A day in the life of an adult
Emalee Detienne visits the Flanders Realty station in search of housing at the Mad Money budget simulation March 7.
PIE’s Mad Money gives students real world challenges
By Eileen Persike, Editor
RHINELANDER – What has become a tradition at Rhinelander High School continues to leave students with wide-eyed appreciation for the details of life as an adult.
Rhinelander Partners in Education hosted Mad Money March 7 for all sophomores at RHS, and new this year, students from Northland Pines and Three Lakes school districts participated in the day-long series of events.
To begin the day, students pick or are assigned a job and may – or may not, be given a spouse and children. From there they move through a financial simulation to experience the expenses of real life.
“When the students begin their day they are all confused and don’t know where to start with their budget or how to begin,” said Partners in Education president and Nicolet National Bank branch manager Amy Vanney. “By the end of the day, they all have a balanced budget and a little understanding of how their parents work to balance a budget and provide for their family.”
RHS sophomore Wendy Fronk, who was an architect for the simulation, making $75,000 annually, had a spouse and three-year-old child, said the day was a nice change from the routine of school and introduced her to real-world skills.
“I learned the importance of needing to be responsible with money and be able to keep track of monthly expenses,” Fronk said. “I will probably [use] more caution when deciding to use my money and valuing my ‘extra’ money more.”
Students work out a budget and then visit stations throughout the gym, making decisions on purchasing a home or renting, buying a car and insurance, learning about the cost of food and transportation, paying for utilities, entertainment and personal care and leaving enough money at the end to invest and donate to charity. They also learn how to write a check at five of the stations.
Fronk said it was a valuable exercise, but noted “parts of the simulation required us to purchase certain items, like outdoor recreation equipment and eating out included in our grocery bill, that not everyone, especially those with a tight budget, would probably prioritize.”
In addition to the PIE volunteers, community members also volunteer their time and expertise to help the students through the process, complete with law enforcement officers issuing citations or good news to the students.
“I was surprised by how quickly my money was depleted after paying for the necessities during the budgeting simulation,” said sophomore Kate Ripple. For the day, Ripple was a biomedical engineer, making $75,000 a year and had a three-year-old child.
PIE provided lunch, followed by three afternoon sessions. Students listened to motivational speaker Greg Giles with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Foundation, conducted a simulation regarding personal branding, and finally, participated in mock interviews with local business professionals.
“I learned about the many different factors that are important to consider when making a budget and about what I may need to share in a job interview,” Ripple said. “I think that the most valuable aspects of this experience to take away are the budgeting skills and knowledge about what employers look for during job interviews.”
Vanney said it’s a “huge undertaking to coordinate” the event, but PIE has been doing it for a number of years so, she added, it runs pretty smoothly now.
At the end of the day, many students gave Mad Money a positive review.
“If a student asked me whether they should participate in Mad Money, I would recommend participating,” said Ripple. “I would advise them to use the experience to become more aware of the reality of paying for all of their expenses with limited funds and to prioritize the necessities when making a budget.”
Mad Money is one of several events PIE coordinates during the school year designed to bring the business and school communities together for the benefit of both.