Students learn ‘reality’ of finances

MARIETTA – With $100 left from her monthly salary as a baker, Eleana Goddard thought she was in the clear until she got the bill from her doctor.

“I had to go to the doctor for headaches, and since I didn’t have health insurance, I had to pay $210, which put me $110 in debt,” she said.

Since Goddard is actually an eighth-grader at Marietta Middle School, the development was only a source of mild frustration and even amusement. But she and other students got an idea of what it’s like to try to pay for food, shelter, child care and unexpected expenses Wednesday in the Reality Store.

Students were asked to envision their lives at age 28 and pick out a career, family makeup, house and vehicle. Their salaries were then projected, along with their expenses, which they had to write checks to cover.

Social studies teacher Pam Hart organized the event for her and Judi Perrine’s classes to cover the financial literacy component in the state’s updated social studies curriculum.

“Eighth-graders have to be able to demonstrate doing checking, savings and credit,” Hart said. “And the rest of our year is American history. So as soon as we get this done, we start with Christopher Columbus.”

Students made their way around the school’s mini gym, depositing checks in boxes designated for things like taxes, student loans, groceries, utilities and child care. With costs ranging from $300 to $600 depending on the age and number of children, that last one was an eye-opener for eighth-grader Sierra Unruh.

“They’re quite expensive,” she said.

Some students wanted to revise the number of children they’d put down on their profile, but that was against the rules.

“You said you wanted them, now you got to keep them,” Hart said.

Taxes were another shocker for some of the students.

“They were, like, blown away with how much taxes are,” Hart said. “They (say), ‘Miss Hart, this can’t be right, this isn’t fair.'”

After paying their monthly expenses and having the option to donate to charity, students went to the “life surprises” table to draw papers telling them of an unexpected expense – Goddard’s doctor’s visit – or an unplanned bonus, like working overtime or winning a contest.

Unruh had to pay $150 for a car repair.

“I was surprised. I really didn’t want to pay it,” she said.

Maxwell Schafer did a celebratory dance when he drew a dental appointment that was covered by his insurance.

“I was really expecting to have to pay $700 for like a broken leg or something and not have money left over for the luxury table,” he said.

The luxury table – featuring sports tickets, vacations and more – wasn’t in reach for all students, Hart said.

Perrine recalled one student saying she wanted to go home and thank her parents after completing the exercise with so little money left over.

“She caught on. It was so great,” Perrine said.

Several students said they found the exercise interesting and useful.

“I think it’s a good way to prepare us for what we have to do when we get out of college,” eighth-grader Matthew Mason said.

Settlers Bank worked with Hart on the program, providing checks and ledgers for students. A bank representative will come to the classes next week to talk to students about what they learned.