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October 20, 2016

Students learn the realities of life on a budget

The weight of the decisions hit hard once Southridge High School senior Alyssa Martuscelli and her friends sat down to do their monthly budgets at the recent Financial Reality Fair.

Could they afford their own apartments or did they need to live at home? What about a car payment? Was having a pet or getting a tattoo possible on the salary their “job” provided?

Even a friend who was assigned to be a surgeon with high pay had big student loan payments and a low credit score to deal with.

“Wow, this is really what I’m going to have to be doing in a couple years,” Martuscelli says.

About 150 high schools students from Kamiakin, Kennewick and Southridge high schools studying finance and consumer science participated in the fair at the Southridge Sports Complex. It was organized by Gesa Credit Union to celebrate International Credit Union Day.

The students were assigned jobs, salaries and other details at the start of the exercise. They then had to figure out their monthly budget and how to meet their financial obligations, from housing and transportation to entertainment and credit card bills, and put something away in savings.

“It’s choose your own adventure,” says Brandon Allison, Gesa’s education and outreach specialist.

The event aimed at showing students the importance of developing financial management skills so that they can succeed once they are on their own.

Teachers said they’ve worked with the students before on balancing a budget and related skills The fair showed them how each decision can affect everything else and usually requires some sacrifice, a good lesson to learn before they have to deal with monthly bills.

“They’re saying it’s hard and they’re right. Life is hard,” says Shannon Hokanson, a Kamiakin High School teacher.