Dollars and Sense Reality Fair

Dollars & Sense Reality Fair exposes high school seniors to the costs of living

United Way’s Dollars & Sense Reality Fair exposes  high school seniors to the costs associated with living on their own; or as Bassett High School senior Will Stone said, “It’s an eye-opening experience.”

“This eye-opening experience is a reality check for most of the students in attendance,” said United Way’s director of community initiatives, Joanie Petty. “They see very quickly expenses add up.”

This year’s fair was held Nov. 3 at the New College Institute on Fayette Street in Martinsville with 274 seniors from Magna Vista and Bassett high school assigned monthly incomes based on their preferred jobs. After taxes, students use their take home monthly pay to visit booths to make purchasing decisions, such as housing, utilities, clothing, transportation, health and other expenses. They also have an option to seek advice at the credit counseling booth.

On Nov. 4, Martinsville High School, Carlisle School and home school seniors will attend.

“Our primary goals are for these students to be self-reliant once they are on their own and to avoid credit card debt,” Petty said.

According to the U. S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 41 percent of graduating senior had credit card debt, with the average balance just over $3,000.

“It would take roughly 12 years for a student to pay off a $1,000 credit card debt with an 18 percent interest rate if they are making only minimum payments,” Petty said.

Magna Vista High School teacher Robert Herbst said this was his first year attending the fair. “It is a wonderful event and great exposure for the students,” he said.

“They are taking this budgeting process very seriously. It is fun to watch them crunch the numbers,” he added.

Bassett High School senior Spencer Koger thought this activity was a good educational opportunity. “This experience is like a push out of the nest. I get to make decisions about what I need versus what I want,” he said.

The Dollars & Sense Reality Fair is held twice a year in the fall and spring for area seniors. This year’s event was funded by the Lacy Foundation and SunTrust and made possible by the nearly 60 volunteers who worked booths.