NCUF to Hold “Financial Reality Fair” at GAC

Special event will highlight innovative youth financial education experience

For the first time, the National Credit Union Foundation (NCUF) will be holding a Financial Reality Fair on March 2, 2011 in conjunction with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Governmental Affairs Conference (GAC) in Washington, DC. A Reality Fair is an interactive financial literacy tool for high school students.

The fair will be held at the Rayburn House Office Building on March 2, 2011 from 12:00 - 2:00 PM. Approximately 40-50 area high school students are expected to attend. GAC attendees can simply show up at the Rayburn House Office Building to attend the fair and the doors will be open from 10:00 AM until 2:00 P.M. for any interested individuals who want to see the booths and fair materials. Also, NCUF will be asking Credit Union Development Educators (CUDEs) in attendance at the GAC to volunteer for the event.

Students face financial reality when they participate in a Reality Fair, like this one designed by America’s Credit Union Museum.

“Holding a Reality Fair at GAC is a great way to expose legislators and their staff about the innovative financial education programs that are offered by America's credit unions,” said Lois Kitsch, NCUF National REAL Solutions Program Manager. “And most importantly, local high school students will get exposed to a top-notch financial education experience.”

The GAC event is sponsored by NCUF with support and expertise from:

  • CUNA’s Mad City Money, a hands-on simulation kit for youth and gives them a taste of the real world—complete with occupation, salary, spouse, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments.
  • America's Credit Union Museum's CU 4 Reality, a hands-on comprehensive training package centered on the interaction between students, educators, parents, credit unions and business volunteers.
  • HarborOne Credit Union’s Credit for Life Fair, which has been running in high schools since 2001. The Brockton, Mass. CU has won numerous awards for their fair, which is attended by hundreds of students every year (see video coverage of their fair here).
  • Credit Union League of Connecticut, who has held Reality Fairs throughout the state since 2008.

The Credit Union League of Connecticut recently received a Desjardins Youth Financial Education Award, in large part due to the league’s educational work supporting the Financial Reality Fair throughout the state. Their Reality Fair was created as part of the state’s REAL Solutions’ efforts. “We believe the first step needed to improve the economic environment within a family is access to information—and the earlier the better,” said Kitsch “Mixing fun with learning creates a memorable experience that will remain with the students in the months and years to come.”

“I have had the opportunity to be involved with Reality Fairs for more than 10 years, said Tony Emerson, President/CEO of the Credit Union League of Connecticut. “When you get to see the recognition in a student’s face that financial decisions are important and do affect their daily lives, it is instant gratification that the fairs are worthwhile and effective. I am very excited to be part of the Washington D.C. fair, as we will be able to highlight the benefits of Reality Fairs to a larger, influential audience that will be able to take what they see back to their states.”

The Reality Fair concept is a unique opportunity for students to experience some of the financial challenges they will face when they start life on their own. It’s a hands-on experience in which students identify their career choice and starting salaries then complete a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, and food. Additional expenditures such as entertainment and travel are factored in as well. Throughout the fair, there are many temptations for additional spending, and students must learn to balance their wants and needs to live on their own. After the students have visited the various booths covering components of independent living, students balance their budget, and then sit down with a financial counselor for review.