High School Students Gain Insight On Real Life Finances

by Sam Phillips, e-Commerce Coordinator, 1st Ed Credit Union

FCCTC Reality Fair 3_copyAfter high school graduation students embrace their family and friends and receive well wishes for the future. At this point, they seem carefree and ready for what may come in the future. In reality most of them are overwhelmed because they will be leaving their friends and family to go to a 4 year college or plan to move out of their parent’s house and live on their own.

They may not be fully prepared for what may come when they leave the comforts of home. Mom and Dad are no longer there to do laundry, wash dishes or take care of the finances. What may seem like freedom is a big reality check of what happens in a household every month and how much everyday life costs. Most students become overwhelmed when they are thrown into the real world after graduation because they do not receive financial education in high school or from their parents.

Credit Unions started to host financial reality fairs to help students get the financial education they need in order to succeed. Students get a preview of what their finances will look like once they move out and start a career. Each student chooses a career and receives a budgeting worksheet that shows their annual salary, monthly take home pay, a student loan payment (if applicable), a credit card payment, and their current savings and checking balances.

Throughout the fair they have to fill in the worksheet with monthly expenses for everything from food to night life. Each expense offers the student at least three options to choose from; minimal, average or elaborate. They also get to spin the wheel of reality that has six positive and six negative spaces that the student may incur such as a lost wallet or a holiday bonus check.

Fannett-Metal Reality Fair 1Once they complete the monthly budget, a financial counselor guides them through balancing everything, ensuring they haven’t spent more than they’ve earned. Students that are over budget have to go back through the fair and find a part-time job, cut back on expenses or find a friend to be their roommate and ease the burden of monthly expenses. If they are on track with their budget, the financial counselor discusses what they can do with their “leftover” money.

Each student begins with a $2,000 balance on their credit card, so they are encouraged to pay down their debt and invest in themselves with these funds. Some students wanted to save to buy a home if they were renting or living with parents, rather than go back and choose the high end car or a more expansive night life.

The exercise gave them a new perspective on what their options will be in June when they leave the comfort of high school and start their careers. The students left with budgets in hand and a new insight on what the future may hold.

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