spending

Monopoly for a New Generation

The game plays into millennial stereotypes, but in reality we’re not much different than other generations.

Like many ’90s kids, I grew up playing classic board games, including Monopoly. Recently, game maker Hasbro cashed in on our childhood nostalgia with Monopoly for Millennials, which features Rich Uncle Pennybags taking a selfie, holding a latte, and wearing earbuds and a participation medal. Instead of buying property and amassing cash, players discover destinations—ranging from “Parents’ Basement” to “Week-long Meditation Retreat”—and collect “experience” points. The game, which roasts millennials with the same one-liner clichés we’ve heard for years, was met with ire online but quickly sold out.

But at the suggestion of my editors—both baby boomers—I tracked down the game on Amazon at triple its $20 retail price and gathered friends to play it and see what Hasbro had to say about our generation. Some of my friends found the game offensive, while others appreciated the self-deprecating humor. As we played, we were almost always strapped for cash and waiting for a break (pick up a fourth job, collect $45) or a calamity (unpaid student loans, go to jail), with little chance to increase our income or save for future goals. And yet, with its bikeshares, yoga studio and snarky comments, the game was surprisingly relatable and funny.

Jokes and jabs aside, the financial reality for millennials is challenging. Coming of age during the Great Recession—when student debt ballooned, the job market shrank, wages flattened and credit was put in a vise—has left millennials with lower incomes and fewer assets than Gen Xers and boomers had at the same age, according to a recent Federal Reserve report titled “Are Millennials Different?” But things aren’t as bleak as many have suggested.

Busting clichés. The same obstacles that have stacked the deck against millennials may have also made us better with money. The game implies that millennials live in the moment and spend without planning for the future. But more than 40% of us set money aside monthly, according to a recent study by financial services firm Allianz. Plus, we are prioritizing retirement, with about half of millennials with a 401(k) contributing 10% or more of their income each month, says Allianz.

Granted, for others, saving for retirement draws the short straw. Two-thirds of working millennials haven’t started saving for retirement, reports the National Institute on Retirement Security. That’s cause for concern, but it tracks patterns set by prior generations. A survey by the financial site Comet found that 41% of Gen Xers and 42% of boomers say they haven’t started to save for retirement, either.

For a long time, too, millennials weren’t buying homes at the same rate as previous generations did. In fact, the game’s tagline is “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway.” But now, millennials make up the largest group of home buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. And in 2018, roughly four in 10 millennials owned their own home, while only 16% reported living with their parents, according to a recent report by professional services firm EY.

Millennials have also often been criticized for spending on experiences, such as travel and brunches with avocado toast. But after accounting for differences in earnings compared with prior generations, the Fed study found that millennials’ spending habits and consumer preferences are similar to those of Gen Xers and boomers. One big difference: Social media fuels our spending, with nearly 60% of millennials saying they make unplanned purchases because of what they see on social media feeds, reports Allianz.

As for Monopoly for Millennials, it’s mercifully shorter than the traditional game, leaving us time to play better games, hang out at an artisanal coffee shop or work on a side hustle.

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