“It’s thrown a lot of kids off, actually, on their budget,” Noyes said.
“I thought I was doing pretty good until I hit the student loans,” said senior Joseph Manson, who struggled to get by on a criminal investigator’s salary of $37,960. He netted $2,280, but by lunch, his checking account had a balance of a negative $235. He was in the red $240 in his savings account. He had yet to use his credit card.
“He’s in debt pretty good,” Gadzera said.
A budget buster for Manson were student loans of $341 a month. During the role-playing session, Manson had attended the University of Massachusetts Lowell, but paid full tuition with no scholarships.
“I made sure to go to the things that were essential to live,” Manson said. “Like transportation, food, clothing. But then I also went to the investments to try and make some money, and at first I invested in Apple. The stocks went down, but then, an hour later, I went back, and they went up.” Investments netted Manson an additional $60.
Noyes said he has seen fewer students using credit cards than at past fairs. Many are also staying with low-end transportation.
Students also had to buy health insurance, as it’s mandatory in Massachusetts.
“When you work with the kids, depending on what kind of salary they make, they begin to quickly understand whether they can afford to buy dental (insurance),” said Jane Rizzo, who works in the appraisal department for People’s United and manned the insurance booth at the fair.
Richard Bettencourt, a Danvers mortgage broker who volunteered in the housing booth, said students did what they could to cut costs, with many sharing expenses and rent in a two-bedroom apartment.
“We don’t do enough society-wise for our students, the seniors in high school, to prepare them for the economic challenges they are going to face when they graduate,” Bettencourt said.