College graduates tend to have very high expectations of how much money they’ll make, and very low expectations for how much things cost in the real world. This is a problem Carrie Allen from Heritage Family Credit Union has noticed over and over.
“I work with a lot students and everyone’s expectations are totally out of whack,” said Allen, who worked with TRIO and Career Services to plan The Game of Life event at Castleton on March 24.
The 1787 room was overflowing with Castleton students wandering from table to table. Some were looking hopeful and excited, others showed signs of defeat and concern.
As students arrived in the entrance, they were given a choice of nine careers including social worker, elementary teacher and accountant. They were then given a realistic starting salary and a random credit score.
“We tried to make this as realistic as possible,” Allen said. “We researched real starting salaries for graduates and factored in loan payments.”
Students then traveled from booth to booth – with people at each one informing them of different expenses like electric bills, clothing and transportation costs.
Before sitting down with a financial advisor to total up their income and subtract their expenses, students got a chance at the “Wheel of Reality.” As they eagerly spun the large wheel in the middle of the room, they patiently awaited their destiny.
The reality wheel had outcomes from a $500 inheritance to a $200 car repair. When it was all over, if their budget didn’t balance, students are told to start the whole process over.
“It’s great practice. This exercise gives students a dry run,” said Kelly Beckwith from Castleton’s Academic Support Center. “Most graduates have never done anything like this.”
Castleton students Bryce Kaler and Isaac Devoid were hired to help bring exposure to the event.
“I recently interviewed alumni for a story I was writing and found that almost all of them had real issues with budgeting after college,” said Kaler. “I think an event like this is a step in the right direction.”
“It’s important for people to have an idea about what they’re getting into,” he said. “Most people graduate college and are blindsided by their bills and real-life expenses.”
And it seems needed because financial planning clearly is not something on the mind of most college students.
“I didn’t even know what a credit score was!” said sophomore Jessica Binkowski.
Heritage Family Credit Union is committed to financial learning. Events like this are their attempts to prepare students to think about the choices they will be faced with according to Allen.
“It’s good to learn how difficult it is to balance expenses,” said Castleton junior and volunteer Jay Morgan.
The reality of this life exercise surprised a lot of people. “It’s scary to see how fast costs add up!” said sophomore Nicole Wershoven. “This was super helpful.”
Freshmen Kelly Meyer was also surprised.
“I’m gonna be so poor after college,” she said shaking her head. “This gave me a good heads up for what’s coming in the future.”
The event had over 50 volunteers, and more than 80 students came to play the game.
“It was a great turnout!” said Renee Beaupre White, Director of Career Services, excitedly. “I wish they had something like this when I was in college.”