Local students stare down the realities of adulthood
Students flowed into the Treasure Mountain Junior High gym and many glanced around, overwhelmed by their surroundings. They were getting their first look at the adulthood they’d been thrust into.
Booths lined the gym, offering the students the necessities they would need to survive. There were stands for life insurance, food, housing and child care, among myriad others. It was all part of the "Reality Town" event put on Nov. 5 for the school’s eighth graders, designed to give them a look at the financial responsibilities that accompany adulthood.
Each student had been given an occupation and a monthly salary — based on his or her grade point average — and at Reality Town, they had to decide how to spend it. Some found they had plenty of leftover money for fun and entertainment after they bought all the necessities. Others found their budgets left little room for even simple luxuries such as healthy food.
They all got a look at what is coming in the future. And that was something student Zoe Spalding said is important to ensure students are prepared.
"You need to know this stuff for when you get older and you’re living on your own, instead of with your parents," she said. "You’re going to be doing this for a long time. It’s like real life."
Sally Nadler, one of the parent volunteers working at the booths, said the event can serve as a wake-up call for the students. Many don’t know what their parents go through on a daily basis to feed and clothe them — much less to provide luxuries such as cell phones, television and Internet.
"It kind of clears up the sense of entitlement they have," Nadler said, adding that most students have never even seen a checkbook. "For them to actually see where certain aspects of daily living come from, and what we as parents go through, hopefully they can look ahead into the future a little bit."
For most students, it was the first time in their lives that they had to balance a budget, and some were better at it than others. While some planned well, others got to the end of their budgets and realized they had forgotten to account for important details.
"They were coming back and saying, ‘Oh, I don’t have enough money for food,’" Nadler said. "They had to go and return a car, so they could get food."
The sheer amount of necessities to consider caught some students off-guard. They knew about food and clothes and housing, but hadn’t realized things such as life insurance can eat up a large chunk of a budget.
For student Max Jones, getting a look at everything that goes into being a financially responsible adult was eye-opening.
"For the learning experience, it’s definitely good just to know how to balance a budget and what to do in life," he said. "And I know this is probably only a little bit of it, not all of it."
Added Evan Pointer, who also didn’t expect there to be so many options to account for: "I didn’t know it was going to be this much. It’s a little bit scary."
Despite being surprised at the challenges of adult life, many students said they were excited to graduate from school and get out into the real world, where not understanding how to balance a budget can have serious consequences.
For volunteer Autumn Rutherford, that fact only highlighted the importance of the reality town experience.
"I think this is a strange time in their lives, when they’re kind of on the cusp of figuring out what they need to do," she said. "So hopefully this helps. It’s super important to develop a responsibility about money and understanding the effort you put into something has a payback."