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CU System
Illinois league Financial fairs a reality in state
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (9/7/11)--Several interactive financial reality fairs, hosted this year by Illinois credit unions and chapters and the Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL), are providing information about money matters to students heading back to school. Fairs allow participants to make mistakes--and suffer the consequences of their decisions--in a realistic, but safe, environment. During a fair, a growing trend in teen financial education, students assume the role of an adult with a career, income and family situation--single or married, with or without children. Students make choices about how they will spend their money on needs--such as housing, food, clothing and transportation--and wants--such as home decor, leisure activities and optional purchases. Unexpected expenses and income from outside sources also are included in the fair to simulate real life. The goal is for participants to have enough income to pay for all of their monthly expenses with funds going into short- and long-term savings. The events attract large groups with several hundred students to small groups of 10 to 30 students. Fairs are attended by teens, pre-teens and young adults aged 12 to 20. ICUL conducted two financial reality fairs earlier this year. The first was for about 75 teens at the Naperville Public Library during Money Smart Week in April. The second was at Covenant United Church of Christ in South Holland for nearly 100 teens in July. Volunteers from local credit unions assisted at each event. At least four sources in the credit union community provide materials for financial reality fairs. The Credit Union National Association offers Mad City Money, the Credit Union Museum offers CU4Reality, and the Connecticut Credit Union League and Harbor One CU, Brockton, Mass., each offer their own guidebooks. In addition to the credit union sources, other organizations have created similar programs, such as University of Illinois Extension’s “Welcome to the Real World” and Junior Achievement's “Finance Park.” “Teens respond well to the interactive nature of a financial reality fair,” said Melanie Murphy, ICUL manager of member services. “Most of them are surprised at how challenging it is to live within their means.”


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