Teaching young people about financial management
Every year, thousands of students graduate from high school thinking they're ready to go out on their own. In reality, however, most are not prepared for the real world, especially when it comes to money.
“It’s a struggle to help children understand that money doesn’t grow on trees,” notes Travis Wolfinger, a senior litigation attorney at Marathon Petroleum Corporation's (MPC's) corporate headquarters in Findlay, Ohio. “They don’t realize how tough it is to earn a living and that what may sound like a good wage sometimes isn’t, once you deduct living expenses.”
Wolfinger and other members of MPC's Law Core Values Group have been helping better prepare some students in the Findlay, Ohio-area for life on their own through participation in Real Money, Real World (RMRW), a financial literacy program for youth developed by The Ohio State University Extension Office.
The purpose of the program is to introduce middle school students to lifestyle and budget decisions faced by most young adults. Volunteers go to area schools and staff various stations visited by students who’ve been randomly assigned a job and income level. They then help students make cost-of-living decisions based on their budgets.
Wolfinger coordinated the transportation station at Donnell Middle School in Findlay. He talked with students about the costs of transportation – from the price of different vehicles to gasoline and insurance.
“It was pretty obvious that most of the kids had never thought about the costs of owning a vehicle beyond purchase price and gasoline,” notes Wolfinger. “They had never considered routine maintenance expenses or insurance.”
RMRW helps the students appreciate the complexity and creativity that go into preparing a budget, while providing a dose of reality about how much life really costs.
Tara Griffith, a senior litigation/Human Resources attorney and Core Values Group member, took part in the RMRW program at Findlay’s Glenwood Middle School. She led a lesson on household communications, covering phone, television and internet costs.
“It was interesting to see the varying views of the students on whether these items are necessities or luxuries,” notes Griffith. “Ultimately, most students seemed to understand that something in this area would need to ‘give’ if they wanted to afford necessities, such as housing, transportation and insurance,” she adds. “In some cases, we explored their ability to access no-cost alternatives, such as using publicly available Wi-Fi on campus or at libraries and restaurants.
“I was most surprised by a couple of students who were ready and willing to forego any type of telephone – which I strongly recommended against,” Griffith adds. “RMRW helps the students appreciate the complexity and creativity that go into preparing a budget, while providing a dose of reality about how much life really costs.”
“I wish every child could go through the program,” adds Wolfinger. “It not only covers real-world costs of living, but also demonstrates the correlation between higher education and a job that pays more money.”