Welcome to the “Real World”

post written by Natalie JordanI was a journalist with a husband who made $15,000 less than I do and two children – a 3-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl.
The net income for a month: $2,479.
While this isn’t my reality, it was for about an hour at Warren East Middle School as I was “Welcomed to the Real World” with the rest of the eighth-grade class. Eighth-graders got a good look through a hands-on activity at what it’s like to be an adult and budget money to meet their needs on a set monthly income.
The reality store, done by 4-H, was an eye-opener for them and myself. And it has left me with the impression that – although I am an adult – being an adult bites.
I had the option to buy a house or rent one. To rent a house meant no property tax or insurance payments, which some of the students picked. Most would look at that as a good choice, but in terms of long-term choices, buying a home would be better.
I bought a house.
But with that decision came property taxes and insurance – $65 a month.
It was a little shocking to see the insurance on my vehicle, a 1994 used Chevy Lumina, was higher than for my home – $14 more, but the two together would take $86 out of the monthly money pot.
And that wasn’t it.
Medical and dental – $52 a month – and that was only routine exams, furniture, generic groceries because we couldn’t afford name brand foods, childcare, etc.
As I went from booth to booth, I watched those behind the tables calculate and deduct – deduction after deduction after deduction. And each time, I shook my head as I walked away. Childcare took $500 alone – which made me want to give them back – and groceries were next in line, raping the money pot of $393.
It was painfully obvious , I needed a wealthier husband.
The point of the reality store was twofold for the students at WEMS. It was a money lesson and an education. Something to help them think about the choices they make as they make the transition to high school.
But my lesson was different, as I’ve already transcended the transition phase of middle to high school, high school to college and college into the working world. I learned through taking the trip through what I already do – paying bills as an adult and so on – that the responsibilities of being an adult are an ongoing cycle, and it just accumulates when more people are added.
I imagined having the salary I did and not being married, and I have to say that alone was a scary thought. While I made it through without having to get a second job, that could have been my reality if I was not married.
As I watched the eighth-graders, wondering how they were coming out with more than I did, I noticed that some went in a certain order to the booths, an order different that mine.
The thought process went as such: housing, transportation, taxes, utilities, childcare, dental and medical, furniture, groceries and then everything else that was minor. I went in an order from what I thought was most important to least important, keeping the notion of “long-term” in mind. To put it shortly, I went through the stations thinking somewhat as an adult.
Going through the reality store– while just an activity for the students as they made comments like “Oh My Gosh” or “I got this left” or “Childcare is too much” – is real for many people. And while there were some inconsistencies, like a table for miscellaneous needs and gas, it gave a very good view into what its like when you pay for everything.
I started out with $2,479. With necessities taken care of and a tripto the bank to withdraw from savings, I walked away with $74.50 left over … and a Payday candybar.
Welcome to the reality of the “Real World.”

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