Oct 23, 2019
On October 14, when many financial institutions closed for the federal holiday, Redwood Credit Union (RCU) closed for a different reason—to send its entire workforce out to give North Bay high school students a “bite” of financial reality.
RCU has been presenting its Bite of Reality financial education program at local high schools since 2013, but never on such a large scale. This year, more than 3,100 Sonoma, Marin, and Napa high schoolers gained practical financial skills in one impactful day.
“We’re so pleased at the positive community response to this program,” said Brett Martinez, RCU President and CEO. “Money management is an essential life skill for young people to learn, but because it’s not a high school graduation requirement, financial education differs greatly between schools. The Bite of Reality program helps fill in gaps.”
Martinez believes the program also sparks conversations at home about finances and household budgeting—important conversations and learning opportunities that might not happen otherwise.
State Senator Mike McGuire, Congressman Mike Thompson, and Congressman Jared Huffman were among elected officials attending the program presented by all 700 RCU employees across 15 North Bay high schools.
At each school, students were assigned a fictional occupation, salary, spouse and family, student-loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments—which they had to factor into fixed monthly budgets.
Next, they visited table-top stations, staffed by RCU employees, to purchase such everyday essentials as housing, transportation, food, clothing, household necessities, and day care.
During the process, many teens were surprised that balancing the cost of daily needs (food, gas, utilities, clothing, and childcare) against dreamy “wants” (fancy sports cars, trendy clothes, high-end housing and vacations) was harder than expected. Those who found themselves broke or in debt were sent to the credit union station for reality checks and help with balancing their budgets.
“I like how we had to pay off our credit, and how the credit union helped throughout the process,” one student said. “It was interesting, and I think every high school should do it.”
And while not all students may immediately apply their new financial insights, RCU employee Roger DeBeers—who attended an RCU Bite of Reality event as a student when he was in high school—is confident they will use it eventually.
“During high school, my concept of finance was limited to saving quarters in order to buy a bag of Hot Cheetos,” said the Maria Carrillo High School graduate. “When Bite of Reality came to my school, it didn’t suddenly give me financial literacy—but it did sow the seeds. When the time came to start making my own financial decisions about things like credit cards and car loans, I remembered what the program taught me.”
For more information about RCU’s Bite of Reality program, visit http://bit.ly/RCUbite.
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