What your kids can learn by playing Jenga

You take a block from the bottom and you put on top. That’s how you build a financial future: You just don’t stop

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When you want to teach your kids about money, lessons from Jenga may not come to mind. After all, what do wooden blocks have to do with budgets and stocks? 

And it’s true: You’re better off starting with Monopoly.

But children’s brains are like sponges, and every minute you spend with them is a teaching opportunity. So why not play up the metaphors contained within the game of stacking blocks?

Three personal finance lessons from Jenga

1️⃣ Keep it simple. How many tabletop games have all of their instructions embedded in their jingle? “You take a block from the bottom, you put it on top, that’s how you build a tower, you just don’t stop.” If they made a jingle for Risk, it’d be 25 minutes long. The simplicity means just about anyone in the household can play, provided they’re old enough not to eat the blocks. When it comes to money, your basic plan should be similarly singably simple. For example, Elizabeth Warren’s famous 50/30/20 plan, in which you spend 50% of your monthly income on needs, 30% on wants, and either save or pay debts with the remaining 20%.  

2️⃣ Maintain a strong base. If you take all the blocks from the bottom and put them all on top, your tower will collapse. Similarly, you shouldn’t use your entire life savings to buy a new car. Keep the base strong, and use what you can spare to keep building.

3️⃣ Take calculated risks. When your turn comes, you have to take a block. That means you could topple the tower and lose the game. But Jenga pros know there are good risks, like taking the center blocks before the sides to keep the base strong.

Finally, let your kids know that Jenga is derived from the Swahili word meaning “to build.” And personal finance is all about building wealth over the long term.