ANDOVER — GLTS learned the ups and downs of budgeting during a Credit for Life fair this week.
In its inaugural year, the Credit for Life fair is a financial literacy exercise designed to help students obtain a better understanding of their future fiscal responsibilities.
GLTS launched the event for the junior class on Wednesday, June 12, assigning each student a career related to their technical area of study, salary, and credit score. Based on their monthly allotment, students had to plan for what they could and could not afford when it came to housing, transportation, clothing, entertainment and more.
“One of the things we’ve seen through these events is that students don’t have an understanding of what it’s like living on their own,” said Reading Cooperative Bank President and CEO Julieann Thurlow, who works with schools in the region to put on Credit for Life fairs. “This activity gives them an idea of all of the expenses that come together when you’re on your own, which parents silently provide for them now.”
Stations were set up around the gym, manned by volunteers who educated juniors about their options — some of whom were tasked with trying to oversell things like vacations to test students’ responsibility and budgeting skills.
At one station, students spun the “reality check” wheel, which featured unexpected circumstances in life that needed to be factored into how they budgeted for expenses. Students had to account for things like a high dentist bill, a car repair and a wedding. Some lucky spinners were rewarded with an increase in their budgets, by landing on items like an employee bonus or $10,000 inheritance.
Andrew Papalegis, adviser for the Massachusetts Division of Banks, often sees residents denied mortgages because of their credits scores (which many students with low credit scores faced as they made their way around the booths). His advice to raise scores: keep spending low and pay off all debt.
“This event is an important eye opening experience to show students what they’ll be faced with when they leave school,” he said. “It gives them a fundamental start on how to do that so that they can become successful.”
Once students visited all of the booths, they met with credit counselors, who helped them calculate their monthly spending to see if they were under, at, or over their budget. If over, students had to figure out which areas of their life they’d have to scale back.
Early on in the exercise, junior Aldania Acosta, of Lawrence, who was assigned a career as a nursing assistant with a monthly stipend of $1,932, realized her budget would be compromised after having to factor in a $1,200 wedding expense she acquired after spinning the reality check wheel.
“I was upset because I don’t make enough money a week. Because of my credit score, I couldn’t get insurance, so that was hard,” she said. “The cost of the wedding is almost what I’d make in a month, so I had to save for it.”
Junior Christopher Bonilla, of Lawrence, was assigned a $2,142 monthly stipend and 720 credit score as an auto engineering technician. As he made his way around the booths, he quickly realized budgeting for life’s expenses was not fun or easy.
“Life is not a game,” he said. “It’s more complicated than I thought.”
Bonilla ultimately ended up in the black (after removing a $5,000 vacation to Greece), incorporating college classes, a car that he owns and a gym membership.
The event was made possible by an Innovation Fund grant from the Office of Economic Empowerment and the Division of Banks.