Bringing Financial Reality Fairs into the Future – There’s an App for That!


A Financial Reality Fair is a real-world simulation that gives high school students an opportunity to experience life as an adult. They are given an identity and a monthly salary. Some are married and have children, and some are single.

After assuming their identity, students complete the 90-minute budgeting exercise. They visit merchants to buy a car, auto insurance, make daycare arrangements, buy food, and hope to have enough left over to save or even enjoy entertainment.

For six years, your Northwest Credit Union Foundation (NWCUF) has helped provide credit unions with resources to conduct Financial Reality Fairs – including mock merchant collateral, calculators, budget worksheets, pencils, and more.

Welcome to the future. NWCUF has collaborated with the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation to bring the Financial Reality Fair curriculum into the 21st century through an app-based platform inviting students to take a “Bite of Reality.” Grant applications are available online.

“Students today are much more digitally connected, and regardless of income or experience at home, most have some type of smart phone or similar device,” said Steve Pagenstecher, Vice President, Member Experience at Portland-based Point West Credit Union. “Engaging students via the technology they use every day allows for less time explaining or correcting issues for individual students during the fair – where time is always at a premium – and allows for more time for actually digging into the reality of the experience.”

This ‘real world simulation’ guides students through a day in the life of an adult. Students will build a monthly budget by visiting nine merchants to purchase necessities and luxuries if they can afford them. A credit union provides financial counseling. Participants will make personal financial decisions that impact their budget in real time. Using the app, students will be able to focus on the premise of the simulation rather than where to write numbers on their budgeting worksheets.

The Financial Reality Fair program is tailored to teens aged 15-18; however, it can be successfully delivered to slightly younger or older participants.

The NWCUF will launch the Bite of Reality App this fall. Financial Reality Fair 2.0 kits may be reserved now for the 2018-2019 school year.

Kits will include:

  • Access to the app
  • Table posters
  • Laminated merchant sheets
  • Lanyards for your volunteers
  • Ten Kindle Fires and sign out sheets for your credit union to loan to participants who do not have smart devices to use during the simulation

Editor’s note: Questions about the Financial Reality Fair program or the Bite of Reality App? Contact Kaitlin Ramos by emailing If you have all the information you need to know that this is a great resource for your credit union, apply for a grant online.

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