The Game of Life

Thad Hodge “sells” a 2014 Dodge Challenger to Montrell during Methodist Home for Children’s Real World event.

Remember your first paycheck? How shocking it was to see the deductions? How little was left after paying rent? Welcome to MHC Real World – a simulated life experience. Think of it as a crash course in adulting, a daylong adventure designed to give teens a taste of what it’s like to be all grown up. But not just any teens. These are kids who, for the most part, will be leaping into adulthood without the luxury of a family safety net. For them, the day is an eye-opening experience.

step1_2 MHC REAL LIFE – 10 steps
step 1, draw your card

Montrell has a college degree and business management & administration job that earns $32,000 in gross salary with $2,127.67 in monthly take-home pay, plus benefits
step2_learn step 2, learn:
Our volunteer experts lead crash courses on budgeting, banking, and insurance before the decision-making starts. Former foster parent and insurance agent Cleo Blue co-leads a session here.
step3_shop step 3, shop for needs:
Transportation, housing, utilities, insurance, furniture are available. Foster parent Thad Hodge shows Jamie the features on an SUV he’s considering for purchase.
spa_ step 4, shop for wants:
Is there room in the budget for clothing, entertainment, cable, dish network, Wi-Fi, or pets? Manicures and hair style are available here.
childcare_ step 5, major life decisions:
Parenthood is an option only one player considers; she realizes after visiting the childcare booth that she can’t afford a baby. “She asked if she could give her kid back,” says organizer Claudia Wiggins. “So that was truly the intention – to help them realize the high cost of parenthood.”
step4_pay step 6, stroke a check:
Cover your expenses, and remember to record them accurately in your checkbook register.
step5_surprise step 7, visit Surprise:
Foster care specialist Jennifer Garris is Surprise, and she hands out good news and bad. Montrell wins $300 in the lottery and pays $200 of it in taxes. Another player wins a car – good news except that she owes Surprise $524 for insurance and she already owns a car with insurance. She makes it work by going back to the car dealer and negotiating a return and refund.
step6_lifehappens step 8, life happens:
Pay up for physical therapy, which is expensive without insurance ($80 vs. $600 monthly).
step7_regroup step 9, regroup:
How do your decisions affect your bank account and your lifestyle? Montrell and Christian agree to share an apartment to save on housing and utilities. Montrell spends big on a Dodge Challenger with hemi engine; he ends up with about $300 left over. Christian opts for the affordable Honda Civic; he ends up with about $1,000 left over. Both teens want to own a business one day. Christian says: “It makes me think about what I can do if I achieve my goals. I want to go to college and open my own barber shop. I feel like I can do it.”
step8_icecream step 10, reward:
Ice cream for everyone. Thank you, Mister Softee! We are grateful to the partners who volunteered a Saturday to give our kids a sample of Real Life!

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