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Education

Fassett students get lesson in life

Mock paycheck aims to teach budget skills

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Alexandra Spraggins, 13, center, turns to answer a question during a class on personal finance at Fassett Middle School in Oregon on such things as loans and interest, credits cards, and checking.

THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH
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Eighth-grade students in Oregon’s Fassett Middle School have received a “paycheck” of sorts.

Call it a virtual paycheck. That’s because it was part of an online personal finance course called Banzai that technology teacher Amy Sweet is conducting. The idea is to introduce the youngsters to how a checking account works and the importance of not spending more than you earn.

“There is no real money involved,” Ms. Sweet, Fassett’s technology teacher, explained before class. “But but the lesson gives the students a lesson about what to expect when they begin to work for a living.”

When last week’s class began, she told the students, “Today we get paid.”

Banzai then showed the students a mock paycheck and stub from “Roland’s Corner Bookstore.” The stub included such essentials as the hourly rate of pay, hours worked, and myriad deductions. Ms. Sweet explained other things associated with the world of employment such as holiday and overtime pay.

“This is what you are making,” she explained, as she moved around the classroom. “However, it is not what you are getting paid,” she continued, as she then moved on to the topic of deductions — taxes, medical insurance, and Social Security and Medicare — and explained what each one was.

The lesson then advanced to budgeting. Students were shown jars labeled “food,” “car," rent,” “utilities,” and “other,” and Ms. Sweet explained the importance of putting money in them every week so these bills could be paid.

Calli Fox, 14, said the amounts of the deductions were an eye-opener for her.

“I had no idea what they were before,” she said.

Jacob Steingraber, 14, said he found the instruction especially topical given the constant stream of news stories about the federal government’s deficit spending. For him, deductions also were a revelation. “I didn’t realize how much they took out of a paycheck,” he said.

Autumn Holzemer, 14, said personal finance instruction would benefit anyone her age. “It’s something everyone should know before they grow up.”

The rights to use Banzai are paid for by Sun Federal Credit Union. Dave Wilde, Sun Federal’s vice president of marketing, said the cost is underwritten as “part of our overall mission of educating folks and being a good steward of their finances.”

Ms. Sweet’s lessons also cover such personal finance basics as loans and interest, credits cards, automatic teller machines, checks and overdrafts, insurance, and paying taxes and utilities.

The teacher said test scores told her that some kids were surprisingly knowledgeable about personal finance and others totally in the dark. She instructs students on the danger of online scams and how to recognize them, and extends this lesson to safe social networking as well.

“The great thing is, when the kids receive a scam attempt, they talk to each other about it. They let each other know what’s out there,” she explained.

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