Seniors at Spencer High School got a reality check as they took part in the 3rd Annual Game of Life. Throughout first semester, all seniors spent time during their weekly home base sessions completing activities and lessons designed by Liz Kluver, Career Coordinator for Spencer Community Schools. The goal was to gain financial literacy in preparation for the real-life simulation. With 19 businesses represented, students were faced with many financial decisions in an effort to create a budget.
Kluver gathered the career aspirations and post-secondary education plans from the students, and using an entry level salary and the average college debt, created a budget sheet to be used for the simulation. As part of the preparation, Kluver said, “The students had to figure out their net monthly income, and they also had to randomly draw a savings account balance and a credit score. During the Game of Life, they will be traveling from station to station, making financial decisions. Everyone’s budget sheet is unique to their own situation, based on their desired employment.” Kluver prepared the students by saying that she was pretty certain they would go over budget, but she encouraged them to visit each table and make a purchase even though it might be out of the budget. “I want you to go through the process,” Kluver said. “Focus on what things cost and your ideal budget. If you spend money how you want to spend it, what does that cost?”
With over 50 volunteers representing the different aspects of “life”, students gained a wealth of knowledge and then were required to make decisions. When asked how she felt about the day, SHS senior, Emma Fratzke, said that she was really excited. “I am excited to see how much I am going to spend and how I need to budget more. I am pretty sure I am going to be broke,” Fratzke said with a chuckle.
Ryan Johnson, State Bank President, talked with students about credit scores, credit cards, different aspects of lending and how to look at making purchases. “We are the last group to talk to the students before they start making their purchases, so basically we will talk to them about good decisions to make, the use of a budget, and setting life goals so that they align with purchases,” said Johnson. When asked about partnering with the effort, he added, “We are excited. I don’t think you can ever be too young to learn about finances.” State Bank Vice President, Linda Kunzmann, said she will compare a credit score to a GPA in high school and how it can follow a person through life. Farmers Bank, Northwest Bank and US Bank were also on hand to educate about spending, saving and investing money.
Representatives from Steffen Furniture, Slumberland, Spencer YMCA, Four Seasons Travel Agency, Hy-Vee, Asher Motors, H & N Chevrolet Buick, Don Pierson Ford, Northwest Iowa Realty, Jacobsen Homes, Design Masters and Spencer Municipal Utilities were on hand to sell furniture, cars, houses, clothing, food, vacations, and luxury services. Mary Grover from Slumberland Furniture has participated with the Game of Life every year since it started. Through her participation, and after raising eight children of her own, Grover has utilized the opportunity to provide common sense advice to the students. “I want them to know that they don’t have to buy new. My husband and I didn’t buy a new sofa until we had been married for 38 years. Auctions and hand-me-downs are great ways to purchase items at a lesser cost.” One thing she does encourage is to buy the best bed that her customers can afford because that can affect every aspect of life.
To educate about the importance of adequate insurance coverage, Community Bank and Insurance representatives spoke with the students. Kerri Sirovy, Insurance Agent from Community Bank and Insurance, spoke about Life, Home and Auto Insurance. Upon asking Sirovy what she hoped the students would learn, she said, “I hope that they learn about the importance of having the appropriate coverage so that they are properly insured if they ever do have a loss.”
Students were also given the opportunity to positively impact the community. Jason Jacobs of the Spencer Jaycees represented the area of Charity or Community Service, and encouraged students to either donate a percentage of their income or time. An actual time donation was available as students could put together eggs for the upcoming Jaycees Easter Egg Hunt. Jacobs said that the Jaycees have been involved all three years, and it has been a great event. SHS student, Alex Najera, took advantage of the opportunity to donate his time, and when asked why, he said, “It might help me to make more connections in the community and get my name out there more in case I want to get a job. I can possibly get a reference from one of these guys too.”
Throughout the morning, students were randomly selected to experience a “Reality Check”. Though some were positive, like inheriting money, Eileen Gengler, former SHS Guidance Counselor, emphasized the negative reality checks that can happen in life. Whether health problems, or car and home repairs, Gengler said, “Reality really is, ‘oops, I didn’t plan for this’, so I try to hit more on that aspect.”
Cal Noah, wants to be a law enforcement officer, and after his reality check, he said, “Right now, I just lost $8,500.00 for a 3-day hospital stay due to influenza, and that takes a lot off my starting salary. I didn’t plan for that. It was not a good reality check.”
To culminate the experience, students enjoyed refreshments provided by the Iowa Lakes Corridor and answered questions with their peers while in home base, hopefully with a greater understanding of fiscal decision-making.