It Pays to Know Your Paycheck

August 25, 2014
By Kyle Dunlap, Public Affairs Intern

Students from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services gain timely information during visit to the Fed.


High school students in the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Service’s
iJobs program learn about the Federal Reserve and their paychecks.

Budgeting and managing money requires tough decisions. However, a group of Oklahoma City-area students recently discovered it sometimes can be as simple as counting beans.

More than 30 high school students in the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Service’s iJobs program discovered the importance of understanding and managing their income during a workshop at the Kansas City Fed's Oklahoma City Branch.

The workshop, presented by Senior Community Development Advisor Steve Shepelwich, gave the students, many of whom have cognitive or behavioral disabilities, an overview of the Federal Reserve System and discussed how they can better manage their economic opportunities.

“It was great working with these students because they’re working hard to make the most of what’s before them with the resources they have,” Shepelwich said. “We want to help everybody take advantage of the economic opportunities that are out there.”

The second half of the presentation was about “Putting Your Paycheck to Work,” a series of resources that teaches individuals how to better understand, manage and maximize their income. Shepelwich said the materials are particularly relevant for these young adults, many of whom received their first paychecks this summer.

“Most people don’t realize that they can make decisions about their paycheck, and that how they’re paid will have a long-term impact on them,” Shepelwich said. “Putting Your Paycheck to Work helps them to see that they can make decisions that will benefit them in the future.”

Among the day’s activities was a personal budgeting game in which students grouped into “families” and created budgets. Each group had 25 beans it could use to pay for different items in its budget, working as a team to create the best plan possible.

Suli, a senior at Westmoore High School, found the game to be helpful and fun. “I think it was really neat and interesting. It helped me learn to budget my money better,” Suli said. “The bean activity made it easier to understand where your money goes and how to use it in the right way—to prioritize my wants and needs.”

Prioritizing wants and needs is an important skill because each student is working part time in a paid position through iJobs, a summer program that helps these high school students transition into the workforce.

Kimberly Osmani, transition coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, said iJobs prepares these students for the workforce. “iJobs is a summer work experience for our youth clients with disabilities,” Osmani said. “They spend a week in-house with us doing employability skills training; we talk about interviewing, how to fill out job applications, I mean we talk about it all … And then they spend the rest of the summer working at their jobs in their communities.”

Osmani said the iJobs visit to the Oklahoma City Branch served an important role in allowing these students to become more economically aware and involved as they move into adulthood.

“A lot of them, their parents don’t involve them in things like that and don’t give them the opportunity to take money up to the counter themselves and do things independently,” Osmani said. “So everything we do is helping them strive toward becoming more independent and immersed in their communities.”

Financial education for these students, she said, remains an important need. “Although the schools are addressing some components through financial literacy topics, they’re not able to address everything, and often our youth don’t really have a clue about money,” Osmani said. “So I think it’s really important for them to understand their paychecks and banking, and the fact that money doesn’t just grow on trees.”

After the presentation, students were able to learn more about the Fed through the Branch’s exhibits.

Josh, a senior at Edmond Santa Fe, was fascinated by the role the Federal Reserve has in maintaining cash currency. “I learned that if money gets too old, they shred it,” Josh said.

Shepelwich said he was pleased with the event and felt that it provided a new perspective to help further build the Tenth District’s community development efforts.

“By helping individuals with specific issues we’re able to see how to address problems that affect everybody in different ways,” Shepelwich said. “I learned a lot through the presentation working with this group that helped me look at this issue in a new way that I can now go back and build into the program.”

View resources from our Putting Your Paycheck to Work series.