What It's All About

New Jersey credit unions bring Financial Reality Fairs to students throughout the state of New Jersey. A Reality Fair is a fun, experiential way for students to learn about managing personal finances. The program is offered to high schools, middle schools, and colleges across the state at absolutely no cost to the schools. The program is sponsored by credit unions and is also supported by grant funds available through the New Jersey Credit Union Foundation. 

The Financial Reality Fair is a hands-on experience where students, after identifying their career choice and starting salaries, are provided a budget worksheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, and food. Of course, there are many temptations for additional spending and students must learn to balance their wants and needs to live on their own. After they have visited all the booths, students will balance their budget, and then sit down with a Financial Counselor to review their standing. The Fair is a unique opportunity for each student to experience some of the financial challenges they will face when they start life on their own.

An important component to a responsible financial lifestyle is saving. In the Financial Reality Fair experience, students meet with Financial Counselors who help them explore the importance of planning for future needs and preparing for future financial challenges through savings. While the Fair will tempt students to spend their income on “fun”, the Financial Counselors will bring the focus back to saving and thrift practices.

New Jersey schools are now required to provide high school students with financial literacy. A Reality Fair is a unique way for credit unions to help schools fulfill this requirement – allowing students to have fun while learning about finances in a hands-on, real-life way – while also teaching them the benefits of joining a credit union.

Since its inception in 2010, the Financial Reality Fairs program has reached over 8,600 students. In early 2013, the program modified its offering to be relevant to college students at the New Jersey City University and Ocean County College as well as for the junior high school students at the Thomas Wallace Junior Middle School. 

As of June 2017, New Jersey credit unions have held a total of 68 Reality Fairs across the state.

 

Reality Fair Grants

To help credit unions off-set a portion of the cost of hosting a Reality Fair, the New Jersey Credit Union Foundation has grant available for NJ CU League member credit unions to apply for. The Foundation will consider grants for up to 50% of the cost of a New Jersey Credit Union Reality Fair up to a max of $2,500. The total cost of each Fair is based on the number of students participating; the cost is $12 per student. The Foundation will consider grant applications for up to two (2) fairs per credit union per school year. 

Download the grant application here.