Reality Day at I-S
Students get a dose of adult life
By Holly Neumann
The Iola-Scandinavia School District and surrounding communities gave I-S seniors a dose of adult life.
“It is really a summative evaluation of what we cover in the consumer economics/personal finance course,” said Stacy Bestul. “As we prepare for the day, most of them worry about how they will make ends meet for the month.”
Preparation started at the beginning of the semester, talking about financial goals and what they envision their life will be like as adults.
They then learned about financial institutions, managing a checking account and paying taxes.
“We then cover how to budget and what the major budget categories are and what percent of our income should be designated to those categories,” Bestul said. “Now that we know how to manage our money, we look at how we will make money in the future.”
Student then completed some interest inventories to then choose a career.
“With this, they research colleges and how to pay for college,” she said. “Once they figure out how to make money, then we talk about spending. Major topics are insurance, credit and big purchases.”
Using a spreadsheet, the students were given a random life status and matched with a spouse and children. The students created their own budget based on the needs of their family.
“Early in the semester, we talk about budgets and how to create them and what experts recommend to be spending in each of the major expense categories,” Bestul said. “They use their income, deduct taxes, deduct student loan payments and then use that dollar amount to create their budgets.”
At Reality Day, they were faced with making purchases, paying rent, buying a car and unexpected things handed out by a police officer and a nurse.
The biggest surprise for the students was the cost of child care.
“I try to share with them how expensive it is, and I tend to underestimate for them so that they realize that this is a major expense for most families,” Bestul said.
Their biggest mistakes were not spending enough for cars and housing.
“The students worry about running out of money, so many of them will underspend on the major items like housing and auto,” she said. “Then when they realize that they will be fine, they wish they would have spent more on big ticket items.”
Another area where they made mistakes was the math calculations in their checkbook register.
For each of the students. it was a different experience.
Kevin Wiskow, was a civil engineer for the day.
“I was surprised at how much money I had left over,” Wiskow said. “I could have spent a little more in some categories.”
Jalen Block was a single dad, with one child and working as a stunt man.
“I made $1,940 a month and it was rough,” he said. “I had to be a little skimpy on the groceries, I could not buy the clothes I wanted and I drove a beater van.”
His words of wisdom were, “Don’t be a stunt man. You will have a hard time surviving.”
Some students decided they do not want to grow up.
“I guess I did not realize all the responsibilities that an adult has,” said Lindsey Frank. “Now I understand why my parents have to tell me no sometimes.”
The lesson she learned was it is hard taking care of oneself.
“It was hard enough to make ends meet on my own. I cannot imagine having kids,” she said. “This process has taught me to wait on that and save my money.”
School counselor Caitlyn Young believes Reality Day offers an opportunity for the students.
“I think Mrs. Bestul does a great job preparing them, but I don’t think it all comes together until things like insurance and day care start to add up and their money does not go as far as they hoped,” Young said. “I hope this encourages them to plan ahead and really think about how it is best to move forward.”
Mike Sadowski, of Mark Motors in Plover, helped students purchase cars to fit their budgets.
“The students learn the importance of budgeting and what it all entails,” he said. “They learn that you cannot just go out and buy what you want. You have to stay within your limits.”
Bestul said she is thankful for all who volunteered their time to be with the students for Reality Day.
“Without the community members who participate in this activity, it wouldn’t be as effective,” she said. “We could not do this without them. It really means a lot to me that we have that many community members in our community who are willing to help out year after year.”