Seniors at Sandwich High School had the opportunity to step into the shoes of a college graduate, navigating the realities of living on their own and being in charge of their own finances.
The Credit for Life Fair, sponsored by Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, gives students the chance to see how well they can strike a balance between expenses and income.
Evelyn Milburn, a senior, said that prior to the fair they all took a survey online, where they selected their ideal career. That selection determined what their starting salary would be. Evelyn began her faux post-college life as a lawyer, which she said is her real-life goal.
The bank provided each student with a portfolio and a spreadsheet where they could keep track of their expenditures. The students then went to various booths set up in the high school gymnasium where they were given options among different categories such as healthcare, insurance, housing, clothing, furniture, education, luxuries, and transportation.
For example, students were able to choose what kind of cellphone plan they want, if they wanted to take vacations, if they were going to buy a car or take public transportation, and whether they would purchase groceries and cook or dine out regularly.
Wanting to help mitigate some costs, Evelyn paired up with her classmate, Bridget Lopes. The two became roommates, bringing their housing costs down to $750 per month. As the two made their way around the booths, they used each other as a sounding board to try to make smarter spending decisions.
The two opted for basic cellphone plans at $80 per month, spending more on groceries with only the occasional dinner out at $50 per month, and a Netflix account instead of going out for entertainment at a cost of $8 per month. They also chose to use public transportation, costing $140 per month and saving on loan payments and gasoline purchases.
As a lawyer, Evelyn was left with a lot of student loans to pay back, at a cost of $500 per month. She said that this is not going to be far from her future reality as she expects to pay her own way through law school.
Bridget said that they had passed initially on taking a vacation, preferring to wait and see if they could still afford it after taking care of their necessities.
The school offers business and personal finance classes, but Evelyn said that she is glad that the bank has come in to host the fair and that the school has arranged for students to take time out of their classes to attend.
“I don’t have time in my schedule to fit in a personal finance class,” she said.
Throughout the event, students could also come up against financial pitfalls—by chance, Evelyn started the event with a hit to her credit score in the form of a late payment on her student loans. A spin of the wheel in a board game called The Game of Reality—meant to mimic The Game of Life—could further alter their financial trajectory by dealing them emergency car repairs or medical costs. The game could also do the reverse and give them a lottery win.
Once the students completed all of the booths, they were able to sit down with a Cape Cod Five representative to see how they did.
Ashley Karras, a banking services specialist, said that most of the students she saw that day did very well with their money.
“I’ve seen a lot of kids with too much money,” she said. “They’ve been a little frugal.”
Evelyn and Bridget completed their journey by sitting down with marketing assistant Taryn Lielasus. They both managed to stay within their monthly budget, with some money left over in their savings—$460 for Bridget and $939 for Evelyn.
Bridget asked Ms. Lielasus if she could use the money in her savings to take the vacation they wanted to go on.
“That would deplete your savings,” Ms. Lielasus said. “I would skip the vacation for now.”
Instead, she encouraged them to put some extra money toward credit card payments, so that they could pay the cards off faster.
The experience made both Bridget and Evelyn feel more confident about the choices they were making about their futures and how well they would be able to navigate their adult lives.
“This has made me calmer about paying for my student loans,” Bridget said. “It’s good to know I won’t have to pay back $200,000 in one year.”
They both agreed that their starting salaries, both in the $70,000 range, made them feel good about their career goals.
“I feel encouraged and I feel informed,” Evelyn said.
She said that she had been afraid of the future and whether she would be able to balance her loans with her everyday expenses.
“Now I’m less scared,” she said. “I won’t be broke.”