Newburyport Daily News
---- — NEWBURY — Remember the financial crisis of several years ago when millions of Americans were so deeply in debt that it had a ripple effect heard round the world? One regional bank is hoping that never happens again by educating students early on how to better manage their money and stay out of debt. And in a fun way.
For three hours Tuesday morning, more than 550 students from Newburyport, Ipswich, Pentucket and Triton Regional high schools stepped out of their roles as 11th-graders and became 25-year-old professionals with paychecks at the 3rd Annual Institution for Savings Credit for Life Fair at Triton Regional High School. The event was sponsored and fully underwritten by the Institution for Savings.
The Credit for Life Fair is a nationally recognized half-day program designed to help high school students develop personal financial management skills that they will use throughout their lives. The Institution for Savings event is one of less than two dozen similar events in Massachusetts this year.
Participating students chose a profession several months ago and were assigned a corresponding salary. At the fair, armed with portfolios, pencils, calculators and personalized budget plans they were challenged to make life “purchases” at 14 booths while staying within the confines of their monthly salary.
During the course of the fair the students also faced a variety of scenarios: their “car” breaks down and needs extensive repairs; their “pet” needs to go to the vet, etc. They needed to incorporate these unexpected costs into their budgets.
During and at the conclusion of the fair they visited the Credit Counseling Booth staffed with real financial managers, where they were able to check their “credit” and determine whether they were indeed living within their “budget.”
More than 120 business and community members were also on hand as volunteers and assisted at the 14 ‘Reality Booths,” which included Housing, Transportation, Furniture, Insurance, Utilities, Clothing, Savings and Retirement, Safety and Security, Community Service, Reality Check, Luxury, Health and Nutrition, Education and Training and Credit Counseling.
This year’s volunteer pool included local doctors, attorneys, company CEOs, CPAs, Chamber executives, retired educators, financial planners and lenders, as well as a number of volunteers from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
Former high school principals John Elwell and Mary Larnard manned the Education and Training Booth, while Dr. Daryl Colden and physical therapist Rick Silverman were just two of the volunteers at the Nutrition booth.
Financial planners Tyler Dolan and John Leary guided students on saving and investing for the future wealth, while in the booth next door, Topsfield police Sgt. Rick Lebel, Ipswich school resource officer Shawn Smith and Newburyport High School resource officer Greg Whitney cautioned students on subjects such as identity theft, texting while driving and other safety issues. Nearly 50 of the bank’s own employees and board of trustee members were also volunteers.
“Recent statistics indicating that students are leaving high school with severely limited financial knowledge and skills are very troubling,” said Michael J. Jones, Institution for Savings president and CEO, in a press release.
“This event has been overwhelming successful here and in other regions at helping high school students navigate the myriad of financial decisions they will need to make as they go off into the world of work or college. It fits in nicely with the bank’s comprehensive financial literacy initiative we launched last year to educate different segments of our community about financial skills, and we were happy to be able to bring it to our communities.”
One student wrote on his post-event evaluation: “It was a really good day! I learned a lot and it made me realize how much my parents go through.”
Elwell said of the event: “Just wanted to take a moment to commend you and your staff for the well-organized and effective Credit for Life Fair. I was amazed at how so many students were actively and maturely engaged in the activities. Having been involved in planning events such as this so much in the past, I can fully appreciate the planning, effort, and anxiety that can takes place while pulling something like this off.
“The IFS can be proud of its contribution Tuesday and many times in the past to our youth’s education,” he added.
While financial literacy is not a mandated course in Massachusetts schools, that could change. In 2011 Senate Bill 204, “An Act Relative to Financial Literacy in Schools,” was proposed and would require that personal financial literacy be taught at all schools in the commonwealth. The initiative has not yet been acted on.
The Credit for Life Fair is the first in several financial literacy events the Institution for Savings will hold this month, deemed National Financial Literacy Month. Bank representatives will also be making their annual trek to area elementary schools to conduct “Teach Children to Save” assemblies to third-grade classes.