5 Personal Finance Lessons I Learned from Playing Dungeons and Dragons

When I went back home for Christmas recently, I took a break from blogging about personal finance mastery to just enjoy family time.  It was incredibly therapeutic.

My brother invited our family to play Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).  Not everyone was able to play, so it ended up being just me, my brother, and our wives. 

I played a half-elf paladin named Vindur “The Relentless” Gwynt.  I was a divine-powered knight, dealing damage to goblins with my massive 2-handed sword.  We embarked on an epic quest to rid the village of Mosscrest from the goblin scourge that was plaguing them. 

I had never played D&D before, but it was a ton of fun!  Apparently, D&D has made a resurgence in recent years and is becoming a very popular game again.

personal financeIf you’re unfamiliar with it, just know that D&D is a role-playing tabletop game.  The Dungeon Master (DM) guides the players through quests, typically with a medieval/fantasy theme.  

During each quest, players employ strategies to find treasure and fight enemies.  The roll of the dice determines a players’ success or failure in some actions.  But, the game is really more about strategy than luck.

While we were playing, it occurred to me that there were some meaningful parallels between D&D and personal finance.  That might sound ridiculous, but it’s actually a lot of fun to think about.

So, here are five lessons from D&D that I think can apply to your personal finances.

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1. Like D&D, personal finance requires a LOT of preparation.

My brother spent many hours preparing our game in the weeks before our visit.  He wrote back stories for our characters and figured out our skill levels.  He created the quest, drew the map, and set up the scenarios for fighting the enemies. 

Once he had our characters all set, we had to learn our characters’ stories before learning how to play.  Then we had to learn what each type of die meant and how to move and fight in the game.

It took a lot of preparation to set up the game.  The game only took about 2.5 hours, but we put more hours than that into the prep work.  

Personal finance is much the same way.  Before you can get started on complex investing strategies, you’ve got to prepare.  

I spent many hours in high school and college reading books on investing and personal finance.  I started with simple investing and saving strategies and branched out as I learned more. 

Just like in D&D, all that preparation makes the next round much easier.  You do a lot of reading and studying up front, and that pays off for many years (or games) in the future.

2. Like D&D, personal finance is not just for nerds.

I had always thought that D&D was for uber-nerds only.  Full disclosure, I’m definitely a nerd, but not in that stereotypical “Big Bang Theory” way.  My wife and brother’s wife are definitely not nerds, and we all had a ton of fun.

It’s a role-playing game, so it’s a lot more fun when everyone really gets into it.

I think that applies to personal finance as well.  I know plenty of people that think personal finance is too complex or difficult for them.  Trust me, personal finance isn’t just for nerds.

Everyone needs to be good at managing their personal finances.  No one gets a pass just because “it’s hard.”

As physicians, it’s especially important to get over any concerns and tackle the issue directly.  You make too much money to not pay attention to where your money is going.  There are a lot of great resources out there, and I truly believe that anyone can be good at it.

Most of personal finance is basic behavior modification and an understanding of sixth grade math.  Just like D&D, I think anyone can do it.

3. Personal finance and D&D are better when done with friends/family.

Personal finance can be boring, and it’s easy to give up working on it if you’re doing it alone.  I couldn’t imagine playing D&D by myself.  It would be like playing chess against myself.  It’s just not as much fun.

personal financeIf you’re having to do your personal finances by yourself, it’s definitely harder and less enjoyable.  If you’re married, you should be doing your budget with your spouse.  You should also be setting your financial goals together.

Do you think our warrior/wizard crew would have been successful in our quest if we didn’t work together?  Of course not!  Personal finance is the same way.  You need to work together.

As with D&D, there is probably one person in the relationship who knows more than the other, but both of you need to work together.  You need the mutual encouragement.  You also need people with different skill sets to complement each other.

More importantly, the only way to ultimately achieve your goals together is to work together. 

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4. A qualified guide or advisor can really help.

My brother is an experienced Dungeon Master.  He has hosted a regular game with some friends for years, and he’s quite good at it.  

His expertise and preparation made the game much more enjoyable and ultimately facilitated our success.

Do you have a “Dungeon Master” for your personal finances?  That is, do you have a trusted advisor that can guide you in reaching your financial goals?

The majority of millionaires (>60%) in America report using a financial advisor.  Studies show that a qualified financial advisor offers tremendous value.  

A good financial advisor can teach you about your financial choices and help you avoid catastrophes.  

For example, many people feel temptation to sell stocks when the market takes a dip.  A good financial advisor can help talk you out of doing something dumb like that. 

If you use a financial advisor, make sure you select someone who will teach you.  Don’t get someone with the heart of a salesman.  You need a teacher.  

For more ideas on selecting financial advisors, check out this article: “Who is on your personal ‘board of directors’?

5. Experience points take you to a new level.

After annihilating the goblin menance in the caverns above Mosscrest, we earned enough experience points for our characters to increase from Level 1 to Level 2.

In D&D, your character starts at Level 1, with low health, minimal weapons, and low-level skills.  As you fight enemies and complete quests, you earn experience points.  The more experience points you earn, the sooner you increase your character’s level.

At higher levels, your character gains access to new skills and abilities.  You also become stronger and can withstand more damage.

With your personal finances, your cumulative experience also propels you to new levels.  

At the beginning, you are at a rudimentary level.  You may not be able to do much more than a basic budget and saving money in a savings account.

As you master that, you branch out into simple investing in stocks/bonds and mastering legal tax avoidance.  Eventually, you’re investing in real estate, starting a small business, and mastering more complex financial strategies. 

Don’t be worried about starting very simply.  No one who is worth millions of dollars knew how to manage that when they first started out.  You need the experience of managing simple finances to enable you to manage more complex finances.

Study, learn, and evaluate each financial experience you have.  Use those experiences to hone your financial planning.  Eventually, you’ll be your own “Dungeon Master.”

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Final Thoughts

I resisted the idea of playing D&D at first because I thought it was for nerds and guys with bad hygiene.  That’s definitely not the case.  It’s really a game for everyone!

Likewise, if you’re resisting the idea of taking the time to master your personal finances, you need to stop resisting!

Start from Level 1.  With experience and guidance, you’ll level up very quickly.  Eventually, you’ll be teaching others how to master their personal finances.

Whether you play D&D or just continue to master your personal finances, I wish you success in your quest! 

Further Reading

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Comments (2)

  • Great game – it has been a few years. That’s pretty cool your brother spent so much time setting it up. I consider personal finance a bit of a hobby, but it is definitely less enjoyable doing it by yourself. Thankfully I have the internet to bounce the more complex ideas off of as my family probably wouldn’t want to talk about Roth Conversion Ladders with Chrismas dinner. : )

    Happy New Year!


    • Ha ha, yes I can imagine that dinner conversations about complexities of investment may get people to tune out. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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