At the end of the month, 80 students will launch into careers as accountants, firefighters, financial advisors, nurses and other occupations, each attached to a portfolio of student and credit card debt, a salary and some amount of savings.
They will then, over the course of three hours, navigate the purchase of housing, insurance, food, transportation, clothing and the rest of life's necessities and desires – all with a keen eye on their credit rating.
The BHS seniors – 20 from the high school's alternative program and 60 from its elective business courses – will be participating in a program that is gradually gaining a foothold in Massachusetts schools. It is called "Credit for Life" and is aimed at educating students on the basics of credit and its role in personal finance.
"A lot of students are leaving without any knowledge of financial literacy, aside from what they are taught by their parents," said BHS business teacher Joe Belmosto, who along with Kevin Coyne of the alternative program and a number of other Braintree educators and business and nonprofit leaders are organizing and running the event, to be held March 29 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Boston Marriot Quincy.
"Students, for the most part, are really yearning for this information," Belmosto said.
Some of his business students have learned aspects of personal finance through his courses, but Belmosto said he would eventually like to see the "Credit for Life" program reach every Braintree High senior. This is the first year for Braintree, and the organizers are leaning heavily on the experiences of Brockton and Quincy, which have both participated for several years.
"It's still pretty young," Belmosto said. "A lot of schools are getting on board."
"Credit for Life" was developed by the Consumer Credit Counseling Service and the Credit Executives Association of Southeastern New England. The way it works is that each student chooses a profession from a lengthy list, a decision that has a significant impact on their buying power. Each occupation comes with a salary, student loan debt and estimated savings, drawn from federal data.
At the Marriot on March 29, the students will take that information, along with a list of expense categories, and visit booths scattered around the hotel's ballroom. The stations will be operated by volunteers from a variety of organizations, including the Braintree Rotary Club, , Agnitti Insurance, , ING, TD Bank, Quincy Credit Union and others.
There is also a central credit counseling booth that will be manned throughout the event, and especially heavily near the end, when students have made their purchases and are trying to figure out if they can pay for everything. That luxury car or exotic vacation might have to be traded in for something more economical.
"It's very realistic and the kids get a lot of takeaway from it," Belmosto said. "It should be a goal that every student takes personal finance before they graduate high school."