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CUs Provide Dose Of Reality In Three States
MADISON, Wis. (3/8/13)--Credit unions in Connecticut, New Jersey and California recently provided high school and college students with a sample of everyday financial life by hosting reality fairs.

Among the booths at a reality fair in Connecticut was EZ Loans, representing high-cost credit providers who try to tempt students to overspend. (Photo provided by Connecticut Credit Union League)
The reality fairs helped credit unions kick off April as Financial Literacy Month.

More than 550 students from 22 high schools in Connecticut spent the morning of March 26 learning the challenge of living within a budget at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. Students chose their careers in advance of the fair, researching starting salaries and how much additional school is required to begin their chosen professions, the Credit Union League of Connecticut said. Each student received a personalized budget worksheet based on their individual goals.

New Jersey City University students stop by the stations manned by credit union volunteers to make monthly purchases during a reality fair hosted by Liberty Savings FCU, Jersey City, N.J . (Photo provided by New Jersey Credit Union League)
Representatives from 25 Connecticut credit unions and 15 local businesses volunteered at the fair.

Among the booths at the fair was EZ Loans, which represented high-cost credit. "Those guys over there [EZ Loans] told me they were helping me, but I had to get a part-time job just to pay the money back," one student said. "I was doing okay until I talked to them."

The fairs were indeed a dose of reality for the students. "This is harder than I expected," said one participant.

In New Jersey, Liberty Savings FCU, Jersey City, sponsored a reality fair manned by about 30 credit union volunteers for New Jersey City University students, the New Jersey Credit Union League said (The Daily Exchange April 3).

Khemarak Chor speaks with Leticia Mata, Orange County's CU assistant vice president of community education and development, about finances during a Bite of Reality held at St. Mary's Hospital in Long Beach, Calif. (Photo provided by California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues)
The program, initially developed for high school students, was modified for the university's mostly non-traditional student population. The median age of a freshman there is 26 years old.

Students had the option to provide their credit score, rent payment, number of dependents, anticipated student loan balance and checking and savings account balances upon graduation. Their personal financial information was then entered into their customized budget worksheets.

Credit union volunteers also received help from the school's FLEX (Financial Literacy Expert) team, who helped modify the program for the school and helped with registration.

In California, more than 40 teens from the Long Beach area participated in Bite of Reality, a hands-on simulation program offered by the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation and the California and Nevada Youth Involvement Network, which supports financial education for young people in Nevada and California

The event was held at St. Mary's Hospital, Long Beach, and hosted by the RMJ Foundation, the Long Beach branch of Orange County's CU and St. Mary's social education group, EM3.

Students received an occupation, salary, spouse and family, student loan debt, credit card debt and medical insurance payments. They visited stations to "purchase" housing, transportation, food, clothing, household necessities, day care and more. A "credit union" assisted with financial needs. Students were also challenged with unexpected expenses and windfalls.
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