Financial fun in the summertime

Summertime is full of fun. Days at the lake, nights by the campfire and time spent … creating a financial plan? It may sound strange, but for students who attended the Dollars and Sense camp at the Haworth College of Business, their time spent in the classroom this summer will pay dividends in a big way.

The Dollars and Sense camp is organized and run by the staff at the Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness. The center offers three camps during the summer for students from eighth to 12th grade and attracts students from Kalamazoo and the surrounding school districts.

Throughout the week that camp was in session, campers learned about topics including borrowing, how to build a financial plan for post-secondary education and how to invest for the future.

Todd Mora, wearing a blue check shirt, gestures to students at the front of a classroomTodd Mora, program manager of the Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness and instructor for the camp, explains that the week is designed to give students a better understanding of the financial challenges that adults face and teach them how to manage those issues. The centerpiece of the week is a life cycle plan where students are tasked with making a plan to take them from their current stage through retirement age.

Creating the life cycle plan also includes one of the highlights of the week—the Zillow activity. “Campers love the Zillow activity, “says Mora. “As part of their life cycle plans, they identify where they would like to live as an adult, then search for housing. We discuss what the costs are and students learn about down payments, interest rates, HOA fees and property taxes.” This activity is eye-opening for students, and one camper summed up the feelings of many when they said, "Wow, houses are expensive!”

Many of the lessons learned also came about through casual conversations throughout the week. Eldon McCabe, assistant program manager of the Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness, says, “We talked about wealth and how social media personalities may portray wealth that doesn’t actually exist because of debt. One student commented ‘I didn’t know you could borrow so much money!’ It was great to hear students starting to apply what they were learning to scenarios that they see every day.”

One principle that was emphasized during the camp was that it is never too early to start investing. Mora and McCabe used statistics and examples to show campers how investing small amounts today can pay huge dividends in the future through compounding returns. Students reacted positively to this information, with one student even calculating how long it would take him to become a millionaire.

Each session culminated with campers presenting their life cycle plans to their class and visitors. Many parents attended and were excited to see what their child had learned during the week. As parents discussed the need for financial education in school, Mora was able to tell them about Michigan’s new financial literacy requirement that will take effect with the class of 2024.

At the conclusion of the week parents expressed how glad they were that their students had received a solid financial foundation that would help them continue discussions with their children at home—and that is something that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

Learn more about the Sanford Center for Financial Planning and Wellness.