Macon County high school juniors and seniors, many of whom are fulfilling requirements for Bridge Builders Alabama, meet every other Tuesday night at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Highway 81 between Notasulga and Tuskegee. Auburn University undergraduates work alongside them, as they develop skills related to life, work, and college. The program is funded in part by the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Tonight we were joined by guests from the Auburn University Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropic and Nonprofit Studies, whose mission is to promote financial and philanthropic responsibility and nonprofit leadership. Director Sid James and associates Samantha Allbrook, Whitney Griswold, Kim Walker, Liz McNabb, and Lauren Reynolds introduced the three S’s related to money management: spending, sharing, and saving. The spending part is pretty easy to master, since we seem to do it all the time. But sharing and saving are equally—or more—important, since financial responsibility is also a civic responsibility.
Students became adults for a few minutes, when the team challenged teens to create a spending plan based on a randomly assigned career and corresponding salary. Students were faced with real choices, and we learned quickly that money management takes discipline and a willingness to live within one’s means. Perhaps a used car makes more sense than a new one. And childcare, everyone learned, is not an insignificant expense.
We finished the night with an exercise using M&M’s, and the number given to each participant represented the corresponding salary assigned. Expenses are laid out so that choices must be made. You can save some M&Ms by living with a roommate, for example, since living alone will cost a good bit more chocolate. This allows students to see with their own eyes how the financial choices we make affect our present and future. We look forward to another session with our new friends from the Cary Center, who will delve more deeply into what it means to build and leave a legacy through financial stewardship.