If you and your friends are bored at home, why not try the fun and educational Cashflow game? You can learn the basics of managing your personal finances, which I bet you didn’t learn at school. I sure didn’t.
At first glance, a game about personal finance and investing may seem a little intimidating. I’ve previously talked about how I learned to get comfortable with debt through the game and if you read that post you may see some unfamiliar terms. Like… what are assets and liabilities? What’s passive income?
Hence, I want to break it down for you so that you can gain enough of an understanding to give the Cashflow game a shot and see what you learn from it.
You don’t have to worry if you can’t get your hands on the board game because you can play the online version for FREE here: https://www.richdad.com/products/cashflow-classic.
You just need to create an account and log in. It allows you to play on your own with just 1 player, though it’s always more fun with friends!
Somehow, the online game doesn’t provide instructions on how the game actually works so you can refer to this post as your handy dandy guide.
This post is gonna be a long one, so you can use these links to navigate:
There will also be links throughout the post so if you click on one and want to go back to the original section you were at, just click on the back button in your browser.
Why should I play the Cashflow game?
If you really need a reason to play a game, let’s just say that this one can have profound impacts on your life and how you manage your money. It introduces important tools for tracking your finances that you should learn to implement in real life, such as financial statements.
It also allows you to experiment with certain behaviours that you may not have tried in real life (investing in the stock market, buying property etc.) in a risk-free environment where you can learn what works and what doesn’t.
The way you play the game tends to very closely reflect the way you act in real life, so it provides valuable insights on what you do and don’t know. I’ve found it to be a great simplistic introduction to important concepts and you can go on to do your own research on how they work in real life.
Most importantly, the game trains your mindset. People often find that they see possibilities whilst playing the game that they’d never have been exposed to because they have limiting beliefs, a lack of confidence or a lack of knowledge.
What’s the aim of the game?
The game has two parts. The first part represented by the circle in the middle is called the Rat Race, which is also where the most learning happens. The aim here is to get your passive income to be more than your total expenses.
The idea behind this is that once you’ve reached this stage, you no longer have to work in order to earn money and maintain your lifestyle because your assets are generating regular income for you. That’s when you can get to the second part of the game, the Fast Track. I won’t talk too much about it since it gets a little boring once you’re on the Fast Track.
There are two ways that you can work towards getting out of the Rat Race and winning the first part of the game: (1) increasing your passive income and (2) reducing your expenses. The game has a handy tracker to show your progress (and financial statements that provide more detail).
Increasing your passive income
You start the game with $0 in passive income. The word ‘passive’ simply suggests that you’re not actively doing any work for the money to flow in, unlike your job where you trade time for money (salary) and no work = no income.
Throughout the game, you will have the opportunity to buy assets that generate positive cash flow on a regular basis. This provides you with passive income.
Some examples of assets you can buy include stocks, property, businesses and gold.
Note that NOT ALL assets will provide passive income. For example, buying stocks does not generate any positive cash flow on a regular basis (i.e. you’re not earning any money from simply holding on to them).
You CAN buy stocks and hold onto them until you are able to sell them for a higher price later, but that is not passive income because there is no REGULAR flow of money.* Once you sell them, it is just a ONE-OFF gain in cash that you’re able to use to invest in other assets.
*Note: In real life, you CAN earn passive income from stocks through dividends, but this game simplifies it and there are no dividends for any of the stocks. Dividends are basically regular payments of cash to shareholders – the companies you invest in can decide whether or not they wish to issue dividends.
Meanwhile, buying a property usually results in some positive cash flow (presumably from renting it out while you own it) although there are some opportunities where there is zero or negative cash flow (i.e. it is unprofitable to hold the property). This is in addition to the money that you can gain upon SELLING the property (a one-off gain).
To be clear: there is a difference between passive income (ongoing positive cash flow whilst HOLDING ON TO the asset) and the one-off gain that you can get from SELLING the asset. When you sell the asset, you also give up the cash flow that it provided whilst you owned it.
Reducing your expenses
You start the game with some liabilities. These are amounts that you owe.
These amounts contribute to corresponding monthly expenses.
Related: Find out how to use the financial statements.
You can’t do much about the taxes and other expenses, but you do have control over the other payments. If you have enough cash, each turn you have an opportunity to repay your debts. For example, if you had $4,000 you could pay off your credit card debt (liability) and get rid of the corresponding $120 monthly expense.
It’s a good idea to keep checking your tracker to see how far you are from your goal. Sometimes, you can reach it just by paying off debt rather than waiting for an opportunity to increase your passive income.
This should be enough for you to start experimenting with the game. There is still lots that you can learn as you go. If you want to understand the nitty-gritty details of the aspects of the game, you can keep reading on.
What are the key aspects of the game?
Learning about financial statements
The Financial Statement tool is key to tracking your progress throughout the game. It consists of your payday amount, your income statement and balance sheet.
You can land on Payday throughout the Rat Race (the yellow tile). This takes into account your income and expenses and pays you the balance.
Your income statement shows you your monthly income sources (salary plus any passive income from your investments) and monthly expenses.
The main use of this section is to keep track of how much passive income you’re getting from each asset (you will lose it if you sell them off!) and to try to reduce your expenses as much as possible by paying off the corresponding liability.
Your balance sheet shows your assets and liabilities.
Assets are things you buy and own for the cash flow they provide and/or in the hopes of selling them for a higher price than you bought them for. It is important to keep track of how much they cost you to buy because it will determine how much you can earn when you sell them.
Liabilities include the ones you started off with (e.g. car loans, credit cards), as well as the money that you may owe when you purchase a property or business opportunity.
The two statements are linked. The income statement shows your short-term financial position (monthly income and expenses) whilst the balance sheet shows your long-term financial position (how much your assets are worth and how much outstanding debt you have on liabilities).
Other game elements
At the start, you get to pick a “dream”. This isn’t really important because it relates to the second part of the game once you’ve gotten out of the Rat Race, so it doesn’t really matter what you pick.
When you land on a deal, you get to choose between a small or big deal. Your choice should depend on how much cash you have to invest.
When you land on a market opportunity, it’ll come up with an opportunity to sell a specific type of asset. If you don’t have the asset, this is essentially useless to you. If you do have the asset, you can choose to sell it. It can also come up with changes in market conditions like stock splits.
Each turn you take, you have the option of repaying your debts as and when you have enough cash. This enables you to reduce the corresponding expenses.
Random one-off expenses
Robert calls these “doodads” (no idea why). Basically, they’re things you decide to splurge money on from time to time. And you have no choice but to pay for them.
This game reflects real life, so you can get laid off! It basically means that the company you work for is downsizing and you lost your job.
Yes, the game also gives you babies. This adds on expenses that you cannot get rid of (sigh). Thankfully, the maximum amount of babies you can have in the game is 3.
I hope that this explains the mechanics of the Cashflow game enough for you to give it a shot.
Of course, the game isn’t perfect. It’s based on a US context, the prices and values may not be very realistic and it’s definitely overly-simplified. But then again, if it tried to be very realistic it would probably get too complicated for anyone to even bother to pick it up.
Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a message if you have any questions. If you’ve played the game, let me know what you think about it!