The school district held an event Wednesday that gave high school sophomores a simulated experience with personal finances.
“Credit for Life Fair” put students through a series of simulated money management scenarios. The program is modeled after the “Game of Life” board game, in which players travel from college to retirement, spending and investing game money.
Students began by receiving an occupation, which was determined by results of a personality survey, and a starting salary. They then traveled to different tables, each designated for expenses like groceries and utilities. Students tallied their expenses and aimed to finish in the black.
“I’m trying to learn from the mistakes I make here and not repeat them in life,” Sheehan sophomore Erik Pedraza-Aguilar said.
Over 400 10th-graders from Lyman Hall and Sheehan high schools attended the fair in the parks and recreation building.
The activity includes wrinkles to make the experience more realistic. A portion of each student’s income is deducted for taxes and each student has to pay for two “unexpected expenses,” like a speeding ticket or car repair. A student can choose to change careers after starting, but their student loan costs would increase to reflect the additional education needed.
The Credit for Life program was started by Liberty Bank a few years back. The bank has sponsored similar events with schools in New Haven, New London and Middletown.
The activity gives a financial “reality check” to students, Liberty Bank employee Joyanne O’Malley said.
“If anything it gives them a greater appreciation for their parents,” event organizer Liz Landow said. “We have a lot of parents that are grateful for this.”
“I wish they had this when my kids were in school,” said Pat Harriman, of Harriman Real Estate, an event sponsor.
School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said Wallingford began annually hosting Credit for Life in 2015. He called the fair the “signature event” hosted each year by HUBCAP Wallingford, a nonprofit partnership between the school district and the Economic Development Commission.
The event is staffed with about 90 volunteers and gets contributions from about 12 local businesses each year.
“We’re very fortunate that we have such community support and so many community volunteers because without that this couldn’t happen,” Menzo said.