SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

March 20, 2013

The Game of Life gets real

Danvers High students learn financial literacy at Reality Check Fair

DANVERS — Seniors learned the hard lesson that their student loans are going to cost them big time someday during a Reality Check Fair held Monday in the Berry Building of North Shore Community College.

“Student loans are huge right now,” said Kathryn Gadzera, a Danvers High business technology teacher who helps with the financial literacy fair, which is organized by People’s United Bank. “So that is what is tripping up a lot of them, now, because the student loans are so much.”

With the help of Danvers High staff and more than 70 volunteers, more than 200 students took part in a life-size version of The Game of Life. The kids pretended they were 25 years old and venturing out on their own for the first time.

Now in its seventh year, Reality Check is a required program that takes some preparation beforehand. About 200 People’s United employee hours go into planning it. In December, students picked an occupation during a one-hour introduction. Students also attended a two-hour presentation last week on credit scores and how to obtain a credit report.

For their chosen occupation, they were given a real-world salary with taxes and Social Security deducted. They were also given a randomly assigned, made-up credit score. They visited various booths to buy furniture, find housing, pick up groceries, enroll in a health insurance plan and decide whether they can afford cable TV, among other things. Their goal was to break even.

“Some students are really blown away when they realize all the things they have to balance,” Gadzera said.

Many students wrestled with student loan debt, Gadzera said. In the simulation, students rolled dice to see how much they would have to pay and whether they would win any scholarships.

“The student loan is the high-dollar figure for the students this year,” said Kevin Noyes, the community development and community reinvestment act officer for Massachusetts with People’s United Bank, and Reality Check’s coordinator.

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