Exercise designed to make students balance real-world finances
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Eighth-grade students from Marshfield and surrounding areas flocked to Marshfield Middle School on Tuesday to participate in an annual event aimed at giving them a look at the challenges adults face on a daily basis.
Named the Reality Store, students are assigned an occupation, compensation, and family circumstances — for example a student may be divorced or married, have multiple children or none — and then must balance their finances and consider the costs of a mortgage, child care, health insurance, car payments, entertainment, and more.
Joseph McKee, an eighth-grade student at Marshfield Middle School, was given the occupation of registered nurse and had two children in the role-playing scenario.
“It’s pretty much a reality of what someone else is dealing with,” McKee said. He noted that the Reality Store was an exercise related to the career quest course he and other eighth-graders take. McKee described career quest as a class where students learn practical skills such as how to fill out a job application and learn about different occupations and finances.
Student Minh-Thy Tyler was assigned a job as an engineer and said that balancing finances was actually not as difficult as she thought.
“It wasn’t as hard as I would expect it to be. I thought it would be more difficult to balance finances, … but I could (afford) more entertainment with my job,” Tyler said.
“We pull all the students together at once and give them a job (and), as best as we can, a dose of reality for an eighth-grader,” said business education teacher at Marshfield Middle School Dan Akin. Six area schools aside from Marshfield Middle School participated in the event, which is in its 12th year of existence.
Several area businesses — including those in banking, insurance, real estate, utilities, child care, entertainment, and others — volunteered their time to staff booths at the Reality Store. Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry is the main organizer of the event.
Kim Kolstad, a middle school counselor who also had a daughter participating in this year’s Reality Store, said the event is a good way to get students thinking outside of their usual perspective.
“As a counselor, a lot of our students in eighth grade don’t think about what they want to do in high school and college, so this is a huge way to get them to start thinking about … career pathways, academic and career planning,” Kolstad said. “I think it’s an eye-opener for our students too because they’re like, ‘Oh gosh, mom and dad, I didn’t know you pay this much for insurance, health insurance, homeowner’s insurance.’”
Kolstad’s daughter, Cassidy, was assigned the occupation of an auto mechanic technician that did not have a husband or children, which meant no child care expenses.
“I was able to get gym memberships and a motorcycle,” Cassidy Kolstad said. “I had just enough money where I had everything paid off, but I didn’t go over the top and buy everything fancy.”
Technology education teacher Shawn Trudeau said in an evolving business world and economy, the Reality Store is as important as ever.
“I think as college becomes more expensive and as careers change, as trades become more of a focus with tech-school degrees with the cost of college in comparison, I think it’s important for students to see what things cost and what a living wage is and what they want to do, how they see their future. I think this is a really powerful tool for them to do that,” Trudeau said.