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One of the very concrete activities that we have students do in Life Design is to design a budget for life after college. We use an approach called "Values based budgeting." We start by having students think through what they value. Do they care about travel? Leisure? Financial security? A comfortable home? An automobile? City life? Etc. They then select a college major and look up expected salaries. They then select the city in which they want to live after they graduate and look at rental costs. We then teach them about the various expenses they are likely to have, including utilities, insurance, transportation, groceries, entertainment, etc. With these basic inputs, they then begin to construct a realistic basic budget for themselves.
For many this exercise is a useful eye-opener. Do they want to be able to live without roommates? In cities such as New York and San Francisco, this is not easily done for fresh college graduates. Do they want to be able to travel around the world? Fine, but what do they need to sacrifice in order to do so?
Finally, we also have them deal with exogenous financial shocks. What happens if their car breaks down? What happens if their home is flooded - and did they have rental insurance?
As adults, we have all enjoyed such financial adventures. It is a pleasure to observe teens beginning to glimpse the realities of adult life. And, as we return to other dimensions of goal setting (including their academic goals), the concrete exercise of having worked through their post-college budgets has given them all a taste of reality.