April 19, 2011: Today the Fairmont Federal Credit Union held the second annual Mad City Money at Lincoln High School with the aid of the City of Shinnston. Mad City Money was an exercise in the realities of life for 15 students at Lincoln High School. Each student gets a “life portfolio” telling their profession, marital status, their salary and the salary of their spouse if they have one, and how many children and their ages. The students have budget sheets, debit cards and register, how much credit card debt they have, and guidelines for the exercise. They are required to visit each merchant with the exception of the Mall which was optional. Each merchant has options from which the students choose their lifestyle in housing, transportation, and other requirements of life. There were required expenditures at each merchant from which the students were required to choose the necessities and wants of life.
They were required to visit the Reality Realty with Shinnston Recreation Coordinator Nathan Drain as the realtor to choose a beginner, modest, or expensive house or apartment, Richard Herndon the ultimate car salesman was where they chose whether they and/or their spouse would ride the bus or buy a car – new or used, Rebecca Reger, Board member of the Development Authority, for their clothing choices, Bice-Ferguson Museum Director Maxine Weser for Home Furnishings, Shinnston Finance Officer Emma Clarke for Baby/Children Needs, Donna Marra for Entertainment “Fun Stuff”, and City Clerk Kathleen Panek at the “Gotta Eat” table where they had to choose a weekly food budget for each week of the month, dine out at least once (fast food or fine dining) and choose a monthly coffee budget for themselves and spouse if applicable. All were also required to have a savings account. During the shopping,
Mayor Sam DeMarco was roaming the area as the Fickle Finger of Fate handing out life lessons – you have a flat tire you cannot fix so you owe $150 for example or windfalls of a bonus check for something. Then there was Mary Jane Wright, President of the Shinnston Development Authority, at the Mall, the only optional merchant, waiting to entice them to over-spend. The object was for these merchants to tempt them into buying more than they could afford, to bankrupt them when it was on paper to avoid it in real life. If anyone had a problem financially, they were required to visit the Credit Union for “counseling”. At the end of the exercise, all had to visit the Credit Union to pay for their “bumps in life” or collect their windfalls and to go over their accounts to see how they fared.
These kids were a surprise to all. Very few of them over-spent. Mrs. Marra was not able to entice any of them, not even the high-salaried stock broker, to take a vacation to London or Hawaii. They were quite sensible in their purchases. After the students had all visited the Credit Union to settle accounts, there was a debriefing of what they learned and how they rated the exercise. The merchants stated opinions of the buying practices of the students – impressed at how conservative the students were in their spending.
My personal sadness is that only 15 students were able to participate as this is something each student should experience before landing in the quagmire of real life with all its joys and sorrows.