HANOVER — “So, life is going to punch us in the face.”
As they walked to their first booth at South Shore Vo-Tech’s ninth annual Credit For Life Fair Thursday, April 12, one student summed up to her friend the day’s lesson with her own take on the program’s motto — “If you don’t have a plan for your money, someone else will.”
The object is to help students avoid getting a financial “punch in the face” from life.
Credit For Life is intended to be a practice session for the realities of budgeting before being faced with the need to do so when it counts. It’s a chance to get financial do-overs, and sometimes they are needed.
Rockland Trust Hanson Branch Manager Karen Sharon, a Whitman resident, said there are two common mistakes most students make during the event — they don’t realize they may not be able to afford a new car right away and that budgeting $25 per month for spending money won’t get them very far. Rockland Trust is the program sponsor at SSVT.
“We’ve been telling them for four years what’s involved in the real world. The Credit For Life Fair, with two months left before they graduate, gives them that one concise, complete simulation — that there are a lot of difficult, challenging and exciting decisions they’re going to have to make,” Superintendent/Director Dr. Thomas J. Hickey said the timing of the program is part of its impact.
“This is when the senior countdown begins,” he told the seniors during a breakfast gathering in the school cafeteria. “Clearly, we’re sending you a message that you must always have money in your budget for Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee.”
In a more serious vein, he told the largest senior class in school history that they harbor more potential wealth, based on learned skills, than any other group of high school seniors on the South Shore.
“Generating wealth is only half of it,” he said. “[Planning] what you’re going to do with this money, and in what disciplined manner you are going to use this wealth, is essential.”
He urged students to applaud event planner and Math teacher Mary Farmer and the business and Parents Association volunteers staffing booths to help them calculate the funds needed for food, housing, transportation, insurance, credit lending, education and even luxuries and unexpected windfalls or liabilities.
Students’ budgets had to balance and be reviewed by teachers or Rockland Trust offcials at the event’s credit counseling center.
Student Council President Rosa Gachia of Whitman, an Allied Health student said she hopes to become a surgeon and was interested in the cost of the higher education she will need. She has been accepted at three colleges and universities.
“I’m hoping it will help me learn how to manage my money better,” she said, noting her Credit For Life job assignment and income was as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). “I’m hoping this will at least give me an idea of the path I need to take moneywise, because I know I’m going to be in debt a lot because of the schooling and the amount of years and not enough money for it.”
Students were assigned a job title, gross and net annual income figures and charged with making financial decisions with an eye toward maintaining a balanced budget at the end of the event.
Hanson Automotive student Calvin King was looking for some pointers in balancing his credit and savings.
“Trying to get the car was kind of a pain,” he said, but he was one of the prudent ones who opted for a used vehicle for his first purchase. He found “all the math you have to do” to be an eye-opener.
“It’s a lot,” King said.
“The fact that everybody needs a house at some point” was a sobering reality for Hanson Computer Information Technology student Michael Andrasy, who was going it alone on that decision during the event. “I haven’t really calculated it yet, but [the budget’s] going pretty good,” he said. “I’m just out to learn about what I’ll need in the real world.”
Cheyenne Chaplin of Whitman, a Collision Repair Technology student, learned at the Reality Check wheel that even good surprises have a downside.
“I got Patriots tickets, but have to pay for parking and tax,” she said. “I’d like to see how [the event] relates to real life.”
And real life for these students, some of whom are directly entering the workforce, is two months away.
“The timing is perfect,” Hickey said. “We have more students out on co-op[erative learning] than ever before. We have more students working part-time jobs or otherwise in the workforce.”