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7 money lies from Monopoly

In real life, jail is not a safe harbor, and bankruptcy is not the end of the road.

By Karen Datko Jun 22, 2010 11:17AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


When it comes to games, Monopoly is probably one of the most iconic. While I haven't played Monopoly in years, the game and its rules are still fresh in my mind. Nowadays the board games we play are slightly more complicated than Monopoly -- games like Settlers of Catan or Dominion -- but Monopoly still holds a special place in my heart.

If, however, you were to look at the game itself and compare it to real life, you'd find a lot of differences. Some of the differences are inconsequential: The prices for properties ($400? $120?) reflect both an earlier time and a need to improve playability (no sense having people count out $50,000 in increments of $500, a bill that doesn't even exist). Others are more subtle and, if a child were to use Monopoly as a proxy for the real world, really misrepresent the world.


They are, in short, lies.

Bank error in your favor. Bank errors in your favor almost never happen and when they do, you have to return the money. When a bank or another customer makes an error and gives you money by accident, you aren't entitled to it. Possession isn't 9/10ths of the law in this case (or any case; that's just a crazy saying) and in the event you don't report it, you may be liable for stealing.


A bank error happened to Christopher Wink back in August of 2008. He discovered an extra six grand in his bank account. Fortunately, the bank discovered it in time, before he could accidentally spend it, and pulled it out in a "retrieval withdrawal."

Pay cash for property. In real life, how often do people pay 100% cash for their homes and property? Almost never. In Monopoly, you can't take out a mortgage on a home until after you've paid cash for it.


Free parking. Simply does not exist in real life. Enough said.


The $200 salary. Whenever you pass Go, you collect $200. That's the amount you collect at the beginning of the game and that's the amount you collect near the end. It doesn't matter how hard you work, what schooling you received, what skills you have. Everyone who goes around the block gets a cool 200 bills.

Real life doesn't work like that except in the Soviet Union, and look how that turned out. In real life, your hard work will be rewarded. While we don't like to believe that financial fat cats deserve their big paychecks, the reality is that for most people your salary is a translation of how hard and how smart you work. If you don't work hard and don't take schooling seriously, the road forward becomes much harder.


Income tax is simple. Income tax in Monopoly is dead simple -- 10% of your assets or $200. In real life, taxes are far from that simple and you don't really get much of a choice in how you pay. Income taxes in real life aren't based on luck either -- how often are you going to land on that space?

Also, how much you are taxed in the game is a big departure from real life: 100% of your salary seems a bit excessive, don't you think? I've also read that in the newer versions there is no 10% option; it's a straight-up $200 tax no matter what your assets are.


As an aside, ever notice how populist the game is? There's a luxury tax (with no test on what counts as luxury, other than dumb luck) in the game.


Jail is a good thing. In Monopoly, going to jail is great, especially in the later rounds of the game, because it offers you a reprieve from potentially landing on your opponents' hotel-stacked properties. People long for jail time in the game because you can still collect rent while in the slammer.


In real life, jail sucks. It doesn't matter how you try to portray it, being incarcerated and having someone else tell you what to do every hour of the day cannot be a pleasant experience.


Bankruptcy is the end. The game of Monopoly ends with a declaration of bankruptcy. When you can no longer meet your obligations, you have to declare bankruptcy and you are out of the game. In real life, bankruptcy is certainly not the end. In fact, people and businesses declare bankruptcy all the time and it can end positively.


Take Donald Trump, for example. You might have heard that he has filed for bankruptcy several times, but actually, he personally hasn't. A company bearing his name filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows a company to reorganize its debts and, usually, renegotiate them. This lets the business get more favorable terms on the debt and survive to fight another day. Personally, Trump is better than ever.


Finally, and while this isn't an outright lie, chances are you wouldn't win second place in a beauty contest. 


More from Bargaineering and MSN Money:

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