Rogersville students learn financial facts of life

Jeff Bobo • Apr 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County students participated in an exercise Tuesday similar to the board game “Life,” although they learned that real life is no game when it comes to adulthood and stretching a family budget.

Rogersville Middle School eighth-graders were given a job, a salary and a series of random family scenarios.

Their task was to meet all their needs while staying within their budget. It’s a UT Extension Office program called “On My Own” in which children are encouraged to make healthy and wise lifestyle choices and to live within their means.

After receiving their job and salary, the students receive a checkbook and must visit eight different booths, where they make spending decisions.

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The booths represented housing, transportation, groceries, utilities, entertainment, child care, health and grooming, and medical and dental.

RMS hosted professionals from the Rogersville area who work in the field associated with each booth.

Students were presented with different choices with different price ranges at each booth.

“They’re learning tough lessons,” said Hawkins County Schools family and community engagement coordinator Patty Rider. “Several have traded in their cars for something less expensive, or a bigger model after they realize they have four kids and can’t fit into a sports car.

“They get a sticker if they have to pawn something, and I think one boy lost his shoes, his backpack — pretty much everything.”

The first place that most of the boys went was the transportation booth to buy a car. Local car dealer Chad Royston said a lot of the boys are willing to live in one-bedroom apartments to be able to afford a nice car.

“Some of them were talking about bunking with each other just so they could afford a nice car,” Royston said.

Just like in real life, Royston said he looked at the students’ family scenario and income before helping them choose an automobile.

“If they have four children, obviously we don’t want to put them in a subcompact,” he said. “I might steer them toward an SUV or something like that. If they’re single, they might want something a little more sporty. If they have a job that might pertain to a truck, we’ll put them in a truck.”

The first stop for the girls, in most cases, was the real estate booth manned by Steve Nelson and Melissa Gillenwater of Givens and Nelson Realty.

“The girls want a nice place, and the boys want a nice car, and when you look at their incomes in some cases they can’t afford either,” Nelson said.

Nelson noted that one girl who’d been to his booth had four children, a meager income and a husband who doesn’t work.

“It’s a good life lesson,” he said. ”If you don’t like it in this simulation, you’re really not going to like it in real life.”

Aside from the eight booths there was also the “Crystal Ball” where students were required to draw a slip of paper from a bowl, and it might be either a windfall or a new debt. The Crystal Ball was intended to simulate the unknowns that life can throw at you.

Stella Logan from the Hawkins County Gas Utility manned their utilities booth and found that most students were shocked by how much utilities cost.

“Some of them are pretty savvy, and they’re giving up their (pretend) cell phones to make ends meet,” Logan said. “I think they’re being a little more conservative with their money than they might have been with their parents.”

One lesson students learned was it’s better to make more money.

“One thing we want them to understand is that the more education they get now, the better their salary will be in the future,” Rider said.

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