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Cosden FCU Hosts CU4 Reality Fairs for Students at Coahoma ISD
Friday, May 11, 2018 7:00 AM

Cosden FCU Hosts CU4 Reality Fairs for Students at Coahoma ISD

Cosden Federal Credit Union has been hosting CU4 Reality Fairs this year, with the goal of increasing financial literacy and giving youths a leg-up as they move forward into young adulthood and independent living.

Coahoma ISD students in grades 8 through 12 participated in an April CU4 Reality Fair. Weeks prior to the fair, students were offered a list of careers to choose from and completed a pre-fair survey to evaluate their existing knowledge about credit and overall finance. On the day of the fair, they were handed a budget worksheet that showed their monthly income before and after taxes and space to calculate fixed, variable, and luxury expenses. Their net income is based on U.S. industry standards for their chosen career.

“They have their fixed expenses of things they have to buy like a house, a car, student loans, and insurance,” said Cosden FCU's CEO Laurie Barraza. “Then they have their variable expense like utilities, food. They can also spend money on discretionary items, luxury items. They don’t have to buy those, but they can if they want.”

Participating students must visit each station in the fair, and although they do not have to purchase any luxury items with their money, the volunteers are told to be very good salesmen, Barraza said. “When they go into Best Buy, those employees are not going to let them leave without a TV,” she said. “We tell our volunteers to be a really good salesman, and the kids have to decide if they can afford it or not.”

Once through all the stations, students calculate their expenses to see if they have a net gain or loss at the end of the month.

“After that, they go spin the Wheel of Reality and see if they have an unexpected windfall or unexpected expense,” Barraza said. “They may have a profit at the end of the month, but if the hot water heater goes out then they are in the negative. Then the financial advisors will visit with them and go through their expenses.”

After subtracting his monthly expenses from his income, Keegan Dobbs walked away from the fair with one major lesson: “being an adult is not fun.” The Coahoma High School junior, who chose the military as his career path, did make thrifty spending decisions. He walked away with a net income of $230 for the month.

However, fellow student Jonathon Schneider learned that, although a surgeon's income can be on the high end of the wage scale, student loans can take a large bite out of his monthly budget. “I went over my budget,” he said. “Student loans really got me. I learned I need to be more cautious with my money.”

“It really opens their eyes and helps to prepare them for what they face when they get out of high school,” said Barraza.

Overall, Barraza said the CHS reality fair was a success in demonstrating how essential strong financial skills are to a successful life. She added the fair could not be held without the turnout of community volunteers.

“We would not be able to do this without these local businessmen and businesswomen, retired teachers, and Rotary members,” Barraza said. “We don’t have the manpower.”

“The students learned a very good lesson,” she said. “They learned living expenses cost much more than they expected. They also realized they may need to think about what occupations they want to pursue after graduation and realized maybe they will want to change their career to something that can provide more financial security. It was a huge success. The volunteers had a blast in interacting with the kids.”

For more information about Cosden Federal Credit Union, please visit cosden.org.