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Arkansas CUs to Bring Financial Reality Fairs to their Communities
Friday, April 11, 2014 6:55 AM

Arkansas Reality Fairs

Local teens and adults alike will soon have the opportunity to gain helpful knowledge and skills that will empower them to take greater control of their personal finances, thanks to Arkansas credit unions. The South Central Chapter of Credit Unions hosted a reality fair event April 7 in Malvern, Ark, which was attended by some 100 credit union professionals from across the state, as well as school officials, and civic leaders. Ann Clemmer, who is running for the 2nd District Congress Seat in the United States House of Representatives, was also among participants. 

Financial reality fairs are hands-on events that guide participants through the personal financial management process, including budgeting, saving and investing in a simulated real-world environment. At the April 7 reality fair, participants completed the CU 4 Reality Fair. Each participant was given a budget sheet, which listed an occupation and a salary.  Federal income tax, social security, Medicare, and state taxes were subtracted, and the remainder was what the participant had to budget for the month.  Booths were set up to represent different expenses, and participants moved through the space and spent their allotted monthly income.

Although Clemmer said says there weren’t any big surprises going through the financial reality fair, it did reinforce for her the importers of higher education.

“I’ve lived on this size budget before [referring to the budget she was assigned for the reality fair], and I know it’s hard,” she said. “I’m looking at this [budget sheet] thinking that I didn’t have a student loan.  It makes me, especially as a college teacher, realize how important it is to impress upon students how important it is to finish college on time and not spend that excess loan money.”

Arkansas Reality FairsThe South Central Chapter recently received a grant from the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation to purchase the program materials for the CU 4 Reality Fair, as well as the Retirement Fair.  The Cornerstone Credit Union League is able to make the CU 4 Fairs available to credit unions and chapters because of support received from the Cornerstone Foundation, the Friends of Consumer Freedom and the National Credit Union Foundation. 

“The financial reality fairs can be used in schools; in battered women’s shelters and other non-profits.  It can be used in churches.  It can be used by small businesses.  It is for anyone who needs to understand, at a real, hands-on level, how to manage money,” noted Tandie Kenser, president of the South Central Arkansas Chapter and manager of Garland County Educators FCU. Knowing how to do that can change a person’s life.”

Lana Shewmaker, instructional facilitator for Hot Springs High School in Hot Springs, Ark. and a participant in the April 7 event, says the CU 4 Reality Fair is a good reality check for students who need to be taught the importance of prioritizing expenditures.

“Many high school students think that they will be driving BMW’s and living in the finest homes because that’s what they aspire for, but that’s not the reality of where it begins,” said Shewmaker. “The CU 4 Reality Fair is a reality check for students who need to be taught the importance of prioritizing expenditures. They can’t go out and buy a car first. They need to buy the necessities first and then buy the luxuries.”

Dr. Stephanie Nehus, director of Special Projects and Secondary Curriculum for the Hot Springs School District and a reality fair participant, has already asked Garland County Educators’ FCU and Diamond Lakes FCU to hold a CU 4 Reality Fair at Hot Springs High School for the graduating class on May 2. 

The April 7 CU 4 Reality Fair Event was such a success that a Retirement Fair is already planned for Sept. 15.