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The Cost of Living Hits Home

Seminar opens eyes of local teen-agers

Mark Thompson-Kolar
The Ann Arbor News

Leaving one's family home and living comfortably can cost a lot more than it seems.

That's the message 14 local teen-agers heard during a seminar held Tuesday night by accounts Chris Vaughan and Howard Gillis at the Wright Griffin Davis and Co. accounting firm in Ann Arbor. Most of the youths were children of the accounts' regular clients.

The two men led the teen-agers through a budget of typical expenses they might encounter after leaving home. It included car payments, rent, food and other basic necessities.

Some of the teens laughed and kidded each other as they guessed how much each item cost. But the laughing stopped when the annual budget totaled $18,000, without adding in medical costs.

"Life costs a lot more than I thought it would," said Dwight Johnson, a Huron High School senior. "It was looking pretty easy until I came tonight."

The teens paid strict attention when the accounts showed them the $5,644 a person earning $3.35 per hour takes home in a year. A few seemed nervous about the figures, but Gillis and Vaughan reassured them that they could earn a better living by taking advantage of the training and college opportunities that are available.

The also said many young people have abilities they probably hadn't considered using in jobs.

"Never sell yourself short on skills. You can do some of the things you do well and make money at it," Vaughan said.

Gillis warned the youths to approach jobs carefully. A job that seems to pay highly at $7 an hour might not be such a good one if it requires you to work outrageous hours, buy expensive equipment, or work in a bad environment, he said.

Afterwards, the young people seemed to understand life's costs more clearly.

Summeranne Moreau, a first-year student at Washtenaw Community College, said: "It made me think. You don't know you spend that much, but you do."

Vaughan, a former youth director at Ann Arbor's St. Thomas Catholic Church, said: "What you're dealing with is just human nature. We have a tendency to want things that cost more than we can afford and to underestimate how much things do cost."

He said he hoped the young people would learn through the seminar how much the lifestyle they want will cost. That way they can plan more realistically for it, he said.

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