I really feel old when I start to reminisce about how much milk cost when I was a kid but it does make me feel like “making it” today is way harder than 30 years ago. Maybe my parents just did a great job of hiding it from me (I do remember a lot of yelling about checkbook balances!) but I really feel for kids today. We’ve allowed them to expect everything with little or no preparation about how to get it, manage it, and keep it.
Here’s a quote from a student who recently participated in our Real World simulation that we do in local high schools. “I used to think that when you get a job and live on your own, you would have all the money you needed to do what you wanted. Now I realize that there are bills to pay before you can do what you want.”
This simulation allows students to pretend they are 25 years old, living on their own and supporting themselves. They are given an occupation with a monthly salary and then must proceed to pay for all the “must haves” along with some luxuries if they want. We make them write checks (ugh!) and use their debit card.
As most of us experienced workers know, that first career-job paycheck seems so big. Then reality hits. These kids must buy or rent a place to live, buy a car and pay taxes, insurance and utilities. They decide what kinds of clothes and food they will buy along with how much “fun” they feel they can afford. It all culminates with a spin of the Wheel of Chance. This wheel can be both savior and devil because it contains things like getting a birthday card from grandma with $50 or getting a $75 speeding ticket.
In the end we find out who is in the hole and who fared well along with some great discussion about money management, choices and career goals. When a student says, “I realized that after paying bills there really isn’t much money left and that I’m going to have to not buy the most expensive of everything”, we know that they got something out of our little exercise.
Kudos to these students who leave the experience with a new understanding of independence and a new appreciation for the financial struggles and choices their parents undergo every day. Kudos as well to the teachers who recognize the need for this type of real-life financial education. This past year Abri has done 35 presentations to 987 students! That’s a lot of young adults who are a little wiser about their financial future!
Every time we put on one of these simulations, I love to listen to the conversations among the teenagers. Grumblings about why you need to pay taxes, complaints about the cost of insurance and lots of relief that it’s only pretend. It has also made me very conscious of teaching my own kids some real life lessons. I get so wrapped up in schedules, GPAs and sports that I tend to overlook some of the basics, like balancing a checkbook and using a debit card. Any great life lessons you’ve taught your kids or your parents taught you??