High schoolers at the Ninth Street Boys and Girls Club of the Truckee Meadows received a financial reality check at a Bite of Reality, a real-life financial simulation that teaches students how to properly manage their expenses. Kids were given jobs and families they were responsible in providing for.
“We live in a society that glories consumption,” said Christina Moses, Great Basin Federal Credit Union’s human resources generalist. “We’re here to provide education to these kids. We want to show them that money is finite; no one has an endless supply.”
Boys and Girls Club members, ranging in age 14 to 17 participated in Thursday’s event, learning about budgeting in the real world. The participants were provided with portfolios that stated their occupation, their monthly earning without taxes and their monthly student loan bill. Some of the portfolios include spouses and children that the participants had to consider into their spending. Teens then stopped at different booths, purchasing life necessities such as transportation and housing based on what they could afford. Volunteers from area credit unions manned each booth, offering advice and pushing the most expensive option on participants. A credit union volunteer randomly approached kids, handing them “an emergency,” a bill that had unexpectedly surfaced or payments on a car repair after a recent accident.
“The kids have to make choices just like in the real world,” said Moses. “For example, at the transportation table, the kids have a choice of buying a luxury car, a modest minivan or a bus pass. We look at how much they make a month and help them budget. If they overspend, they visit the credit union booth and we help them fix their finances.”
A Bite of Reality was put on by the Richard Meyers Johnson Foundation and several northern Nevada credit unions -- Greater Nevada Credit Union, Great Basin Federal Credit Union, Frontier Financial Credit Union and Financial Horizon Credit Union.
“This generation, 25- to 35-year olds, are the worst in history with the amount of bankruptcy,” said Kate Robinson, a volunteer with Nevada Credit Union League’s northern Nevada chapter. “Twenty years ago, 20 percent of the population was regularly putting away in savings. Today, two percent are saving.”
“We want these high schoolers to learn financial literacy, especially with the economic collapse,” said Stacey Walquist, the Boys and Girls Club Leadership in Training coordinator.
Walquist is one of the developers of the Boys and Girls Club Leadership in Training (LIT) program. Teens 14 years and older can volunteer their time around the club during the summer. After completing a certain amount of hours, a teen can get employed through the Boys and Girls Club or a participating sponsor, receiving a paycheck that they’re encouraged to put away and save. The Boys and Girls Club partnered with United Federal Credit Union, creating savings account for the participants in the LIT program.
“We’re trying to make credit unions a part of these kids culture,” said Walquist. “A lot of kids follow their parents’ belief system. They end up not trusting banks. Banks are more than just putting money into an account. We want these kids to know that they can be in the financial mainstream.”
The Boys and Girls Club staff heard about the Bite of Reality program and reached out to Great Basin Credit Union.
”“Credit unions have a “people helping people” philosophy,” said Robinson. “We want to empower the youth, especially today, and teach them how to make wise decisions.”
Participants laughed as volunteers pressured them into buying mansions and designer clothing. At the food and grocery booth, Greater Nevada Credit Union volunteer Alyssa Johnson insisted that the kids eat out everyday, spending their paychecks on steak and lobster dinners for their families.
“The kids engage better with an activity like this rather than sit in a classroom,” said Robinson. “Hopefully, something from today will stick with these kids.”
“I learned how to write a check,” said Curtis Ortega, a sophomore at Reed High School. “I have a better appreciation for my parents now.”
Ortega “works” as a stockbroker, making $3,526 a month, is “married” and is “parenting” a newborn named Andre. He chose a mid-priced hybrid car -- “no one wants to breathe in chemicals or smog,” said Ortega. For his “son,” Ortega chose the most expensive day care, “spending” $1,290 a month.
“We do something like this in health class but not as intense. I wish something like this was available at school,” said Ortega. “It’s really fun and I like working with money.”
For more information about the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows, visit www.bgctm.org.