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PERSONAL FUN-NANCES



In my last post, Making Finance Personal -2 I covered the details of having students complete monthly personal finances. In this post, I am going to share some practices I had while teaching trying to add fun and memorable features to the personal finance journey in my class. So doing personal finance can be a simple process, but like going to Baskin-Robin’s 31 flavors of ice cream and ordering a scoop of vanilla just doesn’t seem right. Just doing plain old personal finance is like eating just vanilla when there are so many flavors to add to the mix


LIFE HAPPENS

The first optional thing that you might use is life variables that happen to the students each month. This occurred in my class by way of Life Happens cards. As we all know, “Life Happens” in all of our lives. These things occur periodically and when they do we need to address them. They can be a medical situation, car repair, speeding ticket, birthday gifts, or getting a new pet, etc. To simulate the unknown for my students, I would require them to draw a Life Happens card each week. Sometimes nothing happens, sometimes it is a financial positive, and other times a financial negative. Some are even related to medical, vision, and dental coverage the student chose or did not choose. (the medical-related ones can be removed at the teacher's discretion). We would do four each month.  The banker/accounting department representative would bring around the cards and have each employee pick one. Once drawn, the student would record the card information under the LIFE HAPPENS section on the MONTHLY EXPENSES tab on their PERSONAL EXPENSES sheet, and any extra cost will be added to the required spending requirement for the month and counted toward meeting that required minimum spending. The cards can be downloaded and will need to be cut into cards from this link Life Happens Cards



THE FAMILY UNIT

One of the first things I wanted was to simulate a real experience and that is not always living alone. The first element I offered my students was the ability to add variables to the dependents in the household. The easiest was adding pets. In my budget and personal finance sheets, students have the option of adding various types of pets and even multiples of pets. With each pet, the system adds extra costs for things like food, water, and household items. I even encourage my students to find pictures of their pets and name them. This occurs on both the Budget Planner and the Personal Expenses sheets. This adds a little more change to students to make ends meet and allows them to see what living with pets can do to their monthly expenses.  For those who want a real challenge, they could add children to the mix. With many of my students coming from single-parent households, (and some with their own children in my classes) this could allow them to see the financial struggle their parent faces with limited income. When students see the cost of childcare, this might be the biggest factor to enter their minds when comes to thinking about the future of having children. I remember the many times I heard students say, “I am not having kids they are way too expensive”  Though most students never go beyond a pet or two, the personal finance experience can have several options.



VIRTUALLY TYING THE KNOT

Yep, call me crazy, but I allowed students to be virtually married in my class. The idea of doing personal finances as a couple attracts a wide array of students. I have several requirements for students. First, the marriage needs to be legal in the state. I do have same-sex marriages, as quite often the girls just want to marry their best friend for the fun of it. Second, ask someone to marry them and they need to complete a marriage application and pay an application fee with their virtual bank accounts. Third, they are required to have a public marriage in class in front of their peers and pay for the wedding (costs vary depending on the package they choose. Lastly, they need to plan a Honeymoon and pay for it with their virtual money. The wedding usually happens the week before winter break as things are winding down that last week. My kids and I loved the weddings and this will be a day that all the students attending the wedding (and you) will never forget! Now let's look at each step in detail.


SELECTING A PARTNER

This process varies from class to class. If kids are “a couple” that usually is a recipe for them wanting to have the simulated marriage. In my class when the students need to find a place to live I do not let the support staff live with a department lead (as the low-income earners want to find that cash cow to pay for a larger share of the costs) To counter that, the two that want to live together can get married and that allows them to live together. For all the others, typically someone asks someone, “Hey do you want to get married?” if they agree then they complete the marriage application and both sign it. This needs to be submitted to me a week before the wedding. The application will be used to create the marriage certificates. I print two copies per page and have them ready to present to the kids following the ceremony.


