Students learn to plan for life at GCC Reality Fair

  • High school students work at the transportation table at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC last week. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Jared Ackerman, and Jordan Loughman, both students at Pioneer Valley Regional School, work at the credit union and investments table at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Nia Whitmal, of Amherst Regional High School, spins the reality wheel with Anna Barry, the Dean of Students at Greenfield Community College at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Kendal Pittman, a student at Amherst Regional High School, reacts to a card drawn after spinning the reality wheel with Anna Barry, the Dean of Students at Greenfield Community College, at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Jared Ackerman, and Jordan Loughman, both students at Pioneer Valley Regional School, work at the credit union and investments table at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Anna Barry, the Dean of Students at Greenfield Community College, jokes with a student after spinning the reality wheel at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Students work at the food and fitness table at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Emily Raymond, a student at Pioneer Valley Regional School, spins the reality wheel with Anna Barry, the Dean of Students at Greenfield Community College at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Students work at the utilities and cable internet table at the UMass Five and Greenfield Community College 4th annual Reality Fair at GCC Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

For the Gazette
Published: 3/26/2017 11:02:12 PM

GREENFIELD — “For my retirement — my favorite ‘R’ word — if I save 6 percent per month, with a 3 percent employee match, I will save $195.42 per month,” noted Amherst Regional High School student Oliver Brubaker, scratching figures in a small booklet.

Brubaker stood at the credit union table, one of 16 stations where volunteers helped students tally realistic expenses, like taxes, housing, student loans and charitable gifts, to create a feasible budget for an allotted income.

He was among about 225 students from four area high schools crowded into Greenfield Community College for its fourth annual Reality Fair, an event designed to help students with financial planning.

“I took economics last year, but it didn’t broach personal finances,” said Claire Siege, another Amherst student, while waiting in line to spin a random chance wheel — a chance to factor in either good or bad financial circumstances.

Days beforehand, Siege said someone from GCC came to her school and talked about financial planning in preparation for last Tuesday’s event.

Elsewhere throughout the college, students sat in hallways bedside friends or huddled over tables, completing equations and looking to their fictional financial future.

The event, which was first held in 2014, fills a void that many high schools don’t cover, said event organizer Amy L. Proietti, coordinator of financial aid at the local community college.

“Massachusetts, specifically, is one of only five states that doesn’t require financial literacy as a course,” Proietti said. “One thing a high school student doesn’t yet know is how important it is for career, money, and college choice to come together. That’s what we’re trying to do here.”

“It’s a great event. You don’t think of financial literacy as active, talking it over with your friends, but that’s what this offers,” she added.

After visiting all the tables, students went upstairs and met with a financial planner to help balance their theoretical budget. Students completed the event by factoring in all expenses, balancing a budget, and having a little money left over.

“We give them ideas, like maybe you want to roommate with someone, or buy a cheaper car. If they have a surplus, we talk about increasing their emergency fund or retirement,” said volunteer financial planner Jon Reske, vice president of marketing at UMassFive College Federal Credit Union. “Financial literacy for anyone is important. Especially for high school kids.”

“I had a student who bought a Lexus, then came back and bought a subway pass,” said Penny Ricketts, a volunteer at the event who also serves as a town councilor in Greenfield. It’s a chance to “give back some knowledge,” she said. “We’re out in the world, we’ve been through school.”

Reske noted that some of the students might be months away from putting financial planning skills to work in the real world.

High schools represented included Franklin County Technical School, Northampton High School, Amherst Regional High School, and Pioneer Valley Regional School. Another event was held last week for students from Greenfield High School, 4 Rivers Charter Public School, Turners Falls High School, Mohawk Trail Regional School, and Frontier Regional School.

The event was sponsored by GCC, UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, the regional Opioid Task Force, Alber Hearing Services, and the Franklin County Rotary Club.




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