“This is stressful,” “I can’t afford to do what I want,” “It’s hard to be an adult” and “I have to go with the cheapest option,“ freshmen uttered as they faced tough financial decisions while participating in the Mad City Money program earlier this month.
The Mad City Money program, led by volunteers from Mid Missouri Credit Union, randomly assigns careers, income levels, spouses, children, and loan payments to freshmen in Waynesville High School’s life skills classes.
“This is one of the most memorable and impressionable experiences for our students,” says Tammy Beckler, WHS life sciences teacher. “They see what it is like to be an adult for a day. They learn a valuable lesson in money management, and gain respect for the decisions their parents make every day.”
Students moved from table-to-table in the library choosing how much they wanted to spend on housing, transportation, entertainment, furniture and decorations, clothing and personal care, wants and extras, meals, children, saving and chartable giving, paying debts and the unexpected.
To pay the bills, students were required to properly write checks, maintain a check register, and keep track of their account balance. They also experienced frustration as they struggled to stretch their income to pay daycare, school loans, food and bills. Just when they gained a firm grasp of their finances, a fickle of fate – a sudden car repair bill, an unexpected dental expense or even a work bonus – occurred.
“It’s just like real life,” says Beckler. “You just never know what is going to happen, so you have to be prepared.”
Although they were randomly assigned their careers in this exercise, students quickly learned that an education impacts their income and career choices, where they can afford to live, where they can go out to eat and what they can afford to purchase.
“We talk about long-term goals, and what it takes to achieve them,” Beckler says. “Mad City Money reinforces what they have been learning.”