MANCHESTER — Step right up and spin the wheel for a dose of financial reality!
And what a jolt of reality Souhegan High School students got Monday about how much money they will need to earn just to survive on their own day to day.
It was all part of the CU 4 Reality Financial Fair at America's Credit Union Museum on Notre Dame Avenue.
The students already prepared for the event, having studied money management for a semester as part of the CU 4 Reality program developed by the Financial Literacy Education Committee and the New Hampshire Credit Union League. (Two additional sessions of the program are planned for May 7 at the McLaughlin Middle School gymnasium in Manchester.)
Monday's fair, presented by the Bellwether Community Credit in corroboration with other area credit unions, featured volunteers from various credit unions helping students prepare monthly budgets, covering everything from rent, to haircuts to computer crashes.
With their chosen career picked out — and the salary they expected to make, less taxes — students went from one booth to another, talking with credit union volunteers about how much to save each month, what the rent would cost along with utilities and insurance, which cell phone plan to select, and what car they could afford.
They also had to budget for clothing and, of course, food and, if they chose, a pet — a puppy could cost about $65 a month, they learned. Many opted to go without man's best friend.
Once the necessities of life were covered, the teens learned they then could splurge on entertainment, concert tickets, a new computer or a night out.
"I found out everything costs a lot of money," said freshman Chris Day, who expects to earn $120,800 as a computer and information systems manager upon college graduation.
As a way of hitting home that, in life, sometimes there are unexpected expenses, and the occasional windfall, each student stepped up to spin the "Wheel of Reality," where Richard Arcand of the state banking epartment explained they had a 50/50 chance of something good or bad happening.
Day found he had to come up with another $200 because he lost his iPad.
Felicia Barner, who plans to be an advertising manager, landed on the $200 refrigerator repair, while Ben Platt spun the wheel to win a $500 bonus. One young woman was thrilled to get a $500 inheritance. The number one rule, the students were told, was to pay yourself first. That could be as little as $50 or $100 a month.
Arcand said students learn very quickly if they pick a profession that pays $32,000 or less annually, they will need to pick up a second job to cover all the bills.
Claire Castanino, Bellwether's executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the program prepares students for financial challenges they'll face as young adults.
"They leave here, and it's amazing because the light bulb goes on," she said. Choices teenagers make in their first years of independence can have a tremendous impact on their finances for years to follow, she said.
Student Andrew Whitney, who plans to be a corporate administrative services manager earning about $79,000 annually, did extremely well with his budget. He had $1,340 left over for the month, according to Nick Allen of the Service Credit Union.
When Allen found out, however, that Whitney planned to live in New York City — a tipoff was he didn't budget for a car, but said his mode of transportation was the subway — his $700 budgeted rent ballooned to $1,700. It still left him with $340 for the month. And that was after purchasing a computer, a camera, concert tickets and a kitten.
It also didn't account for the $500 bonus he got in the Wheel of Reality spin.