With the help of many community volunteers who staffed 14 business booths. students from Ansonia, Mississinawa Valley, Arcanum-Butler, and Tri-Village participated in a Real Money, Real World simulation. Students were assigned a career, a monthly salary and a specific number of children. Each student visited the various booths making spending choices on their family situation hoping they would have enough money to make ends meet at the end of the month.
Thee program includes four classroom lessons to prepare students to assume the role of a 27-year-old adult, who is the primary income provider for a family. They received an occupation, monthly salary, and the number of children they are raising. Students learned to subtract savings, taxes, and health insurance premiums from their monthly income. The amount of money left over is what they spent during the simulation activity. Students spent money at booths staffed by community volunteers on items typically found in a monthly budget including housing, utilities, groceries, insurance, child care and transportation. Throughout the activity, students kept track of their finances and attempted to complete the simulation with a positive balance.
The program is a product of The Ohio State University and was organized for the community by Extension Educator Rhonda Williams in collaboration with Darke County Educational Center.
One of the biggest surprises to participants was the cost of child care. One youth, who came into the simulation with only an $1,800 monthly salary and two children. was discouraged to discover at the child care booth that daycare for his two children would be over $800. Volunteers at the Financial Assistance booth assisted him in getting a second part-time job after he discovered that “giving his children back” was not an option.
Resource Officer Kyle Yount for Ansonia schools kept an eye out for students who purchased cars at the Transportation booth but failed to go directly to the insurance booth. Tickets were issued for those attempting to bypass that step. Students quickly learned the importance of purchasing insurance. Some students had to pay more for their insurance because they had “bad driving records”.
During the post-simulation lesson, students reflected on their experience and what they learned by completing a self-assessment. The students thoroughly enjoyed the experience but were shocked at how hard it was to meet a monthly budget. Many had newfound respect for their parents and what they deal with on a daily basis. At the end of the experience, student comments included, “Kids are expensive,” “I need to stay in school and graduate in order to get a better job later,” “Life is a whole lot harder than I thought,” and “I need to get the important stuff out of the way first.”
As reported in a Real Money, Real World. follow-up study, students reported significant changes in their financial behavior after the program. Over 80 percent of participants reported changes in the extent to which they now repay money owed on time, set aside money for the future, and compare prices. Over three-fourths of students indicated they now think more carefully about spending money.
If you would like more information about the Real Money. Real World. program, please contact Rhonda Williams at the Darke County Extension Office.
Jodi Rinehart is from the Darke County Educational Service Center.