Best Part About Volunteering at the 2014 Financial Reality Fair? Helping Students ‘Connect the Dots’

Jared Dance doesn’t really sell cell phones and electronics, and Will Rance isn’t a car salesman. But the power of financial education is so important to both men that they took time out from their credit union jobs to play those roles at the Northwest Credit Union Foundation’s 2013 Financial Reality Fair in Olympia.

“It was an uplifting experience,” says Dance, the community development manager for TwinStar Credit Union. “The best part? Engaging with each of the students and seeing their brains connect the dots throughout the day.”

Volunteers are being recruited now to play the role of merchants or financial counselors at the 2014 fair, which will be held on Thursday, Feb. 6, in conjunction with the Northwest Credit Union Association’s Credit Union Day at the Capitol. Thirty volunteers are needed, and there’s no advance training required — just the desire to give young people the skills they’ll need to be smart financial consumers.

To volunteer, go to the Foundation’s website here.

At the Reality Fair, which will run from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m., students will choose a career and a salary and then have to figure out how to create a budget that covers housing, food and other essentials. They’ll visit with volunteer “merchants” — apartment leasing agents, auto dealers and insurance agents, for example — to obtain the goods and services needed in everyday life. And just like in the real world, they’ll be tempted by entertainment opportunities and other non-essential services that can often wreak havoc on a family’s budget.

Armed with all of that information, students will then document their income and expenses, balance their monthly budget and get a “financial counselor” to sign off on their plan.

At last year’s fair, Dance got the chance to tempt students with all kinds of electronic goodies. “I’m told I was someone the students couldn’t say no to,” he says. As a credit union employee, it was hard to upsell students on items they really didn’t need, Dance says, “but the learning aspect for the students outweighed that.”

Rance, the vice president of community relations at WSECU, got to offer students a choice between buying a car or opting for public transportation. “The best part for me is always the interaction with the students and their teachers,” he says, as is the chance to share WSECU’s commitment to financial literacy.

“We feel that having a good understanding of money and how to make decisions about how to spend your dollars is vital,” Rance says.

TwinStar’s Dance agrees. As community development manager, he visits classrooms throughout Washington and Oregon — reaching more than 5,000 children and young adults each year — to teach students about everything from balancing a checkbook and managing a budget to how to stay out of debt. Last year, TwinStar’s Classroom Cash project also helped teachers in 173 classrooms with grants for special literacy projects.

“TwinStar understands the importance of educating our youth and preparing them well for the future,” Dance says. “Teaching others about financial literacy is something I appreciate and love.”

And that, says Northwest Credit Union Foundation Executive Director Kim Vu, is what makes volunteering at the Financial Reality Fair such a great experience.

“Financial education is a cornerstone of so many credit unions’ investment in their communities,” Vu says. “At the Foundation, we are delighted to work alongside our credit unions in the community to create signature programs like the Financial Reality Fair.”

For more information about the Financial Reality Fair, contact Josalyn Alston at 206.340.4814 or jalston@nwcua.org. To volunteer, go to the Foundation’s website here.

 

Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216, gstein@nwcua.org.

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