Hancock County teens get shocking dose of financial reality

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Like a lot of teenagers, Grant Davis dreams of owning some luxuries when he grows up.

"I want a nice sports car, nice house, swimming pool," said Grant Davis as he thought about his future.

But he's finally getting a shocking dose of financial reality.

"I never really thought how much of your salary comes out from taxes," Grant said.

To help students understand how to handle money, Capital One and Junior Achievement brought the "Finance Park" to Hancock Middle School this week. It's a mobile learning lab, basically a huge mall where students go to invest in the stock market, shop for a house, and dine out.

The program gives about 350 eighth graders a chance to be an adult for the day. Each student receives a card that assigns them a job, income, and number of family members to support.

"They realize, 'If I want a house like this, I want a nice car, I'm going to have to have more money. This little $20,000 a year job won't get it. I want to make $40,000 to $50,000.'  So they're getting to see how much it takes to actually run a household," said Denise Weeks, the Coast Area Representative for Junior Achievement.

After making their purchases, the teens have to use their monthly budget to pay 18 bills. That includes groceries, insurance, even donating to charity. They also have to set aside money for emergencies, like when a car breaks down or a child gets sick.

"It's not all fun and games," said Hancock Middle School teacher Josh Lindsey.  "One person said yesterday, they didn't want to grow up and be an adult because there were too many bills to pay and they didn't have any money at the end of the day."

The students have a new-found appreciation for the value of money.

"Taxes are really expensive nowadays," said 8th grader Leila Sabbagh. "I never really thought that my parents deal with so much stuff."

And they understand the value of staying in school, so they can earn a good living.

"I learned how hard it is to actually live out there in the world and how to manage your budget," said Grant. "It's harder than you think as a kid."

The students had to go through four-weeks of financial education classes before they put their skills to the test in the Finance Park. The program ends on Wednesday.

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