BEFORE THE WEDDING - OPTIONS

The wedding expectations for couples vary, but for the simulation, I have designed 3 options for the couples to choose from. Due to the various limitations on income, all the packages are modest in price and were developed 10 or more years ago, so the prices are probably outdated.  Next, I have them download the MARRIAGE SHEET and have the couple plan their wedding. The first thing they need to add is their net income. These will determine the cost of the engagement ring the groom must pay for. The ring cost will be one month’s income and payments will be divided over one year.  I encourage the groom to look for jewelry firms in the directory to purchase the ring. Next, the couple will decide on the wedding package they want for their wedding. There is a Bronze Package ($5000), Silver Package ($15,000), and Gold Package ($25,000). The groom and bride will make equal monthly payments stated in the package to pay off the wedding in one year. Based on the wedding choice, the minimum cost of the honeymoon package is established. They need to plan a honeymoon somewhere for a minimum of 3 days. I encourage them to look for travel firms in the directory to purchase their honeymoon through.


PRE-WEDDING PREPARATIONS

There are several things that I would do before the wedding day. As the teacher and Justice of the Peace. I created Marriage Certificates. Each couple would receive two, so they could have them to pin on the wall of their bedroom or displayed on the cover of their notebook binder. The second thing I would get is a bunch of Ring Pops (you can see them displayed in the picture above), They would each get one and pick the flavor they think their spouse would like and are used in the ring ceremony during the wedding. Next, I would buy a cake with the words “Congratulations on Your Special Day” I usually went to Costco to get these, but I would never spend much more than $20 on a cake. With that, you need napkins, forks, plates, and a knife to cut the cake. The last thing I would prepare is the wedding coordinator and wedding photographer. I usually have several volunteers and often have coordinators and wedding assistants. I made the digital media department the photographer. In addition,  would have 3 pieces of music queued up and ready to play at the event. Pacabel’s Canon in D, Here Comes the Bride and the Wedding March. I have actually had a colleague from another school coordinate a group of music students to come in and play violin live during the ceremony. As far as the dress for the wedding I encouraged the students to have fun and dress up, many of my female students had quinceanera dresses that were sitting in the closet, so I encouraged them to break them out for the event. 


THE BIG DAY

The wedding coordinator and wedding assistants were key helpers on the day of the event. They helped the brides get ready in the restrooms before the event. They played the music when directed, they helped cut and hand out cake to the attendees. I would wear my graduation gown with a white turtle neck to look like clergy. I would meet with the grooms and brides separately and have them pick the Ring Pop they will be giving to their partner.  At the start of the wedding, I would have Pacabel’s Canon in D, playing to create the mood, I would walk in with all the grooms (I had as many as 7 marriages at a time). I would welcome the attendees and talk about behavior during the ceremony. Then I would have the music person cue, Here Comes the Bride and I would ask everyone to stand. The coordinator would release each bride one at a time until they were standing next to their partner. Once all the brides had entered the music was stopped and I would begin the ceremony. I had the Wedding Script ready in hand and would read it. After the ceremony, I would have the music assistant play the Wedding March.  I would meet with everyone, take pictures of the couples, the group and pretend they were cutting the cake, and then hand them their certificates. Following pictures, the Wedding Coordinator and team would cut the cake and pass out the pieces to everyone. They would also be responsible for cleaning up after the event.



SAY IT AINT SO! -  DIVORCE

I encourage all the students to ride out the marriage simulation until the end of the school year. I never had one choose divorce, but have built in what would happen if the students wanted to divorce. You can find the ramifications of this at the bottom of the MARRIAGE SHEET. Most kids, even though it might not be ideal, for example, if they were a couple and broke up, continue to do the personal finance together instead of dealing with the divorce consequences.


EVICTION NOTICES

Every year I have students who just don’t complete their personal finances, Sometimes in the spring I will have a small group of kids who have not made any rent payments and have not paid bills (usually for 3 months).  One year I had a large group in this situation and it irritated me, so I decided to provide them with a learning opportunity of what happens when you don’t pay rent. On a Monday when they entered class, I handed them an “Eviction Notice” and would not let them enter class. I told them a lock was placed on their virtual door so they could not get in their apartment and they had 48 hours to complete their personal finance requirements and pay their past due rent or they would need to find another place to live. I would not let them enter the office and they had to work in the hallway outside my door to get everything paid by the end of the next day. The responsible kids got a good laugh about the “freeloaders”. By the end of the two days, everyone completed their task and the situation did not occur again.








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