Students Get Lesson in Life

So many questions face high school students as they plan for their futures and realize they may soon have to make their own budgets and live within their own means.  It’s a lot to get used to but Thornapple Kellogg High School students got a taste of what it might be like recently as they completed a financial future simulation offered by Thornapple Credit Union.

Each student was assigned a realistic salary based on their chosen career. Taxes, student loan payments,  and retirement are all calculated and taken out of the overall salary. Based on what’s left, students make choices about how to spend their money on necessities and wants. After calculating all their known expenses, they see just how much they might have left over for “other” expenses.”

TK student Thomas Solomon said the experience really made him think about his future.  “It makes us really think a lot about whether we can live the lifestyle we want with the job we pick,” he said.

Students had to calculate expenses – everything from housing and transportation to groceries and dining out.  They realized they had to distinguish between “wants” and “needs” as they worked through their budgets and had to make adjustments. A trip to the Wheel of Reality also made them realize life doesn’t always go as planned. There are often unexpected fortunes and expenses. Each student spun the wheel to find out if they got a good surprise -  like a raise at work – or an unexpected expense – like a shattered phone that needs replacing.

Aston  Hall looked over his budget after finishing the project. As a union apprentice, he figured he could save about $1,700 per month after expenses.  “I didn’t buy a big car and I realized there are just a lot of things you don’t need. I got the smallest and cheapest phone plan and just tried to be smart about how I spent my money.”

Anna Miller said she never really thought about rent costs before and didn’t realize some of the other expenses she may face living on her own.  She knows there may be some difficult choices that have to be made as she starts out on her own.

Emma Chapman opted to pull back on having pets as a way of saving money in her budget.  “It just makes you realize the costs of everything and you have to make choices about what’s most important,” said Chapman.

Thornapple Credit Union also offers financial simulations at the middle school level to get students to begin to realize living expenses.