During these extended lockdowns, I thought I would share something that I do with my kids (one is currently 13, the other is 17). This makes the games more interesting to me as an adult, and educational for the kids.
My family and I play an expanded game we call "Real Life". We use the games of Life (L), Payday (PD), and The Stock Market Game (SMG). That last one is a rather unheard of game from the 1960s that I picked up from a yard sale for $2 about 10 years ago (https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3887/stock-market-game
). In short, SMG is a stock trading game using a total of 8 stocks, share purchases, company stock splits and reverse splits, dividend payouts, etc. I would think that any similar game based on the stock market could be used to play Real Life, but the rules below are specific to the game I own.
A playthrough of Real Life can take anywhere from 3-16 hours to play, depending on how many players there are, if we use "full years" or not, or if choose to use just Life and Payday instead of all three games. All money and a few rules are shared among the games. Here’s how it goes:
We set up each game according to the rules. The turns work like this: It takes playing a full month on the PD board to earn a single roll on the L board, and prior to rolling on the PD board you roll on the SMG board. So SMG is a “daily” roll that happens prior to rolling in PD, and a playing a month in PD earns a move in L. To make the game longer (and more realistic), we sometimes require a full 12 months be played in PD to have a move in L – which makes for a better simulation.
Here are the rule changes and additions that are incorporated to make the games work together:
- All players have to manually keep track of their PD months, their income streams, the amounts earned from selling “deals”, the amounts they put into their retirement account and SMG brokerage account, and how much into each stock when purchased because taxes apply to investment earnings (see below).
- In PD, all “deals” have an extra two zeroes added to the prices if playing the 12-month version of the game, or one zero if playing the single-month version. Players are limited to selling a single “deal” once per month. The purchase value of any “deals” still held at the end of the game are added to the player’s net worth.
- In L, all later-stage Home prices have an extra zero, and the player must purchase one if playing the 12-month version of the game. Starter Home prices remain as they are. Starter Homes may be kept instead of sold in order to create an income stream equal to 2% of the home’s sale value, payable each PD month. Additional homes may be purchased to produce additional income streams. These are manually recorded, so the player can never run out of properties to purchase because the cards aren’t taken from the pile. Any loans taken out to purchase properties are subject to the PD loan interest rules below.
- Instead of using the starting money rules in SMG, a player waits until passing the first green “payday” space in L before being able to invest money on the SMG board. The player may to add any L or PD “payday” money to the SMG board. Money from L and PD can be added to SMG only when it is received, and this is the only way that money gets added to SMG.
- At the end of each PD month or L green “payday” square, the player is allowed to put money away into a checking account that earns 1% every PD month (or every 12 PD months if playing the longer version), into a retirement account, or a brokerage account that is used as the money for playing in SMG. The retirement account earns a static 7% every 12 PD months. Players may have money in both SMG and this retirement account. Money may be taken out of the savings account at any time. Money may be withdrawn from SMG and used in the other games at any time subject to the below rules regarding early withdrawal of funds. Money from the retirement account may never be removed except to pay off a debt, and is taxed at 10% when withdrawn.
- For PD and L, all income from paydays and the earnings on sold Deals is taxed at 20% (payable either at the time of earning, or delayed until the end of a “year” if playing the long version). SMG stock market earnings are taxed at 10% when calculated for net worth at Retirement in L, or 20% if money is withdrawn before Retirement and used in L or PD (money is withdrawn from principal last, and principal money is never taxed). Any money assigned to SMG but not actively invested in a stock sits in a "Money Market" account earning 1% every 12 PD months (in both versions of the game). Earnings on this money is not prorated if withdrawn – the account earns an automatic 1% (rounded up or down to the nearest dollar) on whatever amount is present at the end of the 12th month.
- In SMG, a player may choose to purchase an “Index” instead of individual stocks. The Index is either “Right-side” or “Left-side”, depending on the side of the board the player wishes to purchase. The Index share price is calculated as the sum of one share of all stocks in that Index at the current price. A player may purchase an Index share at any time he lands on any stock located within the respective Index, and receives one share of each stock in the Index when he does so. Multiple Index shares may be purchased at a time. The stocks are treated separately afterward for stock splits, sales of stock, etc. The Index option merely lets players purchase more than one stock at a time instead of being limited to purchasing a single stock at a time. The limit to purchasing a single share applies when on a Board Meeting space, meaning that only a single Index share can be purchased if the player lands on a square leading to the Board Meetings where stock splits occur.
- In SMG, a player may enter a Board Meeting only once every quarter (3 PD months) for each stock he owns instead of whenever he happens to pass by a Board Meeting entrance.
- A player may “Retire Early” in L any time after passing the option to purchase the second home. The first player who does gets all 3 Life tiles at the Manor plus a passive income stream equal to 2% of his second home’s value, paid at the end of each PD month. All other players who Retire Early just get a single tile from the pool. Any player who Retires Early can keep all properties and income streams, only selling them at the end of the game in order to tally the player’s total net worth. All other rules for the Manor apply (including the ones about getting one’s Life tiles stolen if the source pool is depleted). The player continues to roll in PD and SMG until the end of the game, but loses his monthly PD paycheck. Players who retire normally must sell their second home as per the L rules, and stop receiving their monthly PD paycheck, but continue to roll in both PD and SMG (making stock decisions, buying and selling deals, etc), and may keep any other passive income streams.
- The Long Term Investment option in L applies to all three games (all regular “daily” rolls in PD and SMG can earn money, but the extra rolls for certain PD squares are exempt), and this serves to simulate a “side hustle” or passive income stream that occasionally pays out. The payout is reduced to $1,000 per payout.
- Any loans incurred in L or PD are subject to monthly interest per the PD rules, but is reduced to 5% per month.
- If SMG isn't used during a playing of Real Life, then the retirement account and checking accounts remain in play, but the SMG brokerage and money market accounts disappear (thus allowing Real Life to be played with just Life and Payday).
- The game ends when the last player Retires in L. The winner is determined by net worth of all assets across all games.
We like playing this game a lot - especially my youngest daughter and myself. Nothing like spending quality time playing games with family, having snacks at hand, music, talking about whatever else comes to mind as we play.
And the educational lessons are priceless. It was a real pleasure to see the dismay on her face when she finally said one evening a few months ago "I hate paying the interest on this loan! I'm never getting one unless I have to!" This was made pretty plain when the $100k loan for going to college at the beginning of Life starts accruing interest before she even gets to her first paycheck. I think it's finally starting to sink in that it's better to be debt-free and invest than to spend, spend, spend - but loans are sometimes a necessary evil in order to get started, but best paid off quickly. The next things are to try to get her to understand passive income streams, compound interest, diversifying her money among varying investment options, and keeping enough liquidity on hand to both pay the bills and take advantage of opportunities that come along.