A mortgage payment. A car payment. Student loan debt. Oh, then there’s the cost of child care.
Most high school students probably don’t realize how much money it takes to be a grown-up. But those in Sanderson High School’s Academy of Finance got a real-world look on Tuesday at life’s expenses.
“It drives me insane to think about how much money is going out,” said Jada Dobbin, a junior at Sanderson.
Students took part in Mad City Money, a simulation in which they get new identities, a family and a salary. They buy what they need, like a car and child-care services, from pushy sales people, played by Coastal Federal Credit Union employees.
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Coastal has helped with the event at Sanderson for four years.
The program is meant to build students’ personal finance skills, such as budgeting, managing debt and writing checks. The goal for students is to be in the best financial position at the end of the simulation.
Angie Melton, director of the Academy of Finance, said the event helps expose students to life after high school.
“The academy is trying to give kids options and see the world outside the four walls of high school,” she said.
Some students were given identities that carried student loan debt. Others had credit card debt. Some had children to care for, and others had spouses who increased the household monthly income.
Ross Odrezin, a junior, had a mock 3-year-old son in the simulation and was quickly losing money to vendors.
“They’re definitely pressuring you to spend more money,” he said.
Dobbin, who was assigned to be a stockbroker with a newborn and a husband who made a third of her salary, struggled with weighing the value of what she bought.
“I’m trying to be a cheapskate but I’m not at the same time,” she said.
Dobbin said the simulation was eye-opening. She has a job and manages her own money, but she isn’t responsible for things like food and housing.
She described herself as a spender, and she said the event helped her realize that habit will have to change if she plans to pay for college and afford the expenses that come with living on her own.
“If you overspend, it’s not going to be pretty for you,” she said.
That real-life takeaway is one of the goals of the academy, Melton said. In addition to academy nights like the Mad City Money simulation, students visit businesses, hold internships and take college-level finance and business classes to better manage their own finances.
“That’s our focus – setting kids up for success whether they choose to go into business or not,” Melton said.