Local high school students participated in a simulation aimed at teaching teenagers about finance once they graduate.
The event was organized by the Santa Clarita Valley branch of the Junior Chamber International — a nonprofit modeled after the United Nations. Attendees were given a profile, based on if they decided to go to college or if they didn’t, that described their job, salary, marital status and age.
Once given their profiles, students would make their way through a room full of things to spend their money on — some were necessities, like transportation, but others were there to tempt students into spending. Entertainment, for example, was students’ first stop.
Kari McCoy, vice president of training and development at JCI, said she wants students to know the reality of trying to make it on your own after high school, including how much they’d have to make. It’s also designed to simulate how markets pressure them into spending, sometimes on things they don’t need.
“I want them to think more critically about their money, I want them to consider the power they have in choosing for themselves when they spend and how they spend it,” said McCoy. “Because if they walk in here and don’t care, or they walk in here and… they don’t have any idea what it’s going to cost, right? So this is just a way for them to have an eye-opening moment.”
Most of the profiles given to students included a salary of over $50,000 a year, including the non-college options, because it was designed to simulate when a person had been in a specific industry for six or more years.
But the simulation had some tricks up its sleeve to make them question their spending habits. For example — the housing options weren’t presented to students until the end.
“We do this on purpose because a lot of our spending goes to entertainment and we don’t think about housing, which is all the way in the corner,” said McCoy. “So by the time they get to housing, they’re just struggling. We don’t know if they’re advocating for themselves. We don’t want them to struggle, but if they struggle, it’s because you know, they’re not aware of what expenditures they have.”
McCoy said when students see that they spent the bulk of their money by the time they get to housing, they’re left not knowing what to do. In addition to what they choose to spend their money on, students are also forced to pay “non-discretionary spending” on health care and student loans (if they went to college), which can also catch some off-guard.
The simulation also featured some lessons about how a person’s income can affect the outcome. Ben Priwer, a senior at West Ranch High School, got the profile of a registered nurse who makes $120,000 a year. Priwer said it was somewhat easier to budget, but still faced some challenges that prevented him from buying a car.
“I think one of the neat things about it is you don’t get to see all of your expenses beforehand. You kind of need to adjust your expenses as you go in order to deal with, say, ‘poor choices’ you made in the past,” said Priwer. “It’s pretty nice for kind of figuring out the reality of unexpected expenses.”
In addition to well-paying, college-education-required positions, there were also some very well-paying options for those who chose not to go to college. Johnny Escobedo, a business agent with Ironworkers Local 416, said his options were designed for kids to receive industry-specific education through an apprenticeship that ends with a position that pays close to $100,000 a year.
“We’re starting to realize that kids nowadays aren’t all designed to go to school, and in our apprenticeship program, we try to give them that insight so that they don’t wind up in debt and without a job,” said Escobedo. “It’s a great benefit to everybody. The other point is that when they do graduate they’re shy (about) eight credits of an (associate’s) degree through Cerritos College, which is an accredited school.”
“We want to just give them examples of something else,” said McCoy. “So it’s not to say that the college path is always going to be more, it just balances (options) out.”
Sixty volunteers helped make the event happen, which McCoy emphasized was greatly appreciated.