For one day, walking into the Cheshire High School gym is like walking into the real world. Students were each given an occupation, a salary, and a credit score. They they go around the room seeing how far their money can go, making real world financial decisions.
Most days, Kathryn Ulicki is a Cheshire High School freshman. Today, she is something different.
“I am a detective and criminal investigator and I make $43,000 a year,” she said, reading off the sheet given to her at the start of the day.
How far will that money go? Each table around the gym represents a different set of expenses. Students decide how much to spend per month on everything from food to cellphones.
“And, like, save for retirement,” Ulicki added. “I have to think about what I’m going to buy and stuff like that and I can’t spend all my money on a nice car and a nice house.”
There is also the “wheel of reality” that adds unexpected costs, like medical expenses. It’s all designed by Connex Credit Union, CrossPoint Federal Credit Union, Cheshire High School, and the Credit Union League of Connecticut, in order to mimic life’s tough choices.
“Are they going to get that Mustang car that’s going to cost them a fortune, or are they going to take bus service?” asked Louise Nestor, marketing director for Connex Credit Union. “Then they’re given a budget and a planning sheet.”
Freshman Ella Crerar was assigned a nice salary as an anesthesiologist. She plans to be frugal with housing, but to splurge on transportation.
“I’ve always wanted to live with my friends,” Crerar said. “Then I’m probably going to want a nice, fancy car.”
The experts usually find a lot of disappointment by the end of the day, however. The reality is, life is expensive. The best way to deal with it is to prepare.
“We made our own budget and it was a lot easier when you have it all planned out,” Ulicki said. So, is she going to be ready when she is out on her own? “Hopefully,” she said with a nervous laugh.
At the end, each student sits down with a counselor to discuss the decisions made, and maybe some lessons learned. Connex is working on an app so students will be able to do all this on their phone.