LOWELL — More than 350 students from Lowell High School and Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School got quite the reality check at Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union’s ninth annual MoneyStrong for Life Fair, held recently at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
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.
“The MoneyStrong For Life Fair is a valuable event that teaches students about the financial decisions they will have to make and responsibilities they will have as adults,” said Mark S. Cochran, president and CEO of Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union. “Knowledge and preparation is key to ensuring these students are well-equipped to handle all that’s to come in their futures.”
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, like which insurance plan would be best, if they should purchase a car or opt for a bus pass, how much they should spend on clothes and furniture, what kind of apartment they should live in, and whether to have roommates, all while weighing the delicate balance of needs vs. wants to ensure that their decisions fit into their budget. They were also assigned a credit score and learned what they could do to raise it.
Students were tempted by high-cost items at the “Luxury” booth, including cellphone plans and cable and internet packages, and unexpected scenarios at the “Reality Check” booth.
Some students lost their jobs, had babies, adopted a pet or got a speeding ticket. They then had to determine how to cope with those scenarios based on the cash and credit available to them.
As the final step, all students 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 lifestyle when it was revealed they were spending more money than they were earning.
More than 70 people, the majority of whom are employees of Jeanne D’Arc Credit Union, volunteered to manage the booths and assist students in their decision-making process. Representatives from Lowell General Hospital, MAPFRE Insurance, Girls Inc., Stanton Insurance and Middlesex Community College also volunteered.