How can college debt nix or reduce a home purchase? How much does it cost to access television, internet and still call or text friends on a cellphone?
For about 175 area high school students, what things cost was rendered in real-life amounts during Tuesday’s fifth annual Financial Reality Fair, offered by the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association on the DeSales University campus in Upper Saucon Township.
“Today’s students have greater awareness and are better prepared but may not know the elements to prepare a budget and how much things actually cost,” said Kathleen Fey, executive director of the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association Foundation, which is based in Harrisburg.
Students arrive with a work and income assignment and then fill in the blanks – from housing, food and furniture to transportation, entertainment and such luxuries as manicures or owning a pet.
“This is real-world stuff,” said Gregg Laub, a Salisbury Township High School business education teacher.
Laub teaches “lifesmarts,” a full-year course required of all Salisbury students in order to graduate.
The class teaches students not only how to budget, but explains how credit and debt work, helps them create a resume and even requires them to fill out federal, state and local income tax forms.
What began in 2011 has grown to 65 Financial Reality fairs across Pennsylvania this year, with plans to expand.
Ben Orlemann, 15, of Salisbury Township said he hoped to leave the fair with a better understanding of how to manage money. The high school sophomore scanned his job assignment and income level.
“Now I have to build a budget,” he said.
Susan Phillips, vice president and chief information officer of People First Federal Credit Union in Allentown, said while talking about money isn’t the family taboo it once was, a practical money literacy gap remains.
“Young people take on credit cards and they don’t manage their debt, and the results can haunt them for years,” Phillips said.