CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — On Thursday, the statewide “Get A Life” simulation came to Washington Irving Middle School and students a look at what life with a job, salary and expenses is like.

The way this simulation works is students are given a designated monthly income that’s specific to a particular career. With the income they’re given, the students are expected to buy necessities that are required to survive, and then they also must attempt to buy items they desire or want from this money. The goal is for the students to practice money management skills to avoid falling into debt.

The students were given an hour and a half to participate in this simulation in two different rounds. For the second round, students were expected to complete the challenge again. This time, they would receive a different income that matched a career that requires some form of education past high school and paid more than their job from the first round.

“I think it’s really important to give kids another chance to see what it’s like to have money and keep up with it,” said Beth Roberts, the Financial Education Specialist with the WV State Treasurer’s Office. “I think that we really want them not to just understand the money aspect, but we’d like them to understand that more training and more education gives them more choices in jobs and gives them more money to possibly spend.”

This program was designed by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office, which sends out representatives to different schools in the state throughout the year to engage with students. They travel out to different middle schools, and some high schools, specifically aiming to target 8th grade students. Roberts is unsure when the program was created but said that back when she was a school counselor in 2008, she recalls ‘Get A Life’ coming to her school.

Roberts said she feels this program is important for students to participate in because with the electronic money system that we currently live in, she feels money may not feel as “real” to people as it used to. “And so, I think that they’re very disconnected maybe from their money now,” she added.

However, Roberts mentioned that whether or not you end up in debt doesn’t always depend on how much money you make—but rather what type of financial decisions you’re making. She said that she often tells students that “you can have a little bit of money and still make poor choices with your money, and you can have a lot of money and make poor choices with your money.”

“Sometimes they take it very seriously, and they get pretty stressed out,” Roberts said. “And they’re very serious about trying to keep their debt low, and they are looking at every way to pinch their pennies and make their money last. So, I love seeing how much they get into it.”

Another important lesson that Roberts said she hopes students take away from this simulation is realizing the struggles their caretakers may be going through to cover all of the different life expenses. “One of the things I do is I try to say ‘hey, go home and thank the person that takes care of you,'” she said.

Following both rounds of the simulation, Roberts engaged with the students to go over a summary of how things went. During this time, the students were able to reflect on the choices they made and assess how receiving higher education impacted their income.

Roberts also spoke to students about the Smart529 Education Savings Plan “so they can pay for higher education like training or college beyond high school.” She also mentioned the West Virginia Jumpstart Savings Program, which she described as “another way that businesses and skilled workers can save money for their business.”

The Jumpstart Savings Program is currently having a contest for skilled workers that is running until the end of the year, which Roberts also mentioned to the students. To participate in this, contestants must submit a picture of themselves and write a message about why they enjoy being a skilled worker.

“It’s kind of a chance for those people to say why they love their job,” Roberts said.

Participants have the chance to potentially win $2,000 with a maximum prize of $12,000. The contest will officially end on Dec. 31, and anyone interested can apply on Jumpstart’s website.