Reality Fairs: Interactive Teen Financial Literacy Tool

A Reality Fair (or “Financial Reality Fair”) is an interactive financial literacy tool for high school students. 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. 

The Foundation encourages state leagues and foundations to support state-wide coordinated programs which increases the number of students that have access to this experience and the number of credit unions who can provide support. Today, 26 states are offering students Reality Fair Programs – 14 of which can be tied directly to the Foundation. In 2016, over 85,000 estimated high school students participated in a credit union Reality Fair.

New for 2017: Thanks to a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation, students attending Reality Fairs can use their mobile phone or tablet in place of pen and paper. The Foundation’s grant allowed the Richard Myles Johnson (RMJ) Foundation to expand the reach of its new “Bite of Reality” App, allowing other Reality Fair practitioners to customize it for their own use. Click here for more information.


For Questions... Danielle Brown, Engagement Director, at (608) 231-4353 or

After a Foundation Reality Fair...

“It feels like the students learned a semester’s worth of meaningful material in just two hours at the Reality Fair.”
- Landon Southerly
Math Teacher
Capital City Public Charter School

“I think the fair engaged our students in the process of learning more effectively than any field trip I personally have ever seen. They are all more prepared to make wiser choices because of this event.”
- David Mauldin
Vice Principal
H.D. Woodson High School