Get REAL Financial Reality Fair
FHLB Des Moines Member: Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union, Alaska USA FCU, Credit Union 1, Northern Skies FCU, Tongass FCU, Denali FCU, ALPS FCU, Spirit of Alaska FCU, True North FCU, Aloha Pacific FCU, HawaiiUSA, FCU, Hawaiian Tel FCU and Kauai Government Employees FCU.
Location: Matanuska-Susitna Valley, Alaska, originally, then spreading across the states of Alaska and Hawaii.
Reach: The program has reached an increasing number of participants since it debuted in 2011. In 2017, it served 5,632 students across 99 events in Alaska and Hawaii.
The Need: With no economic or personal finances standards or requirements in Alaska, high school seniors face the possibility of graduating high school with little to know knowledge of how to handle finances and a budget when they turn 18.
Key Players: Matanuska Susitna Borough School District (MSBSD), Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union (MVFCU), the Financial Reality Foundation (FRF)
The Results: MVFCU created the Get REAL Financial Reality Fair, a fun, hands-on way for students and young adults to learn about managing personal finances. The program launched locally in 2011 at a community auditorium and hosted nearly 70 students from the ages of 17-20. The program has grown in scope and geography every year, and by 2017, six Alaskan credit unions sponsored 71 events while six Hawaiian credit unions sponsored 28 events. By the end of the school year, 5,632 students were reached—64% of the graduating class in Alaska and 16% in Hawaii. The FRF has set a goal of reaching all high school seniors in Alaska.
All young adults are faced with the challenge of learning to budget and handle their finances on their own after graduating high school. As a leader in financial education for young adults for more than 60 years, Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union (MVFCU) designed the Get REAL Financial Reality Fair program for students to experience real life budgeting in a simulation that models what it is like in the real world.
At a fair, students get a feel for real-life budgeting by playing a hands-on game of Life. At the start of every event, each student receives a budget worksheet that includes a fictitious future life scenario with a monthly salary, relationship status, number of dependents and obligations such as credit card and student loan debt.
After completing the worksheet, students stop at different stations to purchase housing, a vehicle, a cell phone plan, utilities, insurance, groceries, personal needs, fitness, clothing, fun activities and incidentals. Along the way, they are tempted to spend more, so they must learn to balance wants and needs to stay within their income. Credit scores and unexpected life events also come into play. Each student’s goal at the end of the fair is to stay within budget and have money left in their pocket after paying bills and ideally saving 10 percent of their income.
The event has been a great success, growing in scope and geography every year. Other credit unions reached out to MVFCU to reach students in their regions, including students in “bush” communities that are difficult to reach, often even lacking road or ferry access. MVFCU developed a turnkey package valued at $3,500 to cooperating credit unions, extending their outreach and community networking. School administrators praise the efficiency of the Get REAL fairs, reporting that two hours of fair is the equivalent of six weeks of classroom time-—a win for students, parents, and teachers alike.