Lowell High School Students Get Reality Check at JDCU’s 2017 MoneyStrong For Life Fair
Over 430 Lowell High School and Greater Lowell Technical High School seniors got quite the reality check at Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union’s seventh annual MoneyStrong for Life Fair, held Tuesday, March 28th at the Tsongas Center. During the Fair, students role played themselves at age 25 and were tasked with making real-life financial decisions to successfully manage their income, savings, credit cards and the high cost of self-supporting.
Students chose their desired profession and were assigned a realistic income along with credit card debt, a savings account and student loan debt. Aspiring police officers, veterinarians, writers, choreographers, medical assistants, engineers and more moved from booth to booth making spending decisions on life essentials while managing a budget based on their monthly income.
At each of the 13 booths, students had to make choices such as what kind of apartment they would live in, whether or not to have roommates, if they should purchase a car or opt for a bus pass, and which insurance plan would be best, all while weighing the delicate balance of needs vs. wants to ensure their decisions fit into their budget. They were also assigned a credit score and learned what they could do to raise it if they needed to.
“I feel like we can get some good valuable experience from this and how to handle it in the real world,” said Caesar, a Lowell High School student.
Fredrique, also a Lowell High School student, expressed that the most valuable lesson she learned was about health insurance. “We went to ‘Nutrition and Health’ and we were learning about the HMOs and PPOs and we saw that even if the PPOs cost a little bit more, it was more worth it. And health insurance is really important because you never know what’s going to happen and it was really useful,” she said.
Students were tempted by high-cost items at the “Luxury” booth including cell phone plans and cable and internet packages. Some were also presented with unexpected scenarios at the “Reality Check” booth. There were students who lost their job, had babies, got a speeding ticket or received an unanticipated bonus at work. They then had to determine how to cope with these scenarios based on the cash and credit available to them.
“I learned a lot today. There is so much more stress that I haven’t thought about. I didn’t even consider a kid coming into the picture. ‘Reality Check’ showed me that one”, said Andy.
As the final step, all student participants were required to visit the “Counseling” booth where they discovered whether they were living within their budgets. Some students had to make changes to their lifestyles when it was revealed they were spending more money than they were earning.
More than 70 people, the majority of which were employees from Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, volunteered to manage the booths and assist students in their decision-making processes. Employees from Lowell General Hospital, Digital Federal Credit Union, Middlesex Community College, the Cooperative Credit Union Association, J. Bradford Investment Management and the Dracut Rotary also volunteered. Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union underwrote the cost of the event, including lunch for students and volunteers.
“The MoneyStrong for Life Fair provides high school seniors with insight on the types of decisions they will have to make when they are on their own, said Mark S. Cochran, President and Chief Executive Officer of Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union. “The Fair continues to serve as a great way to ensure the young members of our community are prepared to make smart financial choices as they grow into adulthood,” he added.
Photo cutline: Melina Sorth, Outbound Calling Specialist at Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, shows Lowell High School Students, (from left) Chris Polanco, Sabrina Diaz, Arline Lora, Amanda Chhim and Katie Nguyen, the cost of life’s different luxuries such as mobile phone plans, cable and internet packages, hair care, concerts and sporting events, saving for vacation and more.