WELLINGTON — McCormick Middle School students may not have a full-time job, children or a car, but Wednesday, they had a crash course on life as an adult.
As part of the “Real Money, Real World” program, students were given an occupation, monthly income, families and even credit card debt. The eighth-graders then learned about managing a budget to consider their expenses for necessities, as well as luxuries.
The program, developed by Ohio State University Extension, is designed to prepare students for the realities they will face as an adult, said Julie Mackey, part-time program assistant for 4-H Youth Development.
Mackey, who began teaching her children about budget management at a young age, said it’s important to introduce children to finances early.
“Many kids today we find are not prepared,” she said.
Mackey said many parents feel that their kids don’t need to learn about budget management in middle school, but she said teaching children about the realities of adulthood will prepare them for making smart life choices.
McCormick Middle School student Matthew Tehan said he had no idea how much college cost until participating in the “Real Money, Real World” simulation Wednesday.
Tehan was given the career of a biochemist, but first, he has to pay $543 per month for student loans. In addition, Tehan had to choose a “chance” card, which left him paying $500 in home repairs after a damaging wind storm.
Nevertheless, Tehan, who plans to study carpentry or aerospace engineering when he gets older, said the simulation was helpful.
“It’s pretty fun. It teaches me a lot about what life’s going to be about,” he said.
Students who participated in the program moved throughout the cafeteria, stopping at each “spending booth,” which represented another expense. The booths provided various services, such as banking, groceries, transportation, child care and utilities.
With their monthly “paychecks” in hand, students were required to visit each of the booths, ending up at the Financial Advice booth, operated by Kathleen Norton-Fox.
Norton-Fox, an attorney and CPA, said some students involved in the program had no clue about all of the monthly expenses that they may face as an adult. She said one student decided to forego feeding the children for a month to save money.
“This is a wonderful program for the kids. This is the fourth time that I’ve done it,” she said. “It teaches kids to be fiscally responsible.”
Norton-Fox said the biggest problem she sees when counseling young adults on their finances is that they come out of college in debt after racking up credit card bills. She hopes that the “Real Money, Real World” program will encourage students to save money, rather than rely on a credit card.
“Real Money, Real World” is meant to be a fun, hands-on experience, but it also carries a serious message, according to the program’s directors, Mackey and Minnie Taylor.
They said teenagers may have big ideas about buying a fancy car or a big house, but the simulation was a reality check.
“After they go through this simulation and our classes, they really get an idea of what it costs to live,” Mackey said.
Schools interested in participating in the program can contact Minnie Taylor at the Lorain County Extension office at (440) 326-5851.