Wednesday, March 30, marked a great day for the increasing awareness for financial literacy. More than 350 high school students participated in the Credit Union League of Connecticut mock Financial Reality Fair- a mock budgeting process where individuals are assigned a salary and expenses and they have to create a balanced budget- and really made the day something to remember!
The fair was organized in a way that allowed students to be assigned different jobs and incomes and then encourage them to visit various booths and decide what they would spend their money on. Booths were designated as required or optional, meaning there were certain areas where a student was required to purchase things like TV/Internet, a cell phone, housing, car, credit union loans, furniture and so forth. Students were allowed to choose to live alone or with a roommate in anything from a house to an apartment.
The volunteers who were managing each booth were from credit unions all over CT. Some acted as salespersons, encouraging students to purchase their products and then let them decide what to spend their money on. Our job was to entice the students and up-sell products, and not be too helpful- since they needed to learn that while an iPhone is great to have, they may only be able to afford a certain plan with their assigned income.
Volunteers were also assigned to be Financial Counselors which were each students final stop at the fair, to then go over their worksheets and determine how well each student did managing their money in our ‘real’ world.
I was impressed at how seriously the students would debate about certain purchases, haggle prices with the salespersons at the booths, and actually consider the real options that adults face every day. For example, students could purchase pets, but then once the pet is purchases, students would learn of the hidden costs- including vet bills and food.
I worked the TV/Internet/Phone booth, which were required of each student to purchase. I think I may have found a secret calling to be an electronics salesperson, since I convinced many to go for the smart phone over the free phone given with the plan!
I did manage to take note of some of my own financial habits during the fair, after reviewing the sheet given to students, that would help them keep track and organize their spending, I began to think that what I really need to do is write down every expense I have and allocate a certain amount of spending money I’m allowed for the week and so on. This kind of organizational skill is really important to learn at a young age because the students were so much more away of their finances when they saw the numbers in front of them! It’s amazing how just writing something down increases its effectiveness.
Overall I thought the fair was organized, helpful, and most of all FUN! And definitely something I would participate in again!
Erin King, VP of Unbanking