How much is a monthly mortgage payment? What about a health insurance premium? And how much should you budget for such essentials as groceries?

Juniors and seniors enrolled in Indian Trail High School and Academy’s personal finance course received a glimpse into these and other real life questions Tuesday during a simulated exercise, Reality Check Day.

About 150 students took part in the activity, which started with a so-called “life status card.” The one-page document laid out all of the student’s details, including occupation, marital status, annual salary and number of dependents.

Other details students had to work through, based on their own custom criteria, were the amount of credit card debt being shouldered, student loans and their current credit score and how it plays into spending decisions.

“This is about life; it’s a necessity to know about this,” said Kelli Washburn Cairo, a business education teacher at Indian Trail who has been helming the effort since it was introduced. This is the third consecutive year Reality Check Day has been offered at the high school.

With their status information in hand, students went from station-to-station, meeting with experts who provided information on how much a specific line item costs in a personal budget.

In all, there were 17 stations, touching on such concepts as housing, transportation and utilities — expenses that impact every adult.

Matt Krauter, senior vice president of new markets at Blackhawk Credit Union, met with students to share his wisdom on such topics as credit scores.

“I think it’s important to do something like this,” Krauter said. “I wish I had something like this when I was in high school.”

Cairo said donations for supplies and volunteer man-hours have been an important backbone to Reality Check Day. Without both scenarios at play, Cairo said the large-scale event would not be possible.

A total of 70 adult volunteers — including professionals in the community, retirees and, in a few instances, former students — lend their support each year.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Cairo said. “(The volunteers) come back every year, and they really seem to enjoy working with the kids.”

For his part, Krauter said he enjoys giving of his time and thinks professionals should do so whenever possible to benefit the broader community.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Krauter said of meeting with the students.

The concept of keeping expenses in line with income is an overarching theme explored within the classroom, Cairo said. But expanding it into a large-scale event, she said, takes the instruction to the next level.

“This is a cumulating event for (the students),” she said. “It’s not tangible until they actually get to do it. When they see what something actually costs, they tend to go, ‘Wait a minute.’ It begins to make sense to them.”

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