The annual Credit for Life fair is an opportunity for seniors at Nantucket High School to learn more about the financial decisions they will have to make later in life. The event is organized by personal finance and math teacher John Barone and is funded by Cape Cod Five Bank. The fair had its first year in 2011, although it had previously been implemented in schools such as Barnstable High School, Martha’s Vineyard High School and Dennis-Yarmouth High School. The event begins with each student filling out a Google form about what job or field they are interested in. The options range from doctor to writer to architect, and all vary in yearly salary to make it more realistic. When students arrived at the fair they each collected a folder with a budget sheet in it that, at the end of the fair, would tell them if they had made it through the month or if they had fallen below. The students then progress through various booths set up in the auditorium where they are instructed to buy insurance, a nutrition plan, cell phone plans, and clothing, among other items. Students can also choose to purchase a car (used or new), go on vacation, or spend excess money on “luxury items.” The fair strives to educate teens who are about to embark on their adult life about the costs of living. They begin the fair at 25 years-old and with a month of expenses and a month of salary, to ensure that they have some beginning money they also are given a savings account and a credit card. For many students whose parents have covered for them thus far, they truly began to learn the importance of spending money wisely.
“The most interesting booth was definitely the saving and retirement one,” said senior Maggie Visco. “If you put away a little every month or year you end up with so much towards the end of your life it’s crazy.”
Senior Mae Blackwell agreed saying, “I was really tempted to buy a nice vacation or a bigger phone plan but then I realized I should start saving instead.”
Many students were also surprised by the high price of housing and insurance.
“I had to get three roommates in order to pay for my apartment,” joked senior Benj Raith. “I thought I would be living on my own right out of college but financially I realized that probably wasn’t realistic. Especially on Nantucket, it gave me some respect for the people who own houses here.”
At the end of the fair after students had purchased all of their insurance, housing and groceries etc., they met with a “credit counselor” who added up all of their payments to see how much they had left over to save or to use as leisure. Many students found they had done well, while others realized they could have spent less on luxuries.
“My occupation was a photographer, so I did not make any money,” joked Visco. “I ended up with about $240 left over while everyone else it seemed ended up with $1000 or more.”
All in all, many seniors agreed the Credit for Life fair was a helpful if not eye-opening exercise to show them what the real world would be like next year. Especially with a shrinking job market, the fair worked to instill a strong knowledge of the importance of saving.