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Stuck At Home? Try These Finance Activities

We’ve rounded up a list of finance activities that you can enjoy with your family or on your own.

Articles by katiemarie
By Katie Marie Content Manager, Betterment Published Apr. 14, 2020
Published Apr. 14, 2020
5 min read

Let’s face it—times are uncertain right now. Between COVID-19, the volatile stock market, and economic instability, the last thing we all want is to be stuck at home. The truth is that staying home is the best thing we can do right now, but we know that doing nothing can be difficult.

Check out our ideas on how you and your family can pass the time while also learning more about finance.

Start a weekly family board game night tradition.

Now is a great time to dust off the boardgames of your past and play them with your kids. Monopoly, Life, and Payday are all time-tested and classic games that can involve the whole family in a little bit of financial fun.

Money management expert Dave Ramsey created a board game called Act Your Wage! that teaches players how to use an envelope budgeting system and how to pay off debt using the snowball method.

For teenagers specifically, CPA Sharon Lechter created ThriveTime for Teens. The game helps your teenagers think about what life might be like once they leave home. It involves scenarios for dealing with jobs, car payments, paying for college, investing, starting a business, and even giving back to the community. A few rounds of this game is sure to open your teen’s eyes to what their financial future might consist of.

Invest $100,000 right now—in a free stock market simulation game.

If you’re feeling the itch to play around in the stock market, try your hand at Investopedia’s free Stock Market Game. It’s a safe way to experience the rush that can come with a big win without sacrificing your hard-earned savings.

The game mirrors the real stock market, so the experience is as real as it can get without sacrificing your own cash. You can even challenge your friends and compete against other players all over the world. If you miss your friends, this is a unique way that you can stay engaged with them—even from a distance.

A little healthy competition with your friends, while learning how volatile stock prices can be in response to the ever-changing news, is a fun way to pass the time. It’s also a great way to teach older teens about the stock market without it feeling like another chore or lesson.

We must note here that the game doesn’t match the exact real-time prices in the market at any given point in time, and simulation trading doesn’t take into account real-world factors such as trading costs and the emotional aspect of investing with real money versus pretend money. Don’t assume that the game is training you on how to beat the stock market, it’s not—it’s just for fun.

Learn something new with just a tiny bit of effort.

There are a few ways that you can learn something new—for free—without having to harness too much extra brain power.

Investopedia sends out a free daily email that teaches you one new financial definition each day. Do you know what “creative destruction” means? Familiar with a “jumbo loan”? Ever heard of “The The Klinger oscillator?” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then you’re in good company. Sign up for their email and learn more about finance and the economy bit by bit every day.

If videos are your thing, head over to Khan Academy, where you’ll find a free course on finance and capital markets. While this might sound dry at first, there are actually tons of interesting videos on topics like the home-buying process, compound interest, bitcoin, and corporate bankruptcy.

You start with the basics, with the option to really dig deep if you want to keep going. Each class varies in length, but most are between a few minutes and 15 minutes.

Break taboo and start having conversations about money.

Fire up your FaceTime and make an effort to connect with your friends and family digitally. We believe that money doesn’t have to be a taboo topic, especially among those we are closest with.

Talk to your parents about their financial situation. You don’t need to ask how much they have, but rather, find out where it is. Your parents may have been saving and investing with the same company for many years—and loyalty might have its advantages—but perhaps there are better options out there now.

Hidden fees, or even high fees that are in plain sight, eat away at the money your parents need for their retirement. If they’re up for it, suggest that they open a Betterment account and sync up their other financial accounts so that we can uncover high fees for them. This feature can be used within an account without ever needing to deposit money because we simply want anyone to have access to information that can help them make better financial decisions.

Another thing you can do is interview your friends. Find out what budgeting apps they swear by. Have they read any good finance books or listened to any educational podcasts? We don’t advise getting into specifics about income and tax brackets—you don’t need to share that information in order to have an insightful conversation about managing money.

See if you share the same idea of what a dream retirement looks like—will you be hanging out on a beach together someday, or will you be on opposite sides of the world? The free retirement planning tool that comes with your Betterment account allows you to input different zip codes for where you plan to retire, so that you can see how it affects the amount you need to save in order to make your dream a reality.

Try out an investing experiment on your cat.

Our customers know that we are a long-term investment company that passively invests in exchange-traded funds. That means we aren’t trying to time the stock market by day trading or trying to buy low and sell high. The tried and true advice we give to investors during times of market volatility is to do nothing.

To highlight why actively picking stocks isn’t a successful long-term investing strategy, consider this: in 2012, a British newspaper reported that a house cat managed investments better that year than a team of professional money managers. We’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

In the experiment, the cat dropped a toy mouse onto a grid of numbers that correlated to a list of publicly traded stocks. The performance of the cat’s stock choices were then compared to the picks the professional money managers made—and the cat ended up with more money in the end.

Cat in front of a computer looking at stock market performance

Dumpling, owned by one of our Security Team experts, checks to see how her stock picks are performing.

So find your cat’s favorite toy, draw up some grids, and see what happens! Maybe your cat can also help you settle the family argument over what to have for dinner tonight.

We’d love to hear from you!

We here at Betterment are stuck at home, too, and we’d love to hear from you if you try any of these finance activities. Or, share your ideas with us! You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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