On May 3 UMe Credit Union wrapped up their UMe Bite of Reality event at Burroughs High School in order to help teens make financial decisions and give them a better understanding of the challenges of living on a budget. UMe first tested the event out earlier this year in February at Burbank High School for a group of National Academy of Finance students and proceeded to introduce it to Burroughs after it’s huge success.
The Bite of Reality program is created for Credit Unions by the RMJ Foundation and is a hands-on simulation app that gives teens a taste of real-world financial realities. The students were each assigned a fictional persona complete with an occupation, salary, spouse and family, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments. The students then walked around to various table-top stations to “purchase” housing, transportation, food, clothing, household necessities, day care, and other needs. Most importantly, the simulation includes a “credit union” table to help the students with their financial needs, guiding them on how to budget and successfully navigate finances in the real world.
At the transportation table, students dealt with a pushy “car salesperson” that encouraged them to choose brand new vehicles versus a used car or bus pass while over at the housing table a commission-based “realtor” sold them on the biggest house with the most rooms. There was even a “Fickle Finger of Fate” that gave students unexpected “expenses” or “windfalls” just like in real life. The students soon learned to weigh their wants versus their needs.
“Now that we know that the students enjoy the event, and even more important, learn something, our goal is to make it a regular event at both high schools,” said UMe Credit Union CMO & Vice President of Marketing, Anita Hutchinson, who helped organize and bring the events to both of Burbank’s high schools. “One of the students told me: ‘Thank you, this really opened my eyes about a lot of things I had no idea about!’ This fits in with where we started. Our credit union was founded by a couple of Burbank teachers back in 1940. We operated out of a teacher’s desk drawer for years, eventually moving to a teacher’s house so people could access their money after school hours,” added Hutchinson. UMe Credit Union bought their first building on Magnolia Blvd. in 1969 and have continuously showed their support for the Burbank community and school district.
According to a WalletLiterarcy Survey by WalletHub, California ranks near the bottom of all the states in “Financial Knowledge and Education.” “Most of the students who participated in our simulation were shocked by what it costs to survive in the real world: cars, cell phones, utilities, personal care-all normal, everyday expenses that need to be budgeted for,” says Hutchinson. The students provided positive feedback regarding the program and many students commented that they learned something new. UMe Credit Union’s goal for the program is to get our Burbank students to rise to the top of the ranking, making sure they’re prepared for real life beyond high school and college. “If we can give them a good knowledge base, we can help ensure that they avoid stress and enter adulthood more prepared for success!” adds Hutchinson. Surveys shows that students report feeling the least prepared to tackle their finances and are particularly stressed about it. The good news is that as financial knowledge increases, the stress over financial decision-making decreases.
According to a 2017 EverFi survey of 104,000 incoming college students, there is a general lack of financial knowledge/skills — and students are:
+ accruing high levels of student loan and credit card debt
+ displaying a poor understanding of basic financial topics
+ experiencing financial stress and anxiety
In the recap after the simulation ended, UMe asked students to share what they learned… and some of the answers were:
+ there’s a difference between wants and needs
+ kids are expensive
+ you can choose how to spend your money, don’t always take what a salesperson tells you as what’s best for you
+ ask questions
+ just because you make money doesn’t mean you will have enough to do everything you want