RACINE – Juniors from Park and Walden III high schools got a taste of reality Thursday morning at Reality Check Day.
Now in its 17th year, Reality Check Day is a personal finance exercise presented by Educators Credit Union (ECU). Each participating student is assigned “a life” that includes a career, a month’s salary, family status and a credit score – all loaded onto a personal computing device.
After a short briefing, the students are given about an hour to visit nine different “life stations”, staffed by volunteers, where they figure out how to pay for housing, transportation, food, clothing, child care, insurance, entertainment, etc.
Before getting started, Victor Frasher, ECU’s director of community engagement shared some sobering statistics:
- 78 percent of Americans are living “paycheck to paycheck”
- 21 percent have no retirement savings
- On average, a graduate of a post-high school educational program has $30,000 in student debt
“The goal is not to leave with the most money in your checkbook,” Frasher said of Reality Check Day. “It’s to get an idea of how expensive life really is.”
Sure enough, the Park and Walden students commented in brief feedback periods that the monthly cost of things like child care, auto loan payments, mortgages and rent were more than they’d imagined.
After the COVID-19 pandemic forced ECU to hold its Reality Check Day events virtually in 2021, the credit union this year resumed holding the events in person at about 20 locations throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.
Instead of staging Reality Check Day on a single day at a central site for Racine area high schools, ECU this year arranged with RUSD to hold the event on separate days at Case, Horlick and Park high schools. Students from REAL School were bussed to the session at Case earlier this week while Walden students attended Thursday’s session at Park.
Here are photos from Thursday’s Reality Check Day.
This article has been edited to correct the spelling of Victor Frasher’s last name.
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