About 600 Racine Unified high school students got a taste of financial reality Wednesday (Oct. 26) at Educators Credit Union’s annual Reality Check Day.
The event, described as “a month in the life of being financially independent,” gives students first-hand experience in making key spending decisions on every day items like housing, transportation, insurance, food and child care. Reality Check Day has been offered over the past 10 years in the Racine area, according to Victor Frasher, Educators Credit Union director of community engagement. ECU staff and volunteers hold Reality Check Day at more than a dozen schools throughout southeast Wisconsin.
The students arrived by bus at Roma Lodge where each received a life assignment sheet – containing their occupation, marital status, family status, after-tax monthly income and credit score. Each student was also given a checkbook register and a debit card to use toward their monthly expenses. The ideal scenario at the end of the exercise was to have an ending checkbook balance of $0 to $100.
After a briefing session, it was off to more than an hour of “reality” in the Roma Lodge ballroom where about 50 volunteers were at tables – each the site of a spending decision.
As students quickly discovered, one spending decision could easily affect another decision. And, a string of poorly planned purchases could force a student to run out of money – before the end of the month!
To make the exercise even more interesting, students were encouraged to spin the wheel of fate to find out if they would pick up – or lose- unexpected money! The reactions? “Oh, being an adult is hard!”