Understanding real life, real responsibilities, and real financial dangers. For young people, in the ‘school of hard knocks,’ these things might be learned over the years, but with significant stress. Now there’s a more practical way. It’s called a Financial Reality Fair, offered by many credit unions nationwide.
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Tena Lozano, executive director of the RMJ Foundation, says the events, “put the students in the role of an adult and we make them make adult decisions just to give them a real-life simulation of what it will be like to be an adult. So, we really focus on the importance of budgeting, wants vs. needs, the perils of credit card debt, and just generally speaking what it’s like to live the month of an adult, having to make purchasing decisions.”
Each student is assigned a persona - including a job, a salary, a spouse, and a child – all available on the special Bite of Reality app. At the Reality Fair, they go from table-to-table to sign-up for housing, kid care, groceries and dining – along with everything else that normally appears in a family’s monthly budget. But there are also ‘temptations’ at the various tables where participants get a taste of ‘upselling.’ They’re encouraged to buy the most expensive thing available, much like all the ‘you need this’ advertising and sales pitches that really do take place in our instant gratification culture.
“And what the kids don’t know is we’re actually setting them up to fail. You learn when you fail, and we want their first experience failing with money to be in our little world instead of out in the real world,” shares Lozano. “And then when they do run out of money, the students are sent to the credit union table” where their buying decisions vs. income are analyzed, much like a financial counselor would do. “And they (the counselors) actually do allow our students to make returns…so they can return their car, they can return their house, their food, wherever they feel like they made a bad decision, they can correct that and then, ultimately, they succeed!”