BOWLING GREEN — Caleb Matheny was heading into some serious deficit spending when his wife landed a second job, bringing in an extra $1,200 a month.
It was the best news he’d had all morning.
The Bowling Green High School junior was one of about 700 area high school students at Bowling Green State University on Tuesday playing the game of Life with real-world expenses and income. They were assigned occupations and salaries, given a spouse — who may or may not have a job — rolled dice to see how many children they would have, then moved through the difficult maze of buying or renting a home, buying a new or used car, paying for health insurance, credit-card debt, car insurance, day care, utilities, and on and on.
“The money goes quick,” Caleb concluded. “You’ve got to make sacrifices to break even.”
It was the eighth year Northwest Ohio Credit Unions sponsored the Finances 101 class for high schoolers. The lesson began with the “pay yourself first” principle: students put 10 percent of their monthly household income into a savings account. They could use it, but were encouraged to try not to.
Joyce Warner, chief executive officer of AP Federal Credit Union in Toledo, got a kick out of the teens’ observations. “It’s a real shocking reality,” she said. “Some of them get over and want to buy a sports car and they’ve got four kids. It’s a good educational tool.”
Caleb, for his part, didn’t hesitate when Katie Beakas, who works for Thayer Family Dealerships, asked if he thought he should buy a new or used car.
“Used,” he said. “A small one.”
While Caleb managed to complete the game with $197.60 left in his checking account and $473.60 in savings intact, others weren’t quite so fortunate.
Brittany Sours, a senior at Findlay High School, said she had a string of bad luck. “I didn’t get any good luck,” she said as she finished the game with a negative balance of $371.38 and no savings left. “I ended up getting three kids — that’s what started all of this.”
D.J. Kern-Blystone, a teacher educator at BGSU, said she heard a lot of students lamenting the cost of having children.
“I hope they understand that life’s going to throw them curves, and they need to be prepared,” Ms. Kem-Blystone said. “They need to pay themselves first. They need to be prepared for the unforeseen.”
Terry Mulgrew, who teaches economics at Bowling Green High School, said he thinks Finances 101 is a great tool for teaching his students about personal finances. Parents don’t seem to teach it to their children anymore, he said.
“We teach economics as a mandatory class — everyone takes it before they graduate,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “This really reinforces what we’re trying to do.”
The event was co-sponsored by BGSU's office of admissions and student money management services.