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Connecting The Ohio State University to Ohioans Ohio State University Extension Pike County Extension Office [https://pike.osu.edu]

Eastern High School Students Experience "Real Money. Real World"

Real Money. Real World.: Seniors at Eastern High School Link Education with Future Lifestyle Choices


With the help of many community volunteers who staffed 12 business booths, twelfth graders from Eastern High School participated in a Real Money. Real World. simulation. Students were assigned a career, a monthly salary and a specific number of children. Each student visited the various booths making spending choices based on their family situation hoping they would have enough money to make ends meet at the end of the month.

The program includes four classroom lessons to prepare students to assume the role of a 27-year-old adult who is the primary income provider for a family. They received an occupation, monthly salary, and the number of children they are raising. Students learned to subtract savings, taxes, and health insurance premiums from their monthly income. The amount of money left over is what they spent during the simulation activity. Students spent their money at booths staffed by community volunteers on items typically found in a monthly budget including housing, utilities, groceries, insurance, child care, and transportation. Throughout the activity, students kept track of their finances and attempted to complete the simulation with a positive balance.

The program is a product of The Ohio State University and was organized for the community by Extension Educator Tammy Jones.  

One of the biggest surprises to participants was the cost of child care. One youth, who came into the simulation with only an $1,800 monthly salary and two children, was discouraged to discover at the child care booth that day care for his two children would be over $880. Volunteers at the Financial Assistance booth assisted him in getting a second part-time job after he discovered that “giving his children back” was not an option.

“I had three kids, so I had to give up my sports car to have enough money,” noted a student of his experience in the simulation. Another student with her three children, also was able to make ends meet, but noted that she had a good-paying job.   

The simulation would not have been possible without the assistance of many community members.  A special thanks to Brad Bapst (Eastern Board Member), Tommy Brewster (Brewster Real Estate and Auction), Andy Eisnaugle (Atomic Credit Union), Dan Evory (Grace UMC), Julie Evans (OSU Extension Pike County), Megan Farmer (Central Ohio Financial Services), Jeff Fisher (OSU Extension Pike County), Cheryl Overly (Village of Beaver), and JP Schmitt (State Farm).

During the post-simulation lesson, students reflected on their experience and what they learned by completing a self-assessment. The students thoroughly enjoyed their experience but were shocked at how hard it was to meet a monthly budget. Many had newfound respect for their parents and what they deal with on a daily basis. At the end of the experience, student comments included, “Kids are expensive,” “Life is a whole lot harder than I thought,” and “I need to get the important stuff out of the way first.”

As reported in a Real Money. Real World. follow-up study, students reported significant changes in their financial behavior after the program. Over 80% of participants reported changes in the extent to which they now repay money owed on time, set aside money for the future, and compare prices. Over three-fourths of students indicated they now think more carefully about spending money.

If you would like more information about the Real Money. Real World. program, please contact Tammy Jones at the Pike County Extension office.