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.