State College of Florida’s Collegiate School has some high school freshmen who could probably teach most adults a thing or two about personal finance.
Mark “Trey” Hawkins and Alexa Brutus, both freshmen at the school, finished in the the top five of 71,000 students nationwide who competed in a 10-week budgeting simulation through H&R Block.
Hawkins finished fourth and Alexa Brutus finished fifth in the H&R Block Budget Challenge, earning each student a $20,000 scholarship they were presented during a Friday morning assembly at the school.
“I liked the competition, being able to go against other people, and eventually winning,” Trey said. “I like winning, so it was fun to me.”
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Beating out thousands of other students was no simple task, said economics and finance instructor Deane Western.
“(They) save as much money in their 401K while also being financially responsible with their payments of their bills and their checks, paying their apartment and their insurance, all of those things while also managing a credit card that varies each month,” Western said. “It’s a really complicated challenge.”
Hawkins said a simulated car crash that cost him $500 on his insurance deductible was the most unexpected challenge.
The challenge can be a game of cents, Western said. Last year, one of his students canceled a check at the last minute, saved 50 cents, and as a result moved from 23rd nationwide to 22nd, earning a scholarship she wouldn’t have otherwise.
Alexa said the challenge gave the students a glimpse of the future responsibilities of being an adult.
“It’s definitely eye-opening, seeing what I’m going to have to do when I’m older, and seeing that I am capable of doing it,” Alexa said.
Western’s classes have been wildly successful in the challenge. This year, with two students in the top five out of 71,000, was not an anomaly. Last year, H&R Block awarded scholarships to the top 22 finishers, and Western had five students in the top tier of the challenge. But Western said he tells his students even if they don’t win a scholarship, the principles of budgeting and saving will pay off years down the road.
“This class is worth millions in the long run,” he said.