Northwest Credit Unions Educate 3,500 Students Through Financial Reality Fairs

The 2018-2019 academic year is on the books, and 3,500 students in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington are headed into summer smarter about the way they will manage their money. They’ve experienced a Financial Reality Fair sponsored by their local credit union. Grants from the Northwest Credit Union Foundation made 40 such events possible in 21 schools this year.

While NWCUF has partnered with credit unions to offer Financial Reality Fairs for seven years, the program went high tech this past year, transitioning from a pen-and-paper format to a digital platform that today’s tech-savvy students can truly relate to. NWCUF launched the “Bite of Reality” platform in partnership with the National Credit Union Foundation and the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation. Using their smartphones or tablets, each student downloads a persona, career, and starting salary. They guide through a day-in-the-life of an adult’s financial responsibilities, and each of them must finish the exercise with a balanced budget.

“Financial Reality Fairs prepare high school students to make sound financial decisions that will benefit them for a lifetime,” said Sharee Adkins, Executive Director, NWCUF. “Seventy-eight percent of the students who experienced the Bite of Reality agreed that budgeting is critical, and that the exercise helped to prepare them for financial challenges they will face in their futures.”

As a branch manager for Nampa, Idaho-based Clarity Credit Union, Nikie Bauer has hosted many reality fairs, and reports the Bite of Reality approach has been “huge.”

“With the app for the very first time this year, we noticed a sense of calm. The students moved through it with ease and comfort,” Bauer said.

Students who attended a Bite of Reality Fair this academic year were astonished.

“This is what my parents have to do every month?” one student asked. Another admitted, “Adulting is hard!”

“It is as rewarding for our team to volunteer as it is for the students,” said Brooke Van Vleet, CEO of Inroads Credit Union in St. Helens, Oregon. “It’s not unusual for them to tell us that the Bite or Reality gave them more respect for how their parents manage the family budget and that they’re going to be smarter about how they spend and save.”

The NWCUF invites member credit unions to collaborate with their local school districts to host a Financial Reality Fair next academic year. Information can be found online.

Posted in Asset Building, Financial Reality Fairs.