Money Matters: Students Get a Lesson in Practical Money Skills
Imagine you’re a 25-year-old professional making $45,000 per year. Using your monthly salary, savings, and credit cards, could you purchase everything you need to live as an adult? That was the challenge posed to Atlantis 11th and 12th graders during the Credit for Life Fair held on January 26 in the Upper School Student Center.
For more than a decade, Credit for Life has taught Massachusetts high school students about real-life budgeting and money management. This is the first time Atlantis has hosted the event on campus since before the pandemic.
“We were excited to bring this event back to Atlantis. In addition to financial management, Credit for Life provides students with an opportunity to work on soft skills like communication and networking,” said Robert Perry, Atlantis’s Career Academies Director.
A week before the fair, students created a profile on the Credit for Life website and answered questions about their interests, current skills, and career goals. They chose a profession and were assigned a monthly take-home salary based on their answers. At the fair, students navigated through ten stations, such as housing, transportation, food, and fun, to make purchases using imaginary cash, credit, or savings. Each station had volunteers from some of Atlantis’s industry partners available to answer students’ questions about their budget and spending.
The goal is to teach students how to balance a budget and live within their means.
“One of our key takeaways is, ‘Choices plus decisions equals consequences,’ said Lucia Rebelo, Financial Literacy Officer for BayCoast Bank which sponsored the Credit for Life fair. “We want students to know that the choices they make now are going to last a long time, so start making good choices now. This was probably the first time students had any real grasp of what the real world could look like for them. I hope the lessons they learned will follow the students into their adult lives and help them make wise financial decisions.”
Rebelo observed a pair of students discussing a luxury car they could not afford due to their career choice. She said it was an ‘eye-opening’ experience for the students.
Perry says some students were surprised by their salary, thinking it was too low, and many were shocked by the amount of money they should save each month or put into retirement accounts. He hopes students walked away from the event with a better understanding of their educational and career goals. “Students being able to adequately gauge their potential lifestyle based on their respective career interests was pivotal. Return on investment was a point of emphasis when thinking about aligning the education necessary to pursue specific career goals,” Perry said.
He also encouraged students to take advantage of the incredible networking opportunity the event provided.
“This was a chance for students, specifically our seniors, to put their best selves forward,” Perry said. “I encouraged them to put themselves out there and introduce themselves to industry partners who may be hiring in the coming years. They did just that, and I am so proud of them. We are even pursuing a few internship opportunities for students based on conversations they had during the fair.”
After completing all 10 stations, students could review their results with volunteers at another table. If they had time, they could learn how to tie a tie and get tips on resume writing.
Rebelo said the volunteers were impressed by the level of engagement students demonstrated. Most juniors and seniors completed all 10 stations. Two students even completed the stations a second time using another occupation and monthly salary.
Students interested in learning more can utilize Credit for Life’s library of “Money Modules” on topics like budgeting, credit scores, and investing for the future.
Atlantis would like to thank the volunteers and industry partners that made the event possible including BayCoast Bank, BankFive, First Citizens, Mass Hire, Alferes Realty, United Way, Bristol County Savings Bank, and St. Anne’s Hospital.