OTTAWA — Megan Schulte, a junior at Kalida High School, came to the 8th annual Putnam County Superior Financial Education Day held at the Ottawa-Glandorf gymnasium with a solid plan; pick the best, most cost effective car and home setting for her imaginary family to pay for with the income from her imaginary job and go from there, she said. Things didn’t go exactly as she had planned.
“We do a program called ‘Real World, Real Money,’” said Jason Hedrick, 4-H Educator with the Putnam County OSU Extension office.
The extension office partners with Superior Credit Union to give Putnam County juniors and seniors a look at the financial challenges they’ll face as adults, Hedrick said. The program begins with students being assigned or choosing a career. They are then assigned a certain number of children and an out-of-work spouse bringing in $400 a month, he said.
Taxes, health care, retirement and other deductions are removed from students’ monthly incomes, and they have to develop a budget covering all their monthly expenses, such as housing, clothing, transportation and food.
“They begin to understand what you make isn’t what you take home,” Hedrick said.
Schulte was randomly assigned the career of auditor, she said. Her yearly income was $64,000, with a monthly income of $5,373.
“I started with cars because it’s one of the most important expenses: housing and car,” she said. “I got a used mid-sized car, the smallest one I could get for the cheapest — $366 per month.”
Schulte chose to rent an apartment big enough for her imaginary family, as it was cheaper than buying a home, she said. Complicating her budget plan was the cost of child care, she said, costing $879 a month for her two imaginary children.
“I didn’t realize it was per kid and not just lumping them all together,” Schulte said. “It puts a perspective in mind for how much stuff costs per month. I would have never guessed child care would cost this much per month. It makes me want to stay in high school longer.”
Ottawa-Glandorf Superintendent Don Horstman considers Real Money, Real World an excellent program because it puts high school students approaching graduation into real-life situations with real-life expenses.
“I think anytime you can tie the classroom with the world they’re going to experience after school it’s a great learning experience,” he said.
Hedrick said the program broadens students’ financial literacy and shows them the relationship between education level, career choice and salary.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362.