STRATFORD, Conn. (4/24/15)--Nothing says financial literacy like a credit union-run reality fair.
Credit unions nationwide are taking advantage of the increased awareness of financial education during National Financial Literacy Month by putting on scores of reality fairs.
Through these fairs, students assume different livelihoods that they must consider when making various mock-financial decisions. The result is a taste of what life can be like in the real world.
"Child care is hitting me hard, plus having to buy two vehicles," said a participant of a reality fair led by Coastal FCU, Raleigh, N.C., earlier this month. The student had picked the role of a low-income worker. "(Expenses) add up on a low income."
Sikorsky Financial CU, Stratford, Conn., added its own wrinkle to its reality fair by incorporating a "Wheel of Reality" that can alter a participant's cash flow to simulate the unexpected events and expenses that occur in everyday life.
"I have seen what happens when people aren't prepared for their financial present or future," said Mike D'Orlando, Sikorsky operations manager. "This event gives young people something to think about many years before they might experience it, and hopefully they will be ready when the time comes."
People First FCU, Allentown, Pa., hosted the Lehigh Valley Chapter of Credit Unions' reality fair at DeSales University earlier this week, the third event of its kind organized by the chapter in the last three years (Life is a Highway April 23).
Nearly 300 students from nine schools participated in the event, which was operated by 50 volunteers from credit unions throughout Pennsylvania.
The reality fair also was attended by the offices of Rep. Michael Scholssberg (D-Lehigh) and Rep. Peter Schweyer (D-Lehigh).
A team of New Hampshire-based credit unions partnered to put on a joint reality fair earlier this month at Manchester (N.H.) Community College (Daily CU Scan April 17).
More than 500 students participated in the "CU4 Reality" event, organized by Northeast CU, Portsmouth; Bellwether Community CU, Manchester; and Granite State CU, Manchester.
"The financial fair is a great way for students to learn about budgets and their expenses vs. their spending money," said Victoria Reishus, Northeast vice president of marketing. "Some of the students were very responsible with their fictitious budgets, while for others it was a great opportunity to educate them on the benefits of saving their money."
Hanscom FCU, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., also put on a reality fair recently for students from the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Lowell and Bedford high schools (Daily CU Scan April 16).
"Having airmen and civilians from the base here helped the students see that everyone needs to watch their spending and create a savings plan," said Paul Marotta, Hanscom board chair.