Field trips are not my favorite thing (this confession brought to you by the 2010 National Young Mother of the Year...just another reality check here on that title), but I do love the 8th Grade Junior Achievement Finance Park field trip. I believe this is the most important field trip the kids in our district participate in at this age.
Upon arrival at Lincoln Finance Park, they receive an envelope which states their life situation for the day. They discover their age, if they are single or married, whether or not they have kids, occupation, annual income, and taxes to be paid. From that information they will set a budget based on minimum and maximum amounts for each budget category, and they will receive many, many options for purchases. Such as for the house and vehicle they will purchase, (along with corresponding insurance). They will budget for clothing, entertainment, a benefits package, groceries, home improvements, utilities and more.
It's incredible to watch these teenagers struggle to make decisions about which house to buy, how much to budget for eating out, why they cant buy the sports car - because of the need for car seats. In general just struggling with how much things cost. Its amazing to see them grasp what is must be like for their parents as they come and ask for money for clothes, movies, pizza, and more. The realization of where that money comes from was happening.
At the end of the day, with budgets stretched and cutbacks made, the Junior Achievement leader asked if there were things that parents have to budget for that were not on their budget sheets today. Their answers again showed the clarity they had gained....YES. Vacations, birthday and Christmas presents, gasoline to name a few. One kid said that when his parents say no to something, he now understands why.
When I asked some of the kids in my group if they received budgets or allowance, they all said no. When I asked them how they get money to go to movies or to buy things, they said they just ask for money and their parents give it to them....check back here tomorrow to find out what I suggested to them!