“[My career] is working on an oil rig ... and after I put all my savings in the bank, which that’s 14 percent, I have $2,830 a month to work with,” Cobie Clark said as he made his way around the expense tables, that include areas like food, housing, student loans, insurance and unexpected expenses.
Clark already has some experience with savings, saying he currently is working on his family’s farm and saving money for a truck. However, he said learning how many expenses must come out of a monthly paycheck was a bit surprising.
“It makes you think, you have to manage your money, you have to manage it right and avoid spending it on stupid stuff,” Clark said. Brenda Cooper, who works in business development at Century Bank in Cartersville and is on the Work Based Advisory Board for Bartow, said she had previously worked with the program in Gordon County and was so impressed by the response she pushed for the program to be taught in Bartow.
“We have animal trainers, web designers, sports people — we try to limit the higher income [careers] and make it a little more reality,” Cooper said. “We’ve also had electricians, technical [careers] — we have everything.”
The careers begin paying a yearly salary of about $20,000.
According to information provided by the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce, “The Georgia Appalachian Center for Higher Education’s Reality Store is an extension of the ‘Choices’ program which began in Indiana when a young single mother came to the Girls Club in tears because she could not afford to pay her rent and feed her two children properly.”
Students had to draw at random whether they would be single, married or divorced and their number of children.
“When they get around to the child care table, they have to decide are the children in day care all day, is there after school care, how about some diapers and formula ... they have to cover all of those fees to figure out [the total cost],” The Resource Center Director Kim Kappel said. “I would say a lot of kids are getting the ‘wow’ moment and saying, ‘kids are expensive,’ and I tell each one of them, ‘stay in school then have your children.’”
Sometimes in life, income cannot cover necessary, or unnecessary, expenses. The Reality Store has a solution for this predicament when students run out of money.
“We even have an ‘out of money’ table where if they run out of money they have to get a second job,” Cooper said.
Some students had to acquire up to five additional jobs in order to make ends meet
“I am a special education teacher, I pay child support, and I just did not get by,” Makenna Graham, who has to moonlight as a security guard, said. “[Managing expenses] is harder than I thought.”
While the event gives students an idea of what kind of lifestyle they can afford based on income, it also introduces students to giving back to their community.
“When students come through we ask them if they feel they are in a position financially to give to a charity organization of their choice or a religious organization or their church,” Mary Kay Independent Sales Director Adena Harper said of the non-profit and religious donation table. “A lot of them are looking at it and they’re looking at their budget and if they have 10 percent, which is a normal tithe, that they could give ... and I tell you, all the students want to give but they’re looking at their bottom line and they may not have the money they want to give, but they’re wanting [to give].”
The event also will be featured at other high schools in the community.