Financial Education Fair

Financial  Education Fair Teaches Decision-Making Skills To Students
Guadalupe Credit Union CEO Winona Nava works with students. Courtesy Photo
(Santa Fe) – Thanks to a grant from the National Credit Union Foundation, students in three northern New Mexico cities recently had the hands-on opportunity to learn about finances and how to calculate earnings and expenses in the real-world setting of Guadalupe Credit Union’s (GCU) CU 4 Reality™ Financial Education Fair. Staff and volunteers met with more than 1,050 high school seniors in Santa Fe, Taos and Mora to expose them to the important financial decisions they’ll need to make as they get older.
“Spending money has never been easier than it is today, especially for our young people,” Winona Nava, president and CEO of Guadalupe Credit Union, said. “Too many students are learning to live beyond their means, because only a fraction of them are learning to manage their personal finances in school. We felt a hands-on experiential learning exercise would help make it more real than just numbers in a book.”  According to the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, nearly a third of all high school seniors use at least one credit card, nearly half use ATM cards and more than three-quarters have a savings or checking account. However, just 20 percent of high school seniors graduate with any formal instruction in personal finance.
Diane Sandoval, Guadalupe Credit Union’s  Financial Empowerment coaching manager, said, “The CU 4 Reality curriculum creates a fun and interactive learning environment where students can practice specific financial management skills and learn early on the consequences of getting in over their head when it comes to financial matters. We had quite a few students who had to get new jobs or start over because of their initial spending decisions. The fair was a real wake-up call for some of the kids.”
Participating in a Reality Fair propels the students through the personal financial management process, including career selection, budgeting for housing, transportation, luxuries, and more. Each student receives a folder detailing his or her personal information specific to their career choice.
After calculating their take-home pay, they create a monthly spending plan as they progress through booths representing various expenses they may incur, including food, clothing, housing, transportation, insurance, home furnishings, savings, investments, entertainment and credit. Based on their lifestyle scenario, they will also see alternatives provided and make choices based on their own values, goals  and resources. “The reactions and feedback from the students was telling,” Nava said. “They said things like, ‘It’s better to stay in school so I can get a good job,’ ‘Now I know what my parents go through,’ and ‘I learned what you really need and don’t.’ GCU wants to fill the need we see for financial education and continue to provide the information these kids need to become strong, financially healthy adults.”
Special thanks to the non-GCU Reality Fair volunteers for helping make the fairs run smoothly, including Northern New Mexico Schools Credit Union, Zia Credit Union, CUNA Mutual Insurance, Horace Mann Insurance and the Credit Union Association of           New Mexico.