McLennan County’s Cooperative Extension Program and Mart High School, in Mart, Texas, conducted the Welcome to the Real World! financial literacy simulation. Sixty-eight high school juniors and seniors explored hands-on budgeting choices, as well as, career and lifestyle options.
Prior to the simulation, students assumed the role of single, 25-year old independent adults with no financial support from friends and family members, that had attained the basic educational requirements for their career of choice. After choosing a career, the students had their taxes, savings and student loan repayments deducted from the income, and students used the remaining income to determine their monthly budget and lifestyle choices. Even before the simulation some students were reconsidering their career choices.
“I thought I wanted to be a child care worker but I don’t know how I would pay my bills. I am thinking about a Plan B job choice,” said a Mart High School junior.
Using their monthly budget students visited different stations that represented items on their monthly budget. More than 15 volunteers assisted students as they decided how to pay for housing, utilities, transportation, entertainment, groceries, insurance and clothing. Students also had the option of visiting a station to donate to charity. If they overspent their budget, a financial assistance station helped students with their budget for a $50 overdraft fee, per visit. The Reality Wheel station was used to represent unexpected life situations where students could lose or gain as much $250 from the wheel.
Community volunteers who manned the stations included a city council member, firefighter, local business executive, parole officer, pharmacy technician, grandparent, two parents and Mart Independent School District staff. Missy Canet, a Mart High School parent and Groesbeck High School counselor managed the Groceries station and was impressed by the simulation.
“The kids seemed genuinely interested and engaged in the program. I’m interested in doing this activity at Groesbeck High School next fall,” she said.
Mart Firefighter Phillip Burnett, who managed the Entertainment station also saw the students’ high level of engagement in the simulation.
“I witnessed several your adults realize the struggle of what their guardians go through to help raised them. This was a great exercise for young people to take a look in the ‘Real’ world,” said Burnett.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service‘s Central Program Leader, Dana Tarter agreed. In her visit she mentioned, “the students I observed at the Mart High School event took the simulation to heart, they were engaged and worked diligently to make the best decisions and spend their money wisely. I believe it was a real eye opening activity for some.”
On concluding the simulation, students and volunteers were able to reflect on their experience during a wrap-up session. Volunteers which included Ginger Rainey, a grandparent who managed the Reality Wheel station, advised students to watch their transactions and make sure they equaled out to their budget and account activities. Students also expressed their thankfulness. A Mart High School senior commented, “I believe this was an eye opener and a good way to show us how to manage our money.”
By Meilana A. Charles,
Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Cooperative Extension Program
Visit us online at www.pvamu.edu/cahs