Some Forrest students were gaining financial literacy through an Internet-based computer program this week.
Twenty juniors and seniors chose to take Robby Joyce's 18-week financial planning elective, and this week they were using Banzai!, a free program provided by Heritage South Community Credit Union.
The students signed in at a computer and worked their way through a series of budget simulations. The program started them off with a certain amount of money, and then they paid rent, bought groceries, got a paycheck, and so on. They also got hit with the cost of an unexpected visit to the Emergency Room, a parking ticket, and an overdraft charge.
"What did you learn?" asked Joyce, when the students had finished at the computers.
"How easy it is to get behind," exclaimed one.
"You should have a plan," said another.
"It gives them a little glance at reality," Joyce said. "They don't anticipate things going wrong."
Once the students have been through the simulations and the pre- and post-tests, they are registered with Banzai!, and can use it to track their own finances.
Four of the girls in the class are already managing money. They have part-time jobs. Two work at Sonic and one at Kroger, and one teaches dance. Joyce said many of the boys make money in the warm weather, cutting yards and hauling hay.
"A lot have summer jobs," she said, noting it's hard to balance sports and academics as well as a job during the school year.
Joyce has been teaching for 23 years. Her degrees are from Middle Tennessee State University, where she was an accounting major. She has been teaching business the whole time - accounting, economics, and now financial planning and personal finance. She uses a variety of resources, including some from the National Endowment for Financial Education, and has attended training given by the University of Tennessee Extension Service and the Federal Reserve.
The financial planning course starts off by talking about careers and how the career you choose determines your income, and about financial goals and how they relate to the lifestyle you desire.
"Everyone doesn't have to go to college," Joyce said. "But some type of post-secondary education is necessary" to prepare students to enter the workforce. She praised the Spot Lowe Vocational Center.
"They're doing a good job over there," she said, with classes in health occupations, cosmetology, criminal justice, auto mechanics, welding and building trades.
After budgeting, the class will move on to investing, compound interest, risk management and insurance. "It's a complete package to give them some skills," Joyce said. "It's a good class to teach."
The big, important message for her students is that they are in a great position to be financially secure in later life IF they start saving now.