Writing A Reality Check

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By Alex Haglund

“Wow, I really feel bad for my parents when they take me out to eat,” one eighth grade student remarked when writing a check for his half-at-home, half-at-restaurants monthly food expense. Some variation of “I’m all out of money, what do I do now?” was uttered by countless students. Thursday, April 14 was The Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s “Reality Day” and as the name implies, the students there were certainly getting a dose of reality.

Reality Day is an annual event when eighth graders from Nashville Middle School, St. Ann School and Trinity–St. John School all converge on the Nashville Community Center, where volunteers from the Chamber and the Community first give them imaginary money, and then, expense-by-expense, take it away from them.

The lessons the children learn are pretty brutal (you had better sell your expensive SUV or pickup truck, because feeding a family of four on ramen noodles isn’t going to fly), but they are far less brutal than learning these lessons a decade or more later, when it’s real money, a real family, and unfortunately, real ramen.

The first station is a bank, where students get paid however much the career they’ve selected is paid on average, and they can put some of this money into savings.

After that, they get to write checks and balance their checkbook at tables for the IRS, Real Estate, Auto Purchase, Food, Child Care, Utilities, Clothing, Insurance, Student Loan, Entertainment/Leisure/Vacation, Wheel of Fortune (could be good news, could make them even broker), and finally, Evaluation.

Working at the evaluation table was Chamber Secretary and WNVS 104.7 news reporter Jim Dalaviras, who recorded some of the more entertaining things that he was told, and was kind enough to share them with The Nashville News.

The students’ comments go from the informative and obvious:

• “Life is expensive”

• “Get a full-time job”

• “You don’t have to buy expensive stuff”

To the more entertaining and hilarious:

• “Don’t have four kids”

• “Get cheap things”

• “Don’t become a cosmetologist”

• “Live with your Mom forever to save money”

Kids, while your mother loves you, I would guess that she is going to take issue with that last one, particularly when you get to the point where your age starts with a three or a four.

Whatever the lesson learned, Reality Day is an entertaining and informative way to teach our youth about money. If they have to sell their imaginary car so that they don’t need to buy imaginary ramen noodles, then that’s just the way it has to be.

RIGHT, NMS student Matthew Anderson writes a check for his monthly food expenses. LEFT, students gather at the Bank table, receiving their monthly pay and making deposits into their savings accounts.