As you know, I devote much of my time to thinking about weighty topics. One of my favorites is how to save the world.
Another is how to make everyone rich and happy.
Personal FinanceBy Scott Burns
Think of this column as my down payment, just a small one, on both tasks. And, as they note in TV shows: Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
The trouble with Monopoly, the game, is that it’s too much like real life. Someone else (not you) lands on Boardwalk and all you’ve managed to land on is Marvin Gardens. Or something even worse, like Mediterranean Avenue, Water Works or B&O Railroad.
What can you do? Nothing.
You know the situation is hopeless when the same little creep who got Boardwalk lands on Park Place after passing Go. What a loudmouth he is.
And you know it’s only going to get worse. Eventually you’ll be mortgaging what you own and praying not to land on one of the loudmouth’s properties with houses or, still worse, a hotel.
These days, the resemblance between the game and real life is getting uncomfortably close. Millions of Americans are reminded each month when they write their rent check. Homeowners, on the other hand, have enjoyed living in a better neighborhood without having to move.
So let’s consider the basic problem in the game: lack of money.
It doesn’t start that way. In the beginning, everyone gets $1,500 in Monopoly money. You also get $200 each time you pass Go.
We all love to pass Go.
Don’t deny it. The only thing better is getting a check in the mail, which also has been happening in the real world lately.
The problems start when that original round of cash gets invested. It becomes more expensive to land on the properties because you have to pay rent.
With 40 spaces on the board, 28 properties and two taxes, the odds are that you’ll have to pay something at least 75% of the time. And since you’re rolling two dice, an average throw of seven means you’ve got a fairly high chance of needing to pay rent several times in the nearly six turns it takes to round the board, pass Go and collect another $200.
You end up committing all your cash and hoping that your fixed income of $200 will last for a full round of the board.
Once you’ve played the game, you know what they say about the utilities or railroads: fuhgeddaboudit. It’s dead money, like going missing in New Jersey swamp land.
This 2017 photo shows three new tokens that fans from around the world voted into upcoming editions of the Monopoly: a duck, a T-Rex dinosaur and a penguin. (AP)
But even that slum on Baltic Avenue or Mediterranean Avenue can get expensive. With an initial rent of $2 after your $60 purchase, the owner’s return on Mediterranean is only 3.35%. If you were to land there six times, you could pay rent and still have plenty left going into the next round. It’s about double that for landing on Baltic, but still dirt cheap.
That comfort disappears when your opponent has bought both properties, put up houses and, finally, replaced them with a hotel. She will have invested $620, but you’ll have to pay $250 if you land on her hotel, a 67.6% return. More if you land on Baltic.
Either way, land on either of those properties and it will cost more than you make on a complete round trip!
Worse, that’s cheap.
Land on Boardwalk with a hotel and your rent will be $2,000, while her total investment will be only $2,750. That’s a return of 72.7%! More to the point, it’s more money than your initial stake. And you’d have to make 10 complete rounds of the board to collect $2,000 for passing Go!
Instead, you’re likely to mortgage your properties or just go bankrupt.
And that’s a problem.
So, how can we fix this winner-take-all game?
Simple. We could call on the Supreme Grand Poohbah. (That would be me, once I’ve won my lifelong quest for world domination.)
Or the players can appoint a Chairman of the Board. It will be his responsibility to determine the rules for mortgaging and buying properties. He’ll also regulate the amount of money we get for passing Go.
Basically, he’ll put more money in the game, as needed, for as long as needed, so we can all have fun and keep playing.
No one wants the game to end.
So there you have it. My small contribution to making everyone rich and happy, at least in the game of Monopoly.
As I said earlier, “Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”
Personal FinanceBy Scott Burns