I graduated high school in 2005 and headed off to college at the University of Maine. I wouldn't change too much about my four years of high school, but in going to my first financial fitness fair today in Dover Foxcroft, I think many of our high school seniors would have benefited from having one. I am fortunate enough to not have many college loans after four and a half years of college (about 18K) but there are many other areas of life that are covered in fitness fairs that would have definitely benefited me when I was a high school senior.
Today I watched as high school seniors went around from booth to booth and tried to spend their money wisely in hopes that they had some spending cash leftover at the end of the month. I found a recurring theme throughout the day, and that was many of them had to redo their budgets as they were in debt at the end of each month. It's a great eye opener into the future lives of these young adults. One of the biggest things I got to talk to the students about was being flexible and being okay with second hand furniture and older cars at the start. There's no reason to go out and get a new car or brand new furniture right out of college. It's difficult to afford, and chances are, there will be a substantial amount of college loans to deal with instead. I used two examples of my own life to help them understand how to cut costs.
My first advice to the students was to get a cheaper, but reliable car. One of the students who approached me was in the hole about $300 each month and didn't know how to cut costs. I explained to her how the newer car she had decided to buy ('03 Saab) was going to be an expensive purchase because Saabs are higher end cars, and they will cost a decent amount to insure each month. They are also pricey to fix when something goes wrong. I talked about how I bought an '86 Camry before having this job. It lasted three years for me, and I only spend $1200 on it. I did have work put into it every now and again, but rather than going in to debt right off, I was able to drive a car that I didn't have to put any payments into. It saved me money when I was in school, and told her to consider downgrading at the fair. She did, and saved money.
Another student approached me and talked to me about not being able to make ends meet with her allotted budget. I found it interesting that few students decided to go to the local yard sale booth and bought new furniture instead. I talked to the students about looking at second hand stores for furniture and using a cover to hide the old couch. In fact, I had a great example of buying second hand furniture, as I bought my younger sister's first couch for her apartment. I found it for $1 at Goodwill a few years back. Sure it wasn't anything special and it wasn't in amazing shape, but with a couch cover, it looked just fine.
There were other booths available for the students, including clothing, food, insurance, housing and various others. It showed the students how to be smart with their money, and I was also there to talk to them about how the fair was a pretty accurate representation of real life issues you'll run into. Currently, the state of Maine does not require high schools to offer any kind of financial literacy classes or hold any financial fairs. I personally think that this is something that needs to be changed. Financial literacy before graduating high school is one of the most important things you could learn before going into the real world, and I hope that this will change in years to come. I couldn't have asked for a more fun afternoon with the Foxcroft Academy students, and hope that they will understand that the exercise they went through today will prepare them for the next years in their life!
Did you have any financial fairs when you went to school?