State Employees Credit Union (SECU) personnel collaborated with Appalachian State University business students on April 29 to guide young consumers away from the pitfalls of personal debt.
They joined forces to present Reality of Money, a financial literacy program to middle and high school students from Ashe and Wilkes counties.
The workshop was made possible by a partnership between SECU, Appalachian's GearUp Program, and the Walker College of Business and its BB&T Student Leadership Center and Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship.
During 90 minute sessions, groups of students were challenged to complete an exercise that tasks them with managing a family budget. The events were held in the gymnasiums of Ashe County and West Wilkes High Schools. Upon arrival in the gymnasiums, the high school students received a student profile sheet that outlined the lifestyle of a prospective adult consumer. On the profile sheets, the participants found details such as the adult's occupation, credit status, level of education, marital status, parental status, the total number of people living in the home, a savings account balance and the prospective adult's income. The students were asked to determine how to cover expenses that are relevant to the lifestyles of actual adult consumers. Expense categories include housing, transportation, healthcare insurance, child care services, communication and entertainment.
Appalachian students Emily Young, a junior accounting major from Matthews and Rachel Drye, a junior from Monroe majoring in computer information systems, participated in the exercise. They were two of 55 students from Appalachian who staffed 12 booths scattered across the gymnasiums. Appalachian's students played the roles of representatives from those expense categories. For the college students, the challenge was to transfer their knowledge to excited, young consumers.
Drye pointed out the key to successfully completing the exercise and successfully managing a family budget is tracking every dollar spent. It's one sure way, she explained, to determine which purchases are necessary and which are superfluous.
"For me, the most rewarding part of the activity was seeing young high school students who had never had any exposure to real life financial applications, going through the process and quickly learning how to prioritize their finances. One of the most challenging parts of the activity was trying to explain to students why some purchases were more important than others," Drye said.
"I had one student come up to me who had purchased two brand new mustangs for him and his wife, but at the end of the month, he had a negative $10 balance. It was challenging for me to explain to him that if he had purchased two cheaper cars at first, he would have the opportunity to save up and then purchase two brand new cars in 5-10 years," Drye said.
Young, who played the role of a counselor at the credit counseling booth, said the middle and high school students she encountered were unaware of the difficulty adults face to routinely oversee family expenses.
"At the credit card station, students were shocked with the blatant over-use of credit and were able to learn a simple, yet profoundly important rule: don't spend more than you make," Young said. "Credit card bills shocked the high schoolers, but they often put off paying the full bill to splurge on entertainment. As the simulation went on, students became more money conscious and made smarter choices."
"I hope in the future, the students will remember their experience and avoid a mistake that millions of Americans make," Young said.
Most student volunteers were members of student clubs, programs and student-led organizations in the Walker College, including: the National Association for Business Economics, Net Impact, Women of Walker, AIESEC, American Marketing Association, Appalachian Supply Chain Club, Association of Information Technology Professionals, Association of Student Entrepreneurs, Beta Alpha Psi, Finance Student Association, Business Honors Association, International Business Student Association, Phi Beta Lambda, Pi Sigma Epsilon and Walker Fellows. For more information on the 20+ business clubs at Appalachian, visit business.appstate.edu/students.
The financial literacy service workshop was part of the second annual Walker College Service Day. Alumni and friends of the college participated in Walker College Service Week from April 23-29, 2017, which coincided with National Volunteer Week and Financial Literacy Month.
By Kesha Williams