UT Extension Office to hold ‘Financial Simulation’

Adult life can be as brutal as it is rewarding. For students rapidly approaching adulthood, the experience can be jarring and terrifying, especially with no prior training on how to manage both stress and money during all of it.

The University of Tennessee Extension Office will host a “Financial Simulation” workshop for middle-school students Tuesday, March 12, at the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Center.

4-H Extension Agent Emily Barton said the program’s primary goal is to help educate students on the financial realities of adult life before those realities truly affect them.

“Jilian Reece, several business partners and Parks and Rec all join with us to put this on every year,” Barton said.

The program, “On My Own Financial Simulation,” is either a six-week or a one-day program in which students get to pick a career based on their interests, draw for a family status, and use their actual predicted income to determine how to buy a house, food and other necessities.

In total, Barton said there are roughly 10 different booths they set up, and participants have to attend all of them at least once. Community partners from actual businesses and organizations run each booth. For example, there is a bank station, which actual bank people run, in order to set up mortgages for their home or savings. There is also a childcare station for families with children, a grocery store and even an insurance station. Participants have to figure out how to get what they need with the money they have.

There is even a “curveball” table during which an unexpected event occurs that requires changing their financial plan on the fly. Sometimes this curveball is a positive. Other times, it is not.

Barton said while the program is meant to be a teaching exercise, the organizers at each table treat it like their actual jobs.

“I tell [the volunteers], ‘Treat them like you would actual adult customers,’” Barton said.

She said the result is eye-opening for many of the participants.

“You get a lot of ‘How can I get out of this?’” she said. “Child care is especially eye-opening.”

If the student gets too overwhelmed, however, the volunteers are prepared to lend a hand in figuring out what to do, and several of the booths are in place specifically for finding solutions to financial difficulties, including a pawn shop to sell items for money and even their own version of Amazon or Craig’s List to obtain cheaper child care or necessities.

“They can begin to ask good questions,” Barton said. “They can learn about adult stresses before having to realize them.”

Registration for the all-in-one session is still open. The event will take roughly two hours: one to set up the participant’s career and family situation and another to go through the simulation. The program will begin at 12:30 p.m.

“We want to help them feel they really learned something,” Barton said. “You can start planning now so you can avoid some of these setbacks.”

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