Thursday, April 2, 2009

Welcome to......Reality Town, USA

Today I volunteered to help at Sav's school in a little exercise they called Reality Town.

Based on the child's GPA they were given a list of occupational options from which they chose their top three. Then they were given a booklet that told them if they were married, if they had children, how many and their ages, what their occupation was, as well as what kind of degree was required to go into that occupation. Then based on their occupation they were told how much money they get each month and then subtracted taxes, state and federal, and then automatically deducted their student loan payment.

The kids started at the bank. I was a banker for the first few minutes where I recorded in their booklet how much money they had, told them to select a checkbook and then summarily subtracted $20 for check printing fees.

May I say? I like this game already.

Then I asked the kids if they wanted to put any money in savings. The most popular response was, "Uhhhh.....I don't know." My advice was to pay themselves first, at least 10%. Some kids took my advice, some did not. Some saved a 25%, some 0. The highest salary I saw was $8000/month for an OB/GYN. The lowest was I think a singer for around $1500. My favorite was the "professional athlete" who made around $2300. Ha! One kid said, "yes, I am the worst professional athlete on the planet." No kidding? More than likely, you wanted to be a professional athlete, injured yourself and are now the lucky water boy, my friend.

Another funny thing, the girl who was the OB/GYN saved NOTHING. What the heck. I knew about how much money she needed to get to all the booths in Reality Town (about 15 booths) and she had WAY MORE than she needed. I really wanted to find that girl and see if she bought a fancy house and/or car. But, no, I never saw her again. She's probably off living the dream. Darn her.

The booths that were there included transportation, communication, pet shop, car insurance, medical office, dental office, entertainment, and grocery. There were more, I just cannot remember them all (maybe too much reality for me?)

After we got the kids set up at the bank, I headed over to the Health Insurance booth. Some kids showed up there first, some showed up there after they had already visited the doctor as well as the dentist. Ooops. No insurance, higher payments.

The other lady and I who were running the booth headed over to the health booth and told them to send the kids down to our booth for insurance first. They said they had been expressly forbidden to tell the kids the little insurance secret. Oh my.

One girl cried. After visiting the doctor, she had no money left.

This little exercise in reality was fun for me, fun for the kids, and a real eye opener. I could not have been more pleased.

Things I learned today:

1. Just because a kid looks low income, doesn't mean their monthly income was going to be low. This pretty much rats me out as someone who judges too quickly/too harshly. Some of those kids who did not smell nice, who needed a bath, who were shy, and otherwise unremarkable to look must be doing really, really well in school. Hooray for them for overcoming life's obstacles at such a young age. I pray they make it.

2. I need to take my own advice and pay myself first.

3. I am extremely happy with my husband's insurance coverage. I have griped and griped about his salary for far too long. When I factor in his excellent insurance coverage, I feel super, super blessed.

4. My daughter did pretty well in the income department, but she needs to do better. This means that with a little more effort on my part, I need to get behind that girl and make sure she stays on top of her grades.

5. Another woman said to me what a great reality check it was for her to see her children's peers. Doing so allows her to see that her children really are "normal" for their age. I agree.

I like Reality Town, USA and I'll be volunteering again in a few years to watch my boy and see what his monthly income will be as well as whether or not he likes reality. Savannah liked it just fine, she had money left over at the end of the month. Now, that's something I have seen pretty rarely in my own life.


Julie J. said...

That sounds neat. I hope Sam gets an opportunity like that.

Becky said...

That sounds really cool. Sad for that girl that didn't get health insurance first.

Tell me...was there as cell phone booth? Just wondering.

Collette said...

I love this exercise. Brent's little sister did it at her school and loved it. I wish we had done something like it. Maybe I would have had a better idea about how to spend my money. I don't like the trial and error method with real money!!

hyker said...

Reality Town sounds pretty cool. i wish they would have done that in my school...maybe I'd be happier in the work place.

Brittany said...

what a smart idea! i hope those kids really took reality to heart and tucked away what they learned for when they go to college in a few years...

i loved play the game LIFE when i was a kid - reality town sounds pretty similar.

insurance really is a great benefit. i forget to calculate it in as my income too. when wyatt was at the law firm they paid for both wyatt and my coverage. now that he no longer has that job we're paying $200 a month on my coverage... lame.

Holley, Dane Brien & Wesley Berry said...

What a wonderful activity. I wish our school had done something like that. One of the biggest issues I'm having with Brien right now is getting him to realize how to save for a rainy day and be frugal. Every pay check he pays his car insurance, but then its anybody's guess where the rest of his money goes. It would be nice if he could get a dose of reality. Living at home on Mom and Dad's dime doesn't quite give him the glimpse of the future he needs to scare him into becoming a saver.

mom/Janet said...

This is a great activity. Now take S aside and have her tell you what she learned and you can reinforce it or correct it. Great idea. Some of our kids are still in Reality Town. Makes me sad at times that we didn't teach them "life".

Reno Wells said...

About a month after Jason's W2 came in the mail, he received a letter explaining that his compensation for work was not just in his taxable salary. And then expalined how much the company pays for employee insurance. We seem to remember that benefits are part of the deal. I wonder if too many people were upset they didn't get bonuses last year so the company felt they needed to expalin.

mooney said...

I think that this is a great idea! What a great way to give kids a reality check. It goes right along with the things I have been reading about in my textbooks. I may have to "borrow" this idea.

Ronda said...

Jeanna- that is very cool. I want to run one of those for kids in sixth grade so they have time to prepare for highschool and then step up to life.