OTTAWA — For students in high school, paying utility bills or budgeting for groceries are often the last things on their minds. Those concerns are left to parents, while students focus on passing the next exam or buying that first car.
Superior Federal Credit Union, in cooperation with the Putnam County Extension of the Ohio State University, has been working to help high school students prepare for the financial pitfalls ahead of them. Tuesday marked the fifth annual Putnam County Superior Financial Education Day, held in the gymansium at Ottawa-Glandorf High School.
“It’s a financial literacy event that was open to all nine Putnam County high schools,” Carrie Calvelage, a training specialist at Superior Federal Credit Union, said. “All nine participated, bringing juniors and seniors in for the ‘Real Money, Real World’ simulation.”
After taking part in four informational sessions earlier in the year, students were able to participate in a simulation at Tuesday’s event, making realistic financial decisions and experiencing the consequences.
“They have an occupation and an income during the simulation,” Calvelage said. “They have to take out their taxes, and with what they have left, they visit 13 stations to spend their money for the month on their bills.”
These stations represent all the major expenses adults typically face.
“They have to buy food, a car, child care, insurance and utilities,” Calvelage said. “There’s also a ‘chance’ they have to draw out of a hat, and they could gain or lose money from that.”
As the organizers received feedback from previous years, they also added other expenses these students will probably face in the near future.
“What we have done because of that feedback is we’ve also addressed college loans,” said Jason Hedrick, director of the OSU Putnam County Extension. “That’s such a big issue with this generation, so it’s now part of the simulation. If kids have jobs that have college qualifications, we integrate college loan payments to show them that the money does have to be paid back and college does cost a lot of money.”
The simulation also offers help to students running a negative balance.
“They have financial advice, which is like a financial aid table,” Calvelage said. “If they need to go back and re-evaluate some of their choices that they have already made, then we send them back around to do over what they need to redo.”
Along with experiencing the challenges of balancing the checkbook, students are also encouraged to start planning ahead, even at a young age.
“I think for them, they are now really cognizant on looking forward to retirement,” Hedrick said. “Being able to stash money away now is important at this age. Saving money is more on the radar today than it ever was. It’s coming from parents and society in general saying that we need to look ahead.”
Organizers have received a lot of feedback from participants through the years.
“The biggest one we typically hear when they cross the finish line is, ‘I’m never having kids,’ and ‘My spouse is going to work full time,’” Calvelage said. “‘I didn’t know groceries were so expensive.’ ‘Utilities? What’s a utility?’ Some of them have no idea what utilities are until they visit that booth and learn that utilities are heat, electricity, water and others. Those are the major pieces of feedback we receive.”