Students learn financial lessons through game playing

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BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Tenth-graders spun the "Wheel of Life" at Southern Vermont College Friday, finding unexpected windfalls and expenses alike.

The wheel, bearing labels such as "pothole — new tires," was part of the Financial Reality Fair, held Friday at the college for about 110 students from Mount Anthony Union High School and Arlington Memorial High School.

The third annual event was part of Career Month in Bennington County.

Students spun the wheel as part of the fair's virtual budgeting — they were given positions based on their previously-identified interests and asked to live on a given monthly salary, spending on essentials like housing, food, and transportation, extras like Netflix and one-time purchases.

Expense categories were set up at labeled tables. At the transportation table, flyers spelled out initial costs, car payments and insurance for a variety of vehicle types.

"They're actually being really thoughtful about their purchases," said Lindsay Pilling, director of admission at SVC. Most have opted for small cars with lower car payments or chosen to take public transportation, she said.

"You can budget as well as you can, and something's always going to happen," Betsy Dunham, director of career development and internships at SVC, told the afternoon's group of students. That's why, she said, it's important to put money away.

In response to a question from Dunham, very few students said they were surprised by the costs they had to pay.

"I think this is the first year we've had students actually not be surprised," said Jeannie Jenkins, coordinator of academic services at the Community College of Vermont's Bennington Campus.

She worked at the "upgrade your skills/get a part-time job" table.

Organizers put together the fair to "really provide the correlation between occupational choices and lifestyle choices," she said.

"It is a dose of reality that all the adults wished they had known in 10th grade!" she said in an email.

A large portion of the students at the afternoon session changed positions, or later upgraded their skills or education.

"We all learned that it helps to get roommates," said Kaylee Bushee, an Arlington Memorial High School student.

She said the fair was valuable, but wished members of the careers students chose could be there to talk about their financial decisions. And, she said, the fair helped to determine what needs to be done to get to a dream career.

Bushee wants to be a surgeon; that was the position she received.

"It gives you a really good idea of what you're going to be facing," said Olivia Hopkins, an AMHS student, of the fair. "It really helps you with budgeting, too. That's a really, really big deal."

She started out as a financial associate, but changed her position to a biology research assistant, and also got a part-time job so she could have extra money.

"Honestly, I thought housing was going to be more (money)," Hopkins said.

Owen Downing, also an AMHS student, started out as a voice actor, but became a director.

"I made bank," he said. But with the wheel of life, he chipped a tooth, for a cost of $150.

"The wheel of life actually did a really good job of throwing random stuff," he said.




Information from: Bennington Banner,

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