By STEVEN XIE, sophomore
Designed to enhance financial literacy courses, the Reality Fair on May 23 made students more aware about the realities of money managing. The idea to institute this event came just as a statewide referendum on increasing financial literacy programs was held. In the words of NJ Credit Union volunteer Angel Santos, “The idea came up at the perfect time, and we were able to start it up at just the right moment. So far the feedback has been really positive, and we’re hoping that this sort of thing can continue to grow as years pass by.”
The Reality Fair consisted of a large mass of booths and tables, each offering several financial options for different facets of life as an adult. At one booth, students were jockeyed by a used-car salesman; another presented plans for financing a new sofa. Students traveled to all of the booths in order to acquire what they thought was necessary for life after school. They determined their projected expenses, and, of course, students who chose a comfortable lifestyle were met with looming bills and costs, while others who opted to live on less were able to save more. The money spent was then withdrawn from students’ bank deposits or credit cards. Finally, all of the students were given a chance to spin the Wheel of Reality, a small roulette which awarded students with either a fortunate windfall or additional expenses. After all of the costs were calculated, students sat down with a real financial adviser to discuss their results. Some were crestfallen to learn that they had exceeded their budget or had ended up saving a mere two dollars every month with their projected lifestyle. Junior Nishant Gidvani shared his thoughts: “I only had a mere grasp of the idea that living on your own would be difficult, but I realized that I was still inexperienced in financial needs. This taught me a lot.”
By creating a simulation of life after graduation, the Reality Fair gave students a firsthand look at the type of work necessary to make ends meet as an adult. The fair was an eye-opener for students of all grades, and it also gave them the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-life situation. New Jersey Credit Unions are already preparing for next year’s Reality Fair and are improving their program based upon the feedback they have received. As the Reality Fair returns for its third run next year, students are sure to be entertained and enlightened once again.