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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

June 27, 2023 - 12:32pm --

Living expenses add up quickly, and before you know it, your paycheck has disappeared. Maybe, you don’t have even enough money to cover expenses.

          Welcome to Real Money. Real World.

          This program, developed by Ohio State University Extension and coordinated in Wayne County by our Family and Consumer Sciences staff, allows middle and high school students to make life choices and get a taste of the real world.

          Before school let out for the summer, we partnered with Dalton and Triway Middle Schools, giving their students the opportunity to experience first-hand how expenses for necessities, as well as luxuries, must be balanced with the reality of monthly income. Students were given an occupation, monthly income, credit card debt, and even a child or two.

Some classroom work preceded the simulation in the school’s gymnasium where students traveled to spending booths providing various services such as banking, groceries, transportation, childcare and utilities. The booths were manned by community business representatives and volunteers.

With their monthly “paychecks” in hand, students were required to visit each booth to purchase goods and services. Those who spent wisely may have had money left over at the end of the month; students who made lower salaries or made expensive purchases broke even or may have even gone bankrupt.

For those who couldn’t make ends meet, they could visit the Financial Advice booth for options and advice.

At the Chance booth, participants learned how life can throw a “curveball” when least expected. They chose from a large deck of chance cards that represent some of the unexpected expenses and income often encountered in daily life. Examples include:

“You receive a speeding ticket. Pay $75.”

“You have an accident and have to pay for health insurance.”

“You receive a gift of $100. Add it to your account.”

A Contributions station provides information on the importance of donating to nonprofits and faith-based organizations. Often by the time students reach this station, they are out of money, but they are encouraged to think about giving their time. 

A Triway student in the Real Money Real World simulation was assigned a career with a salary that allowed him to have money left over to donate. He gave $800 to the 4-H program.

          It’s all just make-believe, but it carries a serious message. Many teens have big ideas about buying a fancy car or a big house, but they really can’t afford them. Going through Real Money. Real World., and seeing for themselves how expensive life can be, makes a big impact with the students.

          Comments on student evaluations tell the story.

          Asked what one thing they planned to change as a result of participating in the program, students wrote about the need to make better choices with their money, including saving money. Some specific comments were “be sure to make a monthly spending plan when I’m older,” “I plan to have a savings account sooner to save money,” and “I need to plan before making a serious purchase.”

          Students were surprised to discover “how much a house payment takes away from your paycheck” and “that even when you get cheaper things, you can still end up with very little money.”

          They also realized:

          “Kids are expensive!”

          “How much I ask from my parents.”

          “How expensive it is to care for two people.”

          It’s always exciting to read about the impact of Real Money. Real World. A couple of students summed up the program like this:

“It opened my eyes to what my parents do.”

          “It helped me think about life decisions.”

          “I think it’s a really good program to teach kids about money in the real world.”     

Laurie Sidle is a 4-H and Family and Consumer Sciences program assistant for Ohio State University Extension in Wayne County and can be reached at 330-264-8722
This article was previously published in The Daily Record