Reality Fairs

Students participating in a Reality Fair

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, through REAL Solutions, 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. 25,000 estimated high school students participated in a Reality Fair last year.


Foundation Partners w/MindBlown Labs to Bring Thrive 'n' Shine to Reality Fairs

The Foundation recently formalized its collaboration with MindBlown Labs in order to enrich the Reality Fair experience with CUNA Mutual Group. Late last year, CUNA Mutual Group launched a social media effort (#CUGiveBack) encouraging credit unions, their members and partners to share pictures of people giving back to the communities they served with each post garnering a $5 donation to the Foundation.

“A Reality Fair is experiential learning at its finest for teens to learn about managing money,” said Gigi Hyland, Executive Director at the National Credit Union Foundation. “The Thrive 'n' Shine app will add another engaging and experiential layer to an already effective educational experience."

Thanks to the campaign, CUNA Mutual Group donated $10,000 to the Foundation to fund twenty Reality Fairs for up to 5,000 students. Students and teachers attending one of the twenty Reality Fairs will have access to the Thrive ‘n’ Shine game for up to one year. Thrive ‘n’ Shine is a strategy and life simulation game for Android, iOS devices, and internet browsers, that empowers students to experience and master critical financial concepts.

Discount Available to CUs
Another aspect of this partnership is that MindBlown Labs is providing a 15% discount off the cost of its Thrive ‘n’ Shine packages to credit unions throughout the country.  To take advantage of this discount, credit unions can simply reach out to Co-Founder Tracy “Ty” Moore at / 510.629.0625 or go to and request a brief demo.

“The Foundation highlights and supports the tremendous work that credit unions throughout the nation do to empower young people with financial capability skills,” said Jason Young, Co-Founder and CEO of MindBlown Labs and former Member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. “We couldn’t be more enthusiastic about our partnership with the Foundation to provide both attendees of Reality Fairs with free access to Thrive ‘n’ Shine and credit unions with a significant discount on our Thrive ‘n’ Shine packages.”

For More Information... Andy Johnson, National Program Manager, at (608) 231-4956 or

After a Foundation Reality Fair at GAC...

“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