Reality of Money
Piedmont Advantage Credit Union recently introduced approximately 150 middle school students at The North Carolina Leadership Academy to the Reality of Money, a crash course in personal finance. Judging from the students’ reactions, this event was an eye-opener.
“Through this program, students can see what the real world is like month to month,” said Piedmont Advantage Community Development Executive Jobana Semones.
“The Reality of Money attempts to teach students to live within, or below, their means, to learn that credit can affect their way of living, that furthering education beyond high school is important to a successful future and that learning how to manage money now will help them avoid many financial pitfalls,” Semones said.
Before the program begins, students are assigned a personal profile with an occupation, education level, income, marital status and if they have good or bad credit. With this profile, they moved through stations where Piedmont Advantage representatives help them find affordable housing, transportation, groceries, child care, entertainment and communications.
If students run out of money for the month, they were directed to a help desk where Piedmont Advantage Learning Facilitator Megan Brooks offered part-time jobs and financial counseling to help them make better decisions and stretch their monthly budgets.
“It was interesting to see how each student prioritized their money. I saw many students who were given a profile as the head of a household with children struggling to do the right thing for their children, instead of just taking the cheapest path,” Brooks said.
In addition to visiting stations, a wildcard element referred to as “Stuff Happens” created a little fear and amusement among students as The North Carolina Leadership Academy Assistant Principal Jenna Guldberg roamed around the stations, handling out cards. Surprise expenditures included a veterinary bill, an emergency visit to the dentist and car repair. Some cards were positive, like inheriting money, but most produced negative impacts on budgets.
After going through the simulation, eighth graders Brianna Ross, Clay Smith and Brayden Collins were surprised how expensive everything was and collectively agreed this experience “was an eye opener” as they now have a better appreciation of what their parents may face in meeting monthly expenses.
“I had good credit and still struggled. I had just $32 at the end of the month,” said Ross.
After visiting all stations, students gathered as a group to share their reactions to the Reality of Money. Here are some of their comments:
- “Having two kids is really expensive and you never want to have bad credit.”
- “It’s hard to make decisions about money.”
- “You can’t get everything you want.”
- “You have to prepare for the unexpected.”
- “Money is important and my parents sacrifice a lot.”
“This simulation reinforces our classroom discussions around financial education. We welcome opportunities to connect our students’ classroom learning to authentic activities. After this experience, I wouldn’t be surprised if students didn’t ask more meaningful questions during our next financial education class,” said Guldberg.