The Rising Value of Play Money

I guess Monopoly was never very realistic anyway. Though I remember it being PRETTY DARN HARD to beat my sister and she’s done quite well for herself.This game supposedly one ups it, for the budding capitalists. At a pricetag of $195, i guess it teaches something about the laws of supply and demand, and who can afford risk and those who can’t.

NY Times:
The Rising Value of Play Money

Published: February 1, 2004

VERY Friday night at 6:30, John T. Carr III, an administrative assistant at Columbia University, arrives at the Wendy’s restaurant at 45th Street and Lexington Avenue in Midtown Manhattan – not for a burger, but for a board game.

For the last two years Mr. Carr, 42, has forfeited Friday nights with friends and family to play the game, called Cashflow.

After a quick dinner of chili and fries, Mr. Carr and the other regulars spend at least three hours rolling dice, moving Kool-Aid-colored figurines of rats across a multicolored board and becoming pseudo-millionaires.


To the soft-spoken Mr. Carr, Cashflow is much more than just a $195 board game. He credits it with making him more financially disciplined.

Mr. Carr is among a growing number of Cashflow enthusiasts around the world. They are followers of the game and its creator, Robert T. Kiyosaki, known for the best-selling book “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” with its story of two outlooks on personal finance.

More than 300,000 copies of the game have been sold, said Sharon L. Lechter, the chief executive of Cashflow Technologies and the co-author of all nine of Mr. Kiyosaki’s books.

Many players say the game gives them tools to gain wealth, helping them figure out ways to pursue their dreams by earning income beyond their 9-to-5 jobs.

Although many players have yet to match their game results with real life, there are Cashflow success stories.

One is Jay Feitlinger, 29, a Cashflow regular who quit his six-figure sales job at WorldCom last March. He and his wife, Rachel, who also quit her job, bought a franchise of Aussie Pet Mobile, a pet-grooming business, for Scottsdale, Ariz., and northern Phoenix. Their goal is to net $100,000 this year. The Feitlingers regularly play host to Cashflow gatherings, and Mr. Feitlinger now is an occasional consultant to Mr. Kiyosaki’s company.

“It isn’t the typical get-rich-quick scheme which a lot of people get sucked into,” he said. “It teaches everyone something and puts into context a real-life situation.”

Others are still waiting for their big break.

Mr. Carr, who makes $36,000 annually before taxes and who dreams of retiring with $10 million in eight years and becoming a philanthropist, says he first needs to reach his goal of more than $82,000 for 2004.

He has diversified his savings into stocks and wants to become a multimillionaire by hunting for and buying foreclosed properties.

“I consider myself on track right now,” he said during the Friday night game. “If it gets to July and I haven’t gotten at least one investment property that has given me a positive cash flow then I might consider myself getting slightly derailed. That’s why I spend much of my time, one to two hours every day, on my finances.”

Mr. Kiyosaki, who lives in Phoenix, said he introduced the game in 1996 to help people better understand their finances.

Up to six people can play the game. The first goal is to leave the rat race and move to the fast track, where players make money through investments rather than paychecks. Along the way, they acquire real estate, buy start-up companies, pay for children’s education and deal with problems like parking tickets and leaky water heaters.

The first player to reach his or her financial dream is the winner.

For veteran players, there is an advanced version, incorporating margins, options and short-selling. Another version is intended for children.

“I think what he’s done is very, very smart; he has recognized the consumer need for how wealth creation works, and how people get rich,” Eric A. Greenleaf, a marketing professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University, said of Mr. Kiyosaki. “In a world where people are more and more fascinated with things like reality TV, this in a way is reality wealth creation.”

Groups of Cashflow players gather weekly at coffee shops, cafes, bookstores, libraries and churches. Many groups have Yahoo sites where people can sign up.

Enthusiasts also search for other players on Web communities like Craigslist.

The New York metropolitan area has one of the largest Cashflow groups, with more than 270 members, said Cal Jahan, one of the group’s moderators. Mr. Jahan said that most of the players were in their mid-20′s to mid-30′s.

One regular player is David Wong, 33, who was laid off as a tech support worker last June. No longer wanting to be part of the corporate world, he dreams of becoming a millionaire and a philanthropist in 10 years. He is starting a business with a fellow player to sell products online.

Mr. Wong’s online plan recently inspired him to buy 25 garbage bags filled with stuffed animals from a store that was going out of business. He tried to sell them offline without much success. He now plans to sell them on eBay.

“I want more of an understanding of how I want to position myself to sell them,” he said. “For me, it’s real-life practice.”

Critics of the game say that while it helps teach some basic financial skills, it may be more successful at creating illusions for people.

“He’s selling hope,” Joshua Kahr, director of research at the Steven Newman Real Estate Institute at the City University of New York, said of Mr. Kiyosaki’s game. Mr. Kahr was also disturbed by the $195 price of the game. “The price definitely gets under my skin,” he said. “It’s just a lot of money.”

The game is such a magnet, however, that it sometimes attracts financial experts.

Mei Shu, a financial analyst at J. P. Morgan Chase, became a fan after playing the game once.

“It let me see my own investment style,” she said. “I think I am pretty conservative and definitely not a risk taker and I think that prevents me from getting into a lot of opportunities.”

Inspired by the game, she attended a seminar last weekend that taught participants how to find investments in residential real estate.

Mr. Kiyosaki, an entrepreneur with varied businesses, has emerged as a big winner in Cashflow. In 1994, he said, he took a hiatus from work and bought a ranch in Arizona. “In 1996, when I came out of the mountain, I had a draft of ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ on my Mac computer and sketches of this game.”

The game has produced at least $33 million in sales, Ms. Lechter said.

Mr. Kiyosaki says Cashflow is not for everybody.

“My little game is not going to change somebody on the street, but it is better than mutual funds, and education is better than ignorance,” he said.

“My products are designed for people who are proactive anyway.”

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