Students learn how to hit a financial curve ball

New London — Marquesha McCray and Yakima Jacobs, seniors at New London High School, were able to pocket about $2,000 a month each after paying for a car, a place to stay and all the other expenses of life.

Andres Delgadillo, another senior, had only $287 left over after expenses every month, but that was partly because life threw him a bit of a curve ball: a $500 root canal.

"I couldn't believe it," he said.

The three students were part of a Credit for Life Fair Friday at the high school attended by nearly 200 seniors. The financial-education event, designed to teach students about what it is like to manage a personal budget, was a partnership spearheaded by the Liberty Bank Foundation that included Eastern Savings Bank, CorePlus Federal Credit Union, ChelseaGroton Bank, Dime Bank, SAVA Insurance, Prudential Connecticut Realty and Falvey's Motors.

This was the second Credit for Life event at New London, but Liberty Bank has sponsored seven other similar programs in the Middletown area, said Sue Murphy, executive director of the Liberty Bank Foundation. She said the bank hopes to bring in students from other high schools to attend the event in future years.

"This is for kids to get a taste of what it's like to be adults living on their own and making their own decisions about finances," Murphy said.

A poll released last month by Junior Achievement and The Allstate Foundation indicated that only about 30 percent of teens in the United States received any in-school training related to personal finances. More than three-quarters of teens believed it was best to learn money management before graduation, according to the poll.

And that was the aim of Friday's event. Students made career choices and were given credit for having a salary based on their jobs. They then went around to each booth at the fair, using a check list to determine how much they would have to pay for such necessities as a car, insurance, house, food and other items.

They had to make choices on buying new vs. used cars, having roommates vs. living alone and other considerations. They then totaled their costs vs. their income to determine if they would be living within their means.

"One student came up to me and asked 'What is interest?'" said Susan Dombrowski, director of marketing and public relations for CorePlus.

Murphy said for some students, the whole question of budgeting is a foreign subject.

"I never realized how much my parents did for me" is one of the comments that students make at the fair, she said. They also learn the difference between wanting something and needing something, she said.

A booth marked Reality Check, where students were given both positive and negative news based on good luck or bad health, helped them understand that budgets must also take into account the occasional unexpected expense, such as for a root canal.

Zato Kadambaya, math and science department head at New London, called the event very positive.

"We're very thankful for local businesses trying to engage with education," he said.

l.howard@theday.com

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