Helping Students Get a Dose of Financial Reality

Tammy Lamb at Financial Reality Fair, Cheshire High School

Many high school students can’t wait until they are “grown-ups” and can finally do all the fun things grown-ups get to do like go on vacations, drive nice cars and live in fancy houses. Except, well, that’s not quite how things typically end up. 

For hundreds of students at Cheshire High School, they learned a tough lesson in how money works and what to really expect once they go out into the world on their own. The Financial Reality Fairs, created as a joint effort by Credit Union League of Connecticut and several credit unions, are designed to give high school students a dose of reality when it comes to real-world finances and making limited funds stretch to cover grown-up expenses.

Each student is assigned a profession, starting salary and budget worksheet. They travel to different booths set up to represent common expenses including housing, transportation, food, pets and more, like unexpected expenses. At each booth, a student must calculate what makes sense for them to spend given their salary and expected other expenses. Once they finish, they sit with a Financial Counselor to review the results.

Tammy Lamb, Bailey Scarano’s Supervisor of Audits and Credit Union Services, has been volunteering with these financial reality fairs across the state for several years. She hopes to help students receive a much-needed dose of reality when it comes to what life is really like. “As the Lead Volunteer at the cell phone booth, I instruct the other volunteers on how to work with the students. It’s our job to sell, sell, sell to the students, to show them the pressures they’ll experience in the real world.”

Tammy has also served as a Financial Counselor, reviewing their budget worksheets with groups of two or three students at a time to discuss their financial strategies and offer tips. “It’s a valuable experience for the students, one I think all students should go through. I enjoy working with them and helping them learn the importance of financial budgeting and planning.”

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