Getting by in today’s tough economy takes some financial savvy.
Unfortunately, many students aren’t schooled in good budget skills and quickly accumulate financial problems early in their adult life. Credit card bills, car payments, house loans, overdue utility bills - all add up to an overwhelming situation that leaves many feeling helpless.
Ottawa County’s OSU Extension Office aims to tackle the problem by teaching area eighth graders better budget management skills.
“Real Money, Real World” was created to wake kids up to the facts of their financial life before they’re living on their own, said 4-H educator Kathy Booher of the extension office in Oak Harbor.
The program has taken place twice in Danbury Schools, including at the end of this school year. She met with Ottawa County Commissioners last week to give them an overview.
“We hope to be able to get our foot in the door in Port Clinton and Oak Harbor next,” she said.
The ultimate goal is to have the program operating in all the county school districts, including Genoa and Woodmore, she added.
Genoa schools incorporated a financial literacy class into the Social Studies program at the middle school, superintendent Dennis Mock said. The district used to partner with Junior Achievement in Toledo for a fifth and sixth grade program. However, he said, that fell to the wayside during budget cuts.
Mock said he would be interested in reviewing the 4-H program.
“We’re always looking at ways to improve,” he added.
Ohio now requires school districts to provide some kind of financial literacy program prior to students’ high school years. So district officials have been searching for programs that’ll get across to 13 and 14-year-olds.
The OSU program partners with bankers, car dealers, politicians, social service agencies and business owners to explain to students the impact buying decisions will have on their daily life.
In the first session at Danbury, kids drew their simulated jobs at random. This time around, occupations were designated on grade point average, with larger salaries assigned to the “better educated.”
That made all the difference.
“A lot of them really thought, “Wow, I better get on the ball,” said Lisa Molnar, of the First National Bank’s Catawba office.
Each student was assigned a family, with varying amounts of members. And with their fake lives in place, they travel through 14 stations dealing with everything from food and insurance choices to credit and social service help. They were also schooled in managing savings and checking accounts.
Molnar participated in the original simulator program and said it was a lot different this time around. The first program involved seniors, who really didn’t seem to take the lesson seriously in their last days. They simply went through motions to complete the task, she said.
The eighth-graders, however, weren’t about to settle, she said. When some of them saw the money they were left with at the end of the month, they got to work trimming expenses and tackling wants versus needs.
“It really was amazing to see them work at this,” Molnar said.
Booher agreed the younger students delved into the game with a lot more vigor. The kids were truly analyzing expenses they hadn’t realized popped up on a daily basis for adults.
“When they found out they got low on pocket change, they weren’t happy. It was interesting to see how they were not satisfied with things as they were and worked to change it,” Booher explained. “I was really impressed by the kids that were working to change things around for a better life.”
She felt the students took the lessons to heart also.
One student noted, “I don’t even know how my mom does it with four kids.”