2015 Financial Fitness Fair at Kennebec Valley Community College:
Founded in 2004, Maine credit unions introduced a new concept in youth financial education through Financial Fitness – A Money Management Experience. This award-winning, half-day event targets high school juniors and seniors and is similar to the game of “LIFE,” where participating students are fast forwarded to the age of 22 and are given a career and monthly income and then have to visit booths associated with various expenses that the average adult is faced with each month. Costs, such as transportation, housing, clothing, food, student loans, insurance and several other everyday expenses, are filled in on a monthly budget form by each student. At the end of the Financial Fitness Fair, the goal is for students to have a monthly budget that does not exceed their monthly income.
Financial Fitness Fairs are a great way to teach teens how to manage their money before they begin their adult lives and no longer get “do-overs”. The fairs are an interesting supplement to the business and economics classes offered at Maine high schools; increasing students’ financial literacy in a fun and engaging environment outside of the classroom. Financial Fitness Fairs are hosted all across the state by various credit unions and thousands of Maine high school students participate each year. The school year of 2014/2015 was the busiest year, thus far, since the program’s inception!
As participants progress with their “spending” they find that sometimes they may have to backtrack and re-budget; learning that the fastest car or going out for dinner three nights a week may not have been the best choices for their respective financial situations. Students also have to tackle decisions such as renting an apartment versus owning a house and whether it’s worth spending less on groceries to afford entertainment and leisure activities. Even after all that they might not have any money left to put into emergency and retirement funds! Thanks to Financial Fitness Fairs high school students can get a kinder wake-up call as to how far an entry level salary can be stretched.