Urbana 8th graders participated in a Real Money-Real World simulation. During the course of a week, students were assigned a career, a monthly salary and a specific number of children. The program included 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. Students learned to subtract retirement savings, taxes and health insurance premiums from their monthly income. The amount of money left over is what they spent during the simulation day of the learning experience. During the simulation day, students visited booths staffed by adults and teen leaders and spent their money 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 taught and organized for the students by Extension Educator Melinda Morrison and 8th grade teacher Amanda Goodwin.
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 day care for his two children would be over $880. The financial assistance booth coordinator assisted him in getting a second part-time job after he discovered that “giving his children back” was not an option.
Several students went with their dream house or car first only to discover they didn’t have enough money to pay all of their other bills with the cost of an expensive car or truck and had to go back to the booth to make a more practical decision. The students were taught that driving without insurance is illegal so if the undercover policeman caught them going from purchasing a car and not going directly to purchase insurance, they were pulled over and given a ticket. Students quickly learned the importance of purchasing insurance.
During the post-simulation lesson, students reflected on their experience and what they learned by completing a self-assessment. The students thoroughly enjoyed their 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. An add homework assignment. Students shared their experience with an adult and wrote about their conversation and what they learned. Some of the comments included, “I’m waiting to have kids till I have an education and a good job”, “I am going to start studying more because I realize why education is important”, “I feel bad for my parents to live this everyday”. “It takes a lot more than I ever realized to be an adult, I don’t think I want to grow up”, and “I want to get more education so I can get a better job”.
As reported in a Real Money.Real World follow-up study, students reported significant changes in their financial behavior after the program. Over 80% of participant 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.
This is the second year Urbana has participated in this OSU Extension Program. Triad has participated in the program for 5 years and Graham for the past 8 years. If you would like more information about the Real Money.Real World program, please contact Melinda Morrison at the Champaign County Extension office.
Submitted by OSU Extension, Champaign County.