Posted Date: 04/26/2017
CHS freshmen get glimpse of financial independence
The freshmen class at Chanute High School consumed a huge dose of reality when they attended a seminar designed to teach them how to budget their “supposed” income against their expenses 10 years down the road.
The FutureNow: Finance event, sponsored by Communities in Schools, pulled together professionals from Chanute and area CIS sites to volunteer as bankers, realtors, grocers, daycare providers, as well as sales people for communication devices, insurance and personal care items. They sat at stations around the gymnasium while students walked from place to place, trying to buy a car, sign up for utilities, choose whether to donate or volunteer at local charities, shop for shampoo and clothing and arrange for childcare.
It wasn’t easy, particularly when it came to housing and vehicles.
“You’re not going to be able to get a loan for a house with that credit score. You’ll have to rent,” said Angie Stanley, a realtor at the housing table.
Next to her, counselor Jessie Fewins showed photos of a four-bedroom house to a student and told him it would cost $1,400 per month before utilities.
“You have a pretty good credit score so you can get a lower interest rate,” Fewins said, adding that he shouldn’t spend more than 30 percent of his income on housing. He settled for a house that cost $1,000 each month for his mortgage, insurance and taxes.
Meanwhile, Stanley offered advice.
“Do you know how to improve that credit score? It’s doable,” she said, by never being late on a payment and not a using a credit card to pay for everything, even though it’s easy to pull out that piece of plastic.
Across the gym, students lined up to look at pictures of Toyota Tundras, Ford Fusions and Chevrolet Suburbans for sale.
Again, credit score became an issue, and they learned their next stop was to buy auto insurance where their driving record would factor into the cost.
“You’ll probably have to buy something smaller because you still have to buy insurance,” said Mark Childers, who volunteered in the dealership alongside Dave Remboldt and Rudy Potocnik. All three asked to see a student’s income and budget sheet before steering them towards the Honda scooter for $105.29 a month or the Suburban with a $1,000 monthly payment. For many, the mid-range Ford Fusion became a choice, with a payment of $358 to $420 a month, depending on their credit score.
“This is a good way to learn,” said CIS coordinator Sarah Stockebrand, whose job is to develop relationships with CHS students and encourage them to make good choices. The FutureNow: Finance program coincides with CIS of Mid-America’s mission to prevent and/or reduce the number of students dropping out of school.
“One of my school goals here at CHS deals with college and career readiness. FutureNow: Finance fits right in with that. It is a hands-on financial literacy exercise that helps students understand some of the "realities" involved in preparing for an employable future and adulthood,” she said. Through the exercise, students have to think about day-to-day expenses and react to unexpected things that affect daily life.
Each CHS freshmen received a “profile” based on information they’d supplied in a survey about what profession they expected to be in 10 years from now, whether they planned to marry or have children. Depending on their education and career choice, they were assigned an income, as well as being married, single or divorced, and number of children.
“It’s really opening eyes,” said Susan Hill of Gear Up, who was at the childcare booth with Brenda Armstrong. “Cause if you can’t handle childcare, you can’t work.”
The women helped students compare the costs and availability of having someone watch their child in their home, at a day care center or only before and after school.
“These expenses are real,” Hill said referring to her charts. “A lot of them walk away not planning to have any children.”
Tim Cunningham, who was selling auto and life insurance with Bill Fiscus, said they did a lot of explaining to the students.
“A lot of them didn’t understand what a DUI will do to your record,” Cunningham said.
The students at their booth rolled a set of dice. Depending on the number, they had a “clean record, a speeding ticket or a DUI.
As one boy rolled a 10, Fiscus told him that meant he had a speeding ticket.
“That’s an 11 percent increase in your insurance rate. So instead of paying $145 a month for auto insurance, you’ll be paying $251 a month. That ticket hurts, you know,” Fiscus said.
“I know,” he replied.
“This generation doesn’t understand how expensive things are,” he said. “When I was growing up I had to pay for my own car and insurance. Nowadays, parents pay for everything.”
When their money got low, students headed to the financial advisors to get some direction, some returned to the dealership to get a cheaper car, and others with limited income decided to rent an apartment together.
Still the number of decisions overwhelmed them, from what kind of food to buy, pre-packaged, fresh or canned, name brand or generic; to where they purchase their clothes, at JC Penney or garage sales; whether to buy a Smartphone and season sports tickets, or live with Internet and Netflix.
One girl decided her spouse could “cut his own hair.”
“I heard them commenting about their profession not making much money, that they had only been to a few booths and they were already almost out of money,” Stockebrand said. “There are a lot of expenses in life to think about and deal with, (and) they were going to have to get a more affordable car or house to be able to buy other things like food and clothing.”
"It is hard being an adult because you have to make a lot of decisions," wrote one student on the evaluation for the FutureNow: Finance event.
"It surprised me how much money most things cost in life," wrote another.
For Communities in Schools, reaching students early is critical, while there is time for students to make changes, alter their attendance record or rethink dropping out. That is why FutureNow: Finance is offered to freshmen. It lets them see what life after high school looks like financially and may even motivate them to pursue college or training for a different career.
"I liked that I got to see why people work," wrote a student.
One of Stockebrand’s favorite responses was the freshman who wrote, "I'm going to work even harder for my future.”
Story by: Connie Woodard