RULH Middle School students participate in “Real Money. Real World”

By Martha B. Jacob –

Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington’s 8th grade students recently took part in the Ohio State University Extension program, Real Money. Real World.
The program was led by Christy Clary, OSU Extension and 4H Educator and county extension agent for Brown County.
Real Money. Real World. (RMRW) is a financial literacy program for youth. The program has been deemed ideal for students ages 13-16. It includes an interactive spending simulation that provides the opportunity to make lifestyle and budget choices similar to those made by 27-year-old adults. The goal of the program is to increase the student’s awareness of how education level and corresponding career choice influence personal income and financial security.
“This program actually begins in the kids classroom,” said Clary. “During their classroom time they go through the financial literacy curriculum, a packet that the teachers go over with them. Here at RULH, Patricia Skaggs, tech. coordinator and Patricia  Whitaker, guidance counselor at Southern Hills Career and Technical Center  did all the lessons in the class and at the end, each student randomly picks  a career out of a hat.
“That career will give the student a job and a salary which could range anywhere from  a welder to a lawyer, a person in the military to a nurse or a journalist.”
Each of  the students (which are all considered to be 27), may or may not have a spouse which may or may not work and contribute to the income. The student may or may not have children, depending on what they draw when they begin the program.
For the RMRW program, the gymnasium was set up with 14 stations, each manned by either a teacher, or a volunteer from the community. Each station displayed a sign which explained why the student had to stop and visit it. Among the stops the student had to visit were titles like communications, where the student had to choose a cable and internet company, each of which would take away a portion of their salary. Other stations  included costs like child care, financial advice, entertainment, utilities, contributions, housing/rent, food, clothing, transportation and of course the finish line.
“At this event,” Clary explained, “the students have all the information they need including how to use a checkbook, set up a savings account  and balance a budget. The kids must stop at each station  and use their salary to balance a budget for one month. Many of the kids are really surprised at how difficult it can be.
“It really throws them off their game when they have to draw from the chance table where they might have to pay for a trip to the dentist (which they didn’t budget for), or the car breaks down, or they need to buy a Father’s Day gift. All the everyday surprises that they could be hit with. But if they run out of money by the time they reach the finish line, it’s back to the finance station and rethink their budget.”
Clary said that one of the most positive things that comes out of the RMRW program is that the kids see first-hand budgeting a paycheck can be, and how important it is to further their education with  college, a trade school or a certificate program.