Profitt Report: Midland Co. teens learning "real world" budgeting

Groceries, a mortgage, car payments: we’re all juggling our household budget. Often, we don’t realize just how expensive the real world is until after we graduate from school.

The Midland Chamber of Commerce co-hosts an event for every eighth and eleventh grader in Midland County to help them learn budgeting before graduation. It’s called the Reality Store.

“They quickly learn where their money goes in the real world,” said Ryan Carter with Dow Chemical Employees’ Credit Union. Carter has been volunteering at these events for the better part of a decade.

Before the day of the Reality Store, students select a career and therefore an income. They also learn if they are married and have children.

Next, they go through the motions of building a life at the Reality Store. Various booths are set up around the school’s gymnasium, each with a different purpose, i.e.: housing, groceries, childcare, car payments, etc. Students have a variety of options at each booth, for example: an apartment, mobile home, small rented house, large house, etc. They must go through the motions of building a life while staying inside their budget.

However, one of the booths is labeled “reality check.” At this booth, students select a number at random. Each number is assigned a common life event such as a large medical bill, having a baby, a pay raise, etc.

If the student is surprised with another child, they must go back to housing, childcare, car selections etc. and make sure their assets are prepared for their new addition.

We checked in with H.H. Dow High School junior Connor Moe at the Reality Store and after a surprise third baby, he was more than $1,000 in debt. Real world budgeting was a shock for Moe, and many of the students at the event.

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