IN today’s bruising economy, the need to be prepared for real-life financial realities has never been more important. Sadly, there are far too many people who don’t even know where to start.
For two decades now, local middle school students have been given introductions to real economic situations they might encounter as adults. The scenarios in which these young people are placed are intended to help them make informed decisions in managing their personal finances.
Called “The Reality Store,” the experience can be seen as a fun exercise that doesn’t have any real-life consequences, but the scenarios are well-structured and based on individual abilities and aspirations. Students at Northside and Central middle schools participated earlier this month.
Assigned jobs in particular fields based on individual preferences for careers and their proven qualifications for them, the students are given checkbook balances based on the pay in a particular field and a list of living expenses they will be responsible for each month — rent, food, insurance, vehicle, clothing, college loans, etc. — along with extra items such as entertainment and travel.
The scenarios presented the students with their choice of options — some of them so limited that it often came down to figuring out which bills would be paid each month and which items would have to be deleted from their way of life to keep their checkbooks in balance.
This was only play acting, and the reality the students could experience would be dependent on how serious they take the experience.
It is certainly a good start in preparing the children at an early age for realities they will begin to experience in only a few years, but it should be only a segment of a much larger curriculum involving a number of teachers.
The primary providers of this kind of education should be the parents or caregivers of the children. Just as mothers and fathers should take time to read with their children or help them with their homework, it is also imperative that they involve them in family discussions on how money is earned and how it is used to meet expenses and plan for the future.
When possible, parents should give their children suggestions on how to wisely budget the money they are provided in the form of allowances or compensation for helping around the house.
They should be also prepared to confront them with the consequences when those revenues are spent unwisely.
The lessons young people learn now can help prepare for the reality they will face in the years to come.