Teens receive a dose of reality with money management program

February 12, 2012

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Teens were transformed into adults last week — whether they liked it or not.

The youth took part in “Reality Store,” a money management program through the Virginia Cooperative Extension. The Artisan Center in uptown Martinsville partnered with the Virginia Cooperative Extension to hold the event on Wednesday.

About 50 teens from the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Blue Ridge Teen Center participated.

In the “Reality Store,” each student was given a monthly gross income based on his “job” and then had to budget his money to pay for basic needs and future wants.

Each student had a different job and education level, which helped the students see how a person’s education level affects his income.

Life factors also were a part of the scenario. Some students’ worksheets told them they had no children or several children, a spouse or no spouse. Those factors affected their budgeting decisions. For example, students with children had to add the cost of child care to their budgets.

Students visited various booths where they decided on their budgeting options. The booths included taxes; credit cards; grocery; communications; medical/dental; personal care; entertainment; transportation; contributions; supplemental income; property tax; financial institution; student loans; utilities; child care; housing; clothing; furniture; insurance; and crystal ball (unexpected expenses).

“The object is to walk away with savings” after paying your bills and to see “what parents go through,” said Shewana McSwain, family consumer science agent with the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Boys and Girls Club member Kenya Moore realized how tough it is to be an adult.

Moore’s worksheet told her she was an upholsterer with a high school education, married and the mother of five children. Her monthly income was $1,835, and her spouse was bringing in $1,600 a month, for a total $3,435 monthly income.

Due to her limited income, she had to buy everything “as cheap as possible,” Moore said.

To afford furniture, she went to yard sales; for transportation, she took the bus instead of buying a car; and for housing, she rented a mobile home.

Moore also had an unexpected cost of paying for her children to go to camp.

To make sure she paid for her needs, she could not spend money on new clothes, entertainment or personal care, and “I can’t afford groceries yet,” she said.

“This is tragic,” she added.

Moore took a second job as a receptionist “so maybe I could afford some groceries or something that I desperately need,” she said.

As part of her budget, Moore managed to set up a savings account and put $350 in it because “I want to be safe in the future,” she said.

“I couldn’t live like this,” Moore said. “I’m going to college and beyond” because she has expensive needs now, so she couldn’t imagine how expensive her needs will be in a few years, she said.

Moore will graduate from high school next year, and if life is going to “be like this ... I’m going to cry,” she said.

The project helped her see that it is important to have more than a high school education and that “I shouldn’t have kids” if she has only a high school education, she said.

“We should do this (the project) more often so that we can learn that one month as an adult is harder than it looks like,” Moore said.

Boys and Girls Club member Justin Manns had a different life scenario on his worksheet, but he also found that “once you get older, you have a lot of responsibility,” he said.

Manns’ sheet told him he was a single man with no children who worked as a vocational teacher. As a college graduate, he was bringing in $3,175 a month.

To save money, Manns bought a small, affordable car and decided to go without entertainment.

He never realized how many bills people face, he said.

“You have to have a whole lot of money to pay for this much stuff,” Manns said.

Boys and Girls Club member Tachiana Robertson said she realized that “you need to spend your money wisely, and it can be hard when your husband isn’t working.”

Robertson’s situation was that she was a community college teacher with a college education making $3,063 a month, but her husband didn’t have a job.

To save money to support herself and her husband, she bought a bike instead of a car.

Due to her better job, she was able to afford a cell phone and cable television, but “it’s hard paying” for things, Robertson said.

Boys and Girls Club member Kynaya Shelton realized that she could buy only “the things that you need instead of the things that you want,” she said.

Shelton was a flight attendant with a high school education, no children and no spouse. She was making $5,153 a month.

Regardless of her higher monthly income, she still decided to go without Internet and personal care and chose to rent a house because she thought the mortgage payments were too much, Shelton said.

Being an adult is “hard and stressful,” she added.

According to Artisan Center Director Kara Carter-Hundley, the center partnered in the event as part of its goal to help students learn to make smart financial decisions so that they might start their own businesses or take advantage of other entrepreneurial opportunities one day.

The center will be starting a junior artisan entrepreneurship program in the summer, she said.


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