What Is CU4Reality?
What is CU4Reality?Comment
I could give you a textbook definition of CU4Reality, a parent’s definition, or both. I’ll give you both. The text book version is this: CU4Reality is a financial literacy initiative that offers students a perspective of the benefits and problems of personal finance decisions relative to their career choices. The Mom’s definition is simpler: CU4Reality is an eye-opener.
I have worked many CU4Reality Fairs and have seen, first-hand, the outcome of eyes opened. I will share my experience on that a little later. My middle school daughter went through the financial literacy program at her school this year and it was awesome experience. She and her classmates attended the CU4Reality Fair recently, and in her words, “had a blast!”
CU4Reality is ideally suited for middle-school students, 7th and 8th graders to be exact. Some schools choose to introduce it Freshmen-year in high school. The curriculum, which is easy to follow and easy to read, directs students along a series of performance tasks that includes Career Selection, Checkbook and Budgets, Savings and Investments, and culminates with a Financial Education Fair.
Career Assessment and Selection
Career options are generated for the students with an online assessment that is based upon self-reflection of interests and aptitudes. Students research their options to identify typical income levels, work conditions, and academic requirements for their desired career choice process.
Through the career selection process, students are encouraged to project out 10 years into their future to describe, in some detail, the type of lifestyle they foresee for themselves. Many students discover their lifestyle can be afforded by the income generated by their career choice. In addition, students are introduced to resume writing and job applications.
As a parent, I’m elated at this point. When my daughter did her career assessment, the results showed a career in nursing (which I’m sure I’ve managed to influence—who doesn’t want to have a child in the healthcare field?). I was a bit concerned the results pinpointed “psychiatry” nurse, to which my daughter confirmed to me there is a direct correlation to her choice and her mother. Regardless of her motivation, as a parent I love that she is exploring career options based upon her interests and aptitudes and that she is starting the process in 8th grade!
Checkbook and Budgets.
Imagine the excitement of receiving your first paycheck, or in the case of CU4Reality, your first paystub. Then imagine the shocking moment of seeing a quarter of your pay deducted for taxes. In this portion of the curriculum, students experience real life scenarios of earning money, making deposits and withdrawals, planning a budget, and balancing a checkbook.
To be completely honest, I have not discussed this portion with my daughter, but I will. This is what I love about CU4Reality. As a parent, if we miss it, the curriculum has it covered. I am planning on opening up a Teen Checking this summer, as I’m hoping a summer job is on the horizon for her. This is a great point in her life to discover the responsibilities of earning money, getting a debit card with her Teen Checking account, and monitoring her balance online (or on the Triangle mobile app).
Savings and Investments.
At this portion of the curriculum students are tasked with understanding the value of saving some of their income and investing it. Students can participate in stock purchasing projects whereby five stocks are tracked monthly during the school year. This is a great exercise to do in school or as an outside activity with your student.
Financial Educational Fair.
Like a typical fair, the CU4Reality Fair, which culminates the end of the year curriculum, is fun and exciting. Vendors and credit union staff work the variety of “life” stations for students to decide upon such purchases as electronics, transportation, housing, pets, food services, etc. In preparation for the fair, students are given their specific monthly budget form associated with their career choice and they go “shopping” during the event.
Each station is visited and a budget allocation is made. At the end of their station visits, if income exceeds expenses, the student receives a “pass” grade; if income is less than expenses, the student must revisit some stations to make spending adjustments or get a part time job. Credit Counselors monitor this stage to offer guidance on these selections.
Now to share my epiphany concerning the CU4Reality curriculum and how it ties into the fair: if students do not complete their career assessments at the beginning of the program, they are “unemployed” and face many dire circumstances. Isn’t that like life?
I recognize there are unfortunate circumstances of global and local economics that influence job loss, but if someone chooses not to participate (or do their work) there are related consequences.
The consequences are eye-opening for many. Having staffed several fairs, I am always amazed to watch how students react to their personalized choices. Some students are projected to make $65,000 a year, while other students make $20,000 a year. Tough decisions are made, but I believe these are reality checks for some kids. Perhaps the most impactful result for CU4Reality is this: students use this experience to plan their career path. As a parent, I love that take-away.