Each year PolicyStat gives its employees an opportunity to take a “Volunteer Day” at an organization of his or her choice. I chose to volunteer at my daughter’s field trip to Junior Achievement’s Finance Park in Indianapolis, which allowed me to not only spend time with my daughter in her environment but also to see what junior high students would think of the “real world.”
Before coming to Finance Park, students spent several weeks in the classroom learning about financial concepts in preparation for the day. We parents, however, only had an hour-long “crash course” in the morning – I guess our years of “real-world” training paid off!
Once the students descended upon the facility, they were given a “life scenario” complete with family status, education, career information, income and taxes. From this they developed a detailed budget for all of their financial needs such as housing, food, clothing, insurance and transportation. After spending a solid hour preparing his budget, one boy at my table remarked, “I’m SO glad I have another five years before my mom kicks me out!” That statement told me he was getting it.After completing their budgets, students visited “businesses” to pick up their information sheets that told them the various options they could choose from in each category. For instance, the Webmaster at my table was able to choose from four different luxury vehicles. After making all their choices in the various categories, the students were required to balance their budgets, pay their bills and have $100 left over at the end of the month. If it meant only buying a silk tie and sneakers one month in the clothing category, then so be it! Some great lessons about philanthropy, investments and building up a savings account were also part of the day. JA made the experience fun, but the tough choices that have to be made to balance a budget left the students with an appreciation for those of us who live it each day!