Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Close to 5,000 high school students from 100 Maine high schools participated in one of the more than 25 Financial Fitness - Money Management Experience Fairs coordinated by Maine's credit unions during the 2012/13 school year. This represents a new record for participation and is an impressive 14% increase over the record set for the 2011/12 school year.
Founded in 2004, the Financial Fitness - A Money Management Experience is an interactive activity that is often compared to the game of 'Life'. Participants are given a career at the age of 22 with a monthly salary, and have to visit booths designed to mirror expenses in real-life including food, transportation, housing and credit. The objective is, after visiting all of the 11 or 12 booths, to either have a monthly spending plan that has a surplus or breaks even. Students have the opportunity to revise their spending plans multiple times as part of the exercise.
"It's about providing a learning opportunity for students to help them understand money management and personal finances. If one student learns something that they can take with them and make a different financial choice when confronted with it in real-life then we consider it a success. From what we are hearing, students have benefited a great deal so the time and effort that is put into coordinating these fairs is paying off for credit unions and consumers," explained Jon Paradise, AVP of Governmental & Public Affairs for the Maine Credit Union League.
Feedback from participants, teachers and parents has been overwhelmingly positive. One parent of a home schooled high school student remarked, "What credit unions are doing by offering these fairs provide lessons that my child can apply to the real-world right away." An 18 year-old high school senior at Marshwood High School, the site of a new fair this past year, said the Fair caused her to re-think her plans. "Based on my salary and my expenses, I am going to consider a different career path that will let me pay my bills."
At least one high school from every Maine county participated in one of the fairs during the 2012/13 school year, which included new fairs being held in Washington County, Erskine Academy and a fair specifically for home-schooled high school students.
As planning and preparations begin for the 2013/14 school year, Maine credit unions have begun reaching out to high schools to schedule fairs, including reaching out to new high schools to encourage them to consider hosting a fair or participating in an existing one.
The first award-winning Financial Fitness Fair of the 2013/14 school year is scheduled for early October at Portland High School. The Maine Credit Union League and Maine's credit unions are hoping to surpass the record set this past year in both the number of participants and number of fairs held.
For more more information about scheduling a fair or learning more about it, please click here.