Asbury Park Press Article by Amanda Ogelsby:
How do you teach teens how much it really costs to live?
JACKSON, NJ — Fourteen-year-old Aylin Torenli of Jackson spent a recent Wednesday morning calculating whether the salary of a dental hygienist would be enough to afford her the finer things of life: a smart phone, upscale furniture, television.
“I didn’t realize how expensive it was,” Torenli said of life’s luxuries that quickly add up. The freshman joined more than 200 Jackson Memorial High School students at a Financial Reality Fair Wednesday that was designed to give teenagers the foundations for a lifetime of successful money management.
After picking a “career” and its related income, students visited various stations where they chose cellphone plans and car payments, looked at housing costs, and calculated quality-of-life expenses like dining out and spa treatments.
“You understand how hard it is to be in the financial world,” Torenli said after meeting with a financial adviser to review her budget. “I give a lot of credit to my parents now.”
Under New Jersey law, public school students must learn about money management, insurance, saving and investing, as well as credit and debt management, beginning by fourth grade.
Public high school students are required by state law to take 2.5 credits of financial literacy and economics to graduate, according to the state Department of Education. That law went into effect in the 2010-11 school year, beginning with then ninth-graders.
The 2008 recession — when financial markets around the world fell following a collapse of the U.S. housing market — triggered the need for such educational programs, said Issa E. Stephan, president of First Financial in Wall, which helped to organize the event along with the New Jersey Credit League Foundation.
“Our mission for the fair is to help the students understand the value of money and how to manage their money, so as they grow as an adult, they’ll be more financially responsible,” Stephan said.
In a country loaded with easy temptations to spend, financial literacy is crucial, he said.
At the spinning “Reality Wheel,” students took a risk at budget breakers like car repairs and accidents.
“We just want to give them a little wake-up call,” said Janice Anderson of First Financial, who talked to students about managing monthly food budgets.
Freshman Tom Del Monte, 15, said the Financial Fair helped him better understand the importance of securing a good job after high school. The Jackson freshman said he was shocked by the high prices of cellphones and food.
“I finally understand the reality of what we’re learning in class,” he said. “I didn’t realize what my parents pay.”
“We hope this (fair) leads to better consumers,” said Lisa Scott, a business, finance and economics teacher at Jackson Memorial High School.
She added: “They’re coming face-to-face with the reality of whether or not that (job) will buy them all the things that they think they’re going to have when they are young adults out on their own for the first time. It is a rude awakening for some of them.”
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