a bet with other players challenging or sharing in the outcome. A Bank spot is like an audit. The Banker conducts a review of the player’s portfolio to make sure they have a balanced investment strategy and will receive a reward or fine of $5,000. Other spaces allow you to purchase a house, retirement plan or insurance, and some might even award you with a salary bonus or a vacation!
I mentioned before the need to amass a net worth of $200,000 to win Bulls & Bears. There’s a little more to it however. Because the game wants to you grow responsibly, in order to win the game you must not only double your fortune, you must do so by also having a retirement plan in place, a home with a mortgage debt of not more than 50%, health insurance and property insurance.
We’ve touted a lot of very good games that have an educational component hidden inside. Bulls & Bears is the opposite – it is a solid learning tool with a game component! Because of the wide variety of subjects touched upon, it is a well-rounded educational tool about topics every child should be exposed to. You can find copies of Bulls & Bears on Amazon for around $40 or play it online via Eliora Games’ website!
Do you think games are a good method of teaching life skills?