Have you heard of the old saying, “Most people don’t plan to fail; they just fail to plan.” When it comes to money, this can be especially true. People without a plan for how and where they want to spend and save their money tend to find that it’s all gone before they know it and in most cases, adults don’t learn this until it’s their own money and situations.

Financial education is incredibly important to teach the young people in our lives. What we learn at a young age, tends to stick with us into adulthood. So, if you have bad money habits as a teen it will be hard to change your habits as a young adult.

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At CTCU, our goal is to provide young people with the tools they need to succeed at money through our Get REAL Reality Fairs. The program is a fun, hands-on way for students and young adults to learn about managing personal finances. Community members and credit union staff assist students in making decisions about everyday expenses and provide financial advice to help them keep a budget.

What does a Get REAL Reality Fair entail?

The financial education begins the entire week prior to the actual fair. Teachers are equipped with curriculum that will educate students on how to manage personal spending to meet financial goals. They will also learn about budgeting and strategies to minimize the impact of financial obstacles.

Students will explore how spending, saving, and values impact their finances. They will learn how to create SMART goals and make decisions using a six-step DECIDE process. Using these strategies, they will make their own plan to manage cash flow.  All in all, each student should be able to set measurable financial goals, create a budget, outline an action plan to manage spending and create a decision-making strategy for a major decision or purchase.

What should a student expect when walking into their high school gym, library, or classroom on the day of the reality fair?

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It’s Reality Fair day! The day that we’ve been building up to! Each student will walk into the fair armed with their knowledge of the week, a career that they have selected based on their personal interest. Each student is automatically transformed into college graduates with their first job out of the nest and a blank budget sheet.

The rules of the reality fair: there are twelve booths including housing, food, clothing, auto, insurance, financial aid, and more that the students will have to visit. Each booth has several pricing options based on the wants and needs of each student. For example, at the auto booth, students have the options of various new and used cars including: 2017 BMW Convertible, 2016 Chevy Silverado, or 2007 Chevy Cobalt, 2002 Honda Civic. As the students move from booth to booth, they will be filling out their budget sheets. While the students must visit each booth, they are not obligated to get anything, like pets or electronics.

After visiting each booth, students must spin the Wheel of Reality. The wheel can bring a gift of extra money, maybe found in your pocket or by way of Grandma or add salt to your budget by giving speeding ticket or getting an unexpected bill. The wheel offers students a glimpse of the reality of unexpected expenses and/or rewards.

_MG_2615johntylerrealityfair2017Afterwards, students will finally visit the credit counselors and see how their budget sheets stack up against real life. In many cases, students find that they overpay for luxury items like cars and phones. If the students are over budget, they are sent back to fix their expenses. In many cases, after the fair, students acknowledge the burden of poor finance skills. “The reality fair make me view my money differently. I will watch where and what I spend,” says a senior at John Tyler High School.

CTCU has held reality fairs for high school juniors and seniors all over East Texas including Mineola, Fruitvale, Tyler, Bullard and more. For more information, check out this video.  In 2016, CTCU was awarded with a grant from CUNA Mutual Group and National Credit Union Foundation to host the Get REAL Reality Fair.

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