Monday, 18 March 2019

Life’s fares – Martha’s Vineyard Times

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School held its third annual Credit for Life fair Tuesday for juniors and seniors planning their futures.

The fair is a financial education program that provides students with an opportunity to learn how to make good financial decisions during an interactive simulation. The high school and Cape Cod Five along with a group of volunteers from many Island businesses help students navigate life’s expenses.

Students begin the fair by selecting or being assigned a career and then going around to tables set up in the gymnasium to practice managing their personal budgets based on projected monthly incomes. Careers range from higher starting incomes, like $75,000 as lawyer or engineer, to lower starting incomes like $30,000 as a teacher or TSA agent.

The fair covers almost every conceivable life expense including clothing, education, nutrition, health, furniture, housing, insurance, savings and retirement, credit and lending, transportation, and community service. Once students get expenses from each table, credit counselors from Cape Cod Five help them figure out how to make a budget that leaves them with at least $100.

Students even learned how to be prepared for unexpected life costs. At the start of the fair, students stop at the reality check station, a giant board game based on “The Game of Life.” Students spin a wheel and, depending on which color they get, move a token on the board and land on a “reality check.” If students are lucky, they might get a $350 tax refund or claim a $200 inheritance, but if they’re not so lucky they might get a $100 speeding ticket or their healthcare costs might increase $20 a month.

Junior Pandora Bassett, who was given the job of physical therapist, was one of the extra lucky students and won $1,000 from a lottery ticket.

If students find themselves struggling to meet their financial goals they could go to the part-time job table. Junior Wyatt Belisle was given a job as a fashion designer so he decided to pick up a part-time job in a retail store. Wyatt liked the idea of the fair and how it helps students plan for the future.

“I’ve been enjoying enjoying the fair. It’s a good outlook on things,” he said.

All the tables had local experts to help students decide which expense option they should choose based on their incomes.

Chris Murphy, a retired fisherman, helped students learn to save their money. He suggested students should save 15 percent of their incomes early in their careers.

“Or marry a teacher,” he joked pointing to his wife who is a teacher and was also helping at the fair. “Teachers get good benefits.”

To make the fair as realistic as possible, budgeting estimates were based on actual Island prices — including housing.

Housing options included living alone, having one or two roomates, or renting out a room for extra income. Senior Abby Marchand, who got a high paying career as a physical therapist, decided to get a $1,500 a month two-bedroom apartment and split the rent with a roommate.

Students had to also weigh decisions like whether to continue their education and what kind of food they would eat.

Senior Isabelle Custer chose to continue her education to have “more opportunities in the future,” she said.

Senior Zach Cleland, who was assigned an FBI agent career, chose name-brand groceries over cheaper kinds.

Not all the expenses were necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. Senior Katie Morse, who was given a career in international business at $62,050 a year, decided to spend $80 on a cell phone bill, $10 for a haircut (although the cheapest Island haircut is around $25), and $500 on a weekend vacation for her luxury expenses.

“It’s really helpful to see how much things cost,” she said. “I think it’s great.”

This is the last year both the junior and senior class students will participate in the fair. Assistant principal Barbara-Jean Chauvin said the fair works well for high school juniors who are in the thinking and planning stage whereas seniors have often made up their minds for life after graduation.

“It’s an opportunity for you to experience some real-life situations in an interactive way,” Richard Leonard, Martha’s Vineyard’s regional president for Cape Cod Five, said to the students. “It’s not a spending plan, it’s an investing plan. Investing in yourselves.”


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