Dollars & Sense

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Budget Challenge Winner Gets Surprise Check Presentation

May 11, 2015 : H&R Block

You don’t win a personal finance challenge without making hard decisions:

Get a full cable package or put more in emergency savings?

Maximize your retirement contribution or take a fancy vacation?

Being prepared for unexpected financial surprises often means making the practical choice instead of the fun one.

Sean Lawrence understands that intuitively. He’s 17 years old and about to graduate from St. Clair High School in Michigan. He dreams of being a chemical engineer and attending Western Michigan University, but there’s a problem. The price tag. Because of the high cost to attend a university for four years, Sean decided to head to a community college first to save money.

That kind of responsible budgeting netted him the top prize in H&R Block’s Budget Challenge – beating out more than 93,000 other high school students.

That top prize just happens to be $120,000 to help make his college dreams come true.

Sean thought he was receiving just one of the 133 $20,000 scholarships H&R Block awarded to financially savvy teens nationwide. After his $20,000 scholarship was presented, he got a shock when he learned he was actually the competition’s top winner. H&R Block CEO Bill Cobb and Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Collins attended the ceremony in St. Clair to present the check to Sean.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we think that he would he get something like this for all his hard work, studies and dedication. Words can’t even express how proud we are and how smart he is,” said his mother Diane Lawrence.

“It changed his life somewhat, definitely,” said his father Steve Lawrence. “Life changing,” added his mother.

When asked what was valuable about the Budget Challenge, Sean said, “Learning about money management before going into the real world allows teens to make the right choices and have the correct knowledge so they don’t end up with mountains of debt.”

The H&R Block Budget Challenge is free to high school teachers and home school educators (see eligibility requirements). The challenge simulates an adult’s financial life — paying bills, investing in retirement, managing loans and more. The learn-by-doing educational approach allows students to experience personal finance activities in the safety of a classroom, before heading out into the real world on their own. Participants play against other students and classrooms, competing for more than $3 million in grants, scholarships and cash prizes. To receive a high score, students must maximize their savings and correctly answer financial quizzes, while avoiding fees and other budgetary pitfalls.

A new season of the H&R Block Budget Challenge will launch in September. More details will be available at www.hrbds.org.

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