Southwest Chapter of Idaho Credit Unions “All In” for Financial Reality Fairs

For high school students who’ve often never had paid jobs, a Financial Reality Fair is a game changer. It’s the moment where they learn to live on a budget, and often walk away with new respect for their parents.

That’s the scene that will play out April 5 at Skyview High School in Nampa, and April 11 at Caldwell High School. Here’s the playbook: the students enter the school gym after receiving a Reality game form that includes a preset occupation, Idaho-based salary, and credit score. Students then navigate to seven tables and learn about various aspects of the cost of living – including unexpected expenses that may arise.

They must live within their means. Transportation; housing; recreation; saving for retirement; and “Life Happens” expenses are part of the exercise. They make choices at each table and subtract the cost of that choice from their budget. Throughout the Reality fair they learn about how their credit score impacts the cost of living and what their choices cost each month. They may choose to rent, buy, or remain living with their parents. They might choose skiing for recreation; riding a bike instead of buying a car; and saving percent rather than 10 percent for retirement. At the “Life Happens” booth they could receive a windfall inheritance or face a $500 insurance deductible. All the while they are making choices; learning important financial information; and having fun.

The Chapter’s Financial Reality Fair has been a hit with students, teachers, and advisors at area High Schools. One young man left a previous fair commenting that his “dad would appreciate it because this is what he has been trying to tell me all year.” And another student indicated he might rethink his future vocation because the salary would not sustain the lifestyle he had chosen. Yet another student said that she had not previously been aware of how important it is to maintain a good credit rating.

Credit unions hosting the fair are CapEd CU, Clarity CU, Desert Sage FCU, Idaho Central CU, Malheur FCU, Mountain America CU, Mountain Gem CU, Northwest Christian CU, Pioneer FCU, and Simplot Employees CU. The Idaho Department of Finance is also a hosting organization.

Posted in Community Impact, Financial Education.