Want an easy, fun way to teach your children (or yourself) the fundamentals of investing? Then head over to Innoventions West at Epcot. There, you’ll find The Great Piggy Bank Adventure to be both a fun game and a great teaching tool.
The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, presented by investment firm T. Rowe Price, has participants competing not against each other, but against “the Wolf,” in an effort to achieve the goal they set for themselves. In doing so, the Adventure covers four “financial building blocks”—1) set goals, 2) save, 3) remember inflation, and 4) diversify.
Your partner in these games is a life-size piggy bank. His job is to help you save and invest in order to make your dreams come true. You don’t actually put money in this piggy bank, but there’s a computer chip where the coin slot would be, so that he can keep track of your progress. He talks to you, explaining the rules and offering encouragement.
On my family’s recent visit to Walt Disney World, we split into two teams of two with the goal of taking opposite approaches to the game to see how different our results would be. I was curious whether the game actually showed success for making the right moves and failure for not following basic investment principles. My daughter and I were the first team; call us the “Wrightlys.” We were in it to win it. Our goal was to do our absolute best to maximize our savings and investments. The other team consisted of my wife and son—the “Spendmores.” They would take the opposite approach and try to save as little as possible, making as many poor savings and investment decisions as they could.
Your first step, in keeping with the four financial building blocks, is to set the goal that you’re saving for. This can be retirement, college, or our choice—an ultimate vacation (our next trip to Disney World!). To ensure that we were comparing apples to apples, both teams set the same goal.
The next step, your first game, is called “Save It!” Here, you begin saving for your goal. The idea is to teach you that in order to achieve your goals, you must save your money instead of spending it for instant gratification. Coins fall from the top of the screen. Players control a set of ramps that you can tilt either left or right. As the coins hit these ramps, they roll either left or right to land in a series of buckets at the bottom of the screen. Some buckets are labeled “Save.” Your goal is to get your coins in these buckets. Some buckets are labeled with categories of spending. The Wrightlys attempted to get all of our coins in the savings buckets. We weren’t entirely successful, because the Wolf will switch the buckets around so that coins that were formerly falling into savings buckets are now falling into spending buckets. When he does this, players must adjust the tilt of their ramps to redirect the money. In a case of a game imitating life, my son and wife directed most of their money into toys, candy, and outfits instead of savings. At the end of the first game, the Wrightlys were about three quarters of the way towards our goal, based on the bar graph displayed on the screen. The Spendmores were only about one quarter of the way.
If you’re saving for something several years in the future, you have to account for the effect of higher prices on the ability of your savings to pay for your goal. The second game, “Inflation Race,” teaches you about this. The coins are moving up and down a series of “market currents,” sort of like rivers. The “Inflation Dude” attempts to reduce the value of your savings with his coin-shrinking machine. Players must move the Piggy Bank in his balloon up and down the currents and left and right across the currents, in an attempt to catch the coins before Inflation Dude can shrink them. I found this to be the hardest part of the game. It was difficult for my daughter and me to control our balloon. But in the end, according to the Piggy Bank, we “totally beat” Inflation Dude. The Spendmores didn’t make much of an attempt to beat inflation, and their savings shrank accordingly.
The last game, “Hide and Peek,” teaches you about the value of diversifying your investments—not putting all your eggs in one basket. The screen displays a bedroom with different “hiding places,” each with a value from “x2” to “x5.” Using a controller that looks like a magnifying glass, players move their coins into the different hiding places. At the end of a set time, the Wolf comes out and raids two of the hiding places, taking all of the coins there. You do this a total of three times. We Wrightlys attempted to move our coins into all the different hiding places. When the Wolf came out after the first round, I noticed that he raided two of the “x5” hiding places. This makes sense, because in the real world, investments with greater potential gains also have greater risk of losses. So after the first round, we put a few coins in the “x5” places, but made sure to spread some around into the other places, too.
The Spendmores, on the other hand, only put their coins in the “x2” places, and only placed the small denomination coins there, leaving the rest in the room for the Wolf.
After this third game, you go to “Weigh In.” You put your Piggy Bank in a tube, and he’s lifted up. Then he comes down and tells you how you did. The Wrightlys reached 100% of our goal. The Spendmores, who failed to follow the fundamental investment principles, only had 10% of their goal. So in the end, the decisions we made in the game, like the decisions we make in real life, had an impact on our ability to pay for our ultimate vacation.
My family has enjoyed this game since the first time we played it, a few years ago. My kids always look forward to it when we go to Epcot. There’s also an online version you can play to bring a little of the magic home. The games are slightly different, but the teaching principles are the same.
As we were exiting the Great Piggy Bank Adventure, I noticed some tips from the Piggy Bank on the wall. Next week, I’ll revisit the Adventure and apply these tips to planning an ultimate Disney vacation.
Contributed by: Mark Jeffries (NDD#102) Mark is the DDL Finance Blogger.