LOWELL, Mass.–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 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.
“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, such as which insurance plan would be best, should they purchase a car or opt for a bus pass, how much should they would spend on clothes and furniture, what kind of apartment might they would live in, and whether or not to have roommates, 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.
Jeanne D’Arc 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, adopted a pet or got a speeding ticket. They then had to determine how to cope with these scenarios based on the cash and credit available to them.
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 lifestyle when it was revealed they were spending more money than they were earning.
More than 70 individuals, the majority of whom were employees from 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, Stanton Insurance, Middlesex Community College and Girls Inc. also volunteered.