Sumner Hill Reality Fair teaches students personal finance

Ninth-graders got a practical lesson in personal finance this week at the Sumner Hill Junior High School Reality Fair.

“Life is hard,” said Austin Janos, after learning about housing costs. “I had to get a cheap house because I didn’t have much money.”

As part of the Reality Fair, students were assigned mock situations for their adult life. Some were married, others were single. Some had children, some did not. Some had high-paying jobs, and others made less.

Based on the simulated circumstances, students had to balance their checkbooks as they chose options for transportation, housing, insurance, groceries, childcare, and other expenses.

“I learned that if you have a bunch of people in your family, everything costs more,” said Emillie McCombs.

Event organizer Teresa Hand of the Mississippi State University Extension Service said the Reality Fair is the first time that many kids see real life, adult expenses laid out in black and white.

“One student told me he was going to hug his mom and dad because he didn’t realize the sacrifices they made,” she said. “It gives them a different perspective.”

The goal is to teach students financial literacy at a younger age and how to be responsible with their money. Through the event they learn how academic achievement and education levels can impact career choices and salaries.

“It’s a shock when they learn about childcare expenses,” she said. “If they don’t have a high income they still have to pay for the things they need and they see how difficult it can be.”

Students visit a “That’s Life” table where they learn about unexpected expenses they could experience — flat tires, medical emergencies or other things. They also have the option to get a part time job if they can’t afford what they need on their base salary.

“It’s eye-opening,” said Sumner Hill counselor Heather Norton. “They really do come away with a better expectation of what life will be like when they’re adults.”

Sumner Hill students learned personal finance at the ninth-grade school’s annual Reality Fair. Pictured are (from left) Abigail Young, Cutlas Frazier, Olivia Rees and Griffin Berch.

 Sumner Hill students learned personal finance at the ninth-grade school’s annual Reality Fair. Pictured are (from left) Kealy Wilson, Daphne Zheng, Destiny Carpenter and Rinnah Long.

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