2023 Texas Trust Credit Union Reality Fair

2023 Texas Trust Credit Union Reality Fair
Posted on 12/08/2023
2023 Texas Trust Credit Union Reality Fair"I'm broke!" Ricky, a senior at DeSoto High School exclaimed.

On Wednesday, November 29, 2023, 150 students from several DeSoto Independent School District campuses attended the Texas Trust Credit Union Reality Fair hosted by NXT Gen and College Driven GEAR UP, district college access grants.

“This is an opportunity for you to see how money and budgeting works," said Nathan Jenkins, DeSoto ISD GEAR UP coordinator, addressing students in the Bluebonnet Room at the DeSoto Civic Center.

Chanel Truitt, a site coordinator for GEAR UP, spoke to the students, “Having money and knowing what to do with it while you have it in your hands and creating generational wealth is what this is about today.”

The fair’s purpose was to teach students monthly budgeting practices - with a catch.

Upon entry, each student was provided a clipboard with a fictitious scenario that contained an occupation, a child, and varying monthly expenses. Students were free to choose any lifestyle they wanted. The catch was that students had to have money left over at the end of the month.

Lifestyle options ranged from high-end housing, expensive vehicles, and even a savings account. Personal care was also included with prices ranging from high-end make-up at $179 to gym memberships at just $15 per month.

In Ricky's scenario, he was a File Clerk with a daughter named Mia. His scenario left him in debt because of a huge student loan payment. “I already cut out going to the movies, TV, toys, and having a hamster.” For now, it seems his daughter is feeling the brunt of the financial setback.

Dr. Calvin Green, DeSoto ISD College Driven GEAR UP project director, spoke of the student’s wants vs. needs, “When students come in, they always run to the transportation and housing tables first. They want the big house or the nice car, but they always revisit those tables as their last stations because they have a dose of reality. They usually say, ‘I can’t get that nice house - I may have to get an apartment if I want that nice car.’ “

Michael Green, West Middle School College Driven GEAR UP site coordinator, assisted a student with her budget by explaining, "Today, you can go back and erase it but in real life, once you spend it, it’s gone!"

Dr. Green spoke of the day’s event, “We have partnered with Texas Trust Credit Union and we’re hosting our annual Reality Fair. Along with NXT Gen and GEAR UP, we’ve invited 12th and 8th graders to our financial literacy event.”

Toni Nichols, Texas Trust Credit Union, Public Relations Manager mentions student’s typical behavior about everyday purchases, “Kids see McDonald’s or new clothes they want to wear so they tell their parents - and somehow it happens. Well, this gives kids the numbers behind it all: how much money is being brought in and the ‘magic’ parents do to get those things for them.”

Nichols watched students move from table to table writing - then quickly erasing - monthly expenses. At the Technology table, options to have Amazon Prime, a Playstation subscription, a cell phone, and even internet were provided. Each line item consisted of an individual cost just like in real life. Another table covered clothing expenses: both luxury and bargain prices were provided for students to choose from.

Dari'yale, an 8th grader at Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy, had difficulty with her finances, "I've had to revisit Personal Care and Clothing. Also, my transportation is $664." In Dari'yale's scenario, she had a dual-income household: a police officer and a speech pathologist. "I'm learning how much life costs - like food! You're going to be eating for 30 days this month so you have to buy more and more and more." Although Dari'yale was still calculating her finances, she didn't have a great outlook for the month, "I have a lot of debt!" If this were her real-life situation, she already had a backup plan, "I would start walking more instead of using the car and cutting off entertainment, cable TV and satellite - but not my Netflix and Spotify."

"I could never imagine childcare would cost that much!" Jhayse, an 8th grader at Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy, commented about his scenario with an Aircraft Mechanic and a Roofer. "Childcare is way more expensive than Technology and Personal Care."

Helen, a Senior at DeSoto High School, was also surprised at the cost of childcare, "I knew it was expensive, but it’s REALLY expensive! It’s $736 a month!” In her fictitious scenario, Helen spoke of her temporary new life, “I have a newborn here. I don’t really have time to dine out so I’m mainly getting groceries and cooking at home. Dining out is unnecessary for me.”

Nallely, an 8th grader at Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy, was an Advertising Manager in her scenario, "So far, it looks like it's going pretty well." Nallely thought of additional options to save money if the need arose, "Maybe I'd ask for a raise or get a side job. Maybe give up something of mine and just try to figure out something and manage the money correctly just to make ends meet since I already have a child."

Lena, a Senior at DeSoto High School, had a Receptionist’s scenario at a claims adjuster company. Her monthly income is $4,582 per month and has one child, “I wasn’t surprised about childcare costs, but what really surprised me the most was technology.” Lena says she spent almost $225 per month on tech expenses, “That’s almost how much my groceries are!”

Kristyn, an 8th grader at West Middle School, had to revisit the Housing station, "I was most surprised by Housing. I know it's a lot and I probably can't afford it right now in real life." Kristyn managed to stay within her allotted budget, others weren't so lucky.

As students calculated their monthly expenses, the purpose of the event was beginning to sink in, “I have $2 left!?” someone shouted. “That’s the reality setting in for some of them - especially the seniors.” Dr. Green explained, “This is an instrumental event especially for them because they’re getting ready to do their FASFA applications for college. It encourages them to really think about what their career choices and pathways are possibly going to be when they get to college - and $2 may actually be what you have in real life once you complete your budget.”

Just before students could finish calculating their final expenses, they had to spin a Wheel of Reality. This wheel included financial windfalls and misfortunes. Monetary gains included: “Sold an item online, +$125” and “Bonus at work, +$600”. Expenses to their budgets ranged from a Sam’s Membership of -$75 to a -$1,000 student loan payment.

At the end of his month, Jhayse had $1,866 leftover even after spinning the Wheel of Reality, "It cost me $250 because I was late on my rent and I got penalized for it."

As for Ricky and Mia, his 'daughter', he was grateful it was just a scenario, “This event is helping me out with budgeting in the future - especially if I want a house or an apartment with a friend."

Lena’s luck continued when she spun the Wheel of Reality, “I got $150!” Her ‘birthday gift’ left her with almost $2,000 at the end of the month. “I already budget in my life, I don’t put away 10%, I put about 20%.”

Helen was left with $1,238 at the end of the month, “I was able to pay off my debt of $987 in full, instead of doing the payments every month.” She commented on the educational value the event had on her, “This really helped me a lot and it gave me a real-life perspective - outside of just thinking about a budget.”

Dari'yale smiled as she spoke, "I'm very grateful for having this scenario put together for us. It makes us think for our future so I can work hard in school and be ready for the future."

Nallely's thoughts focused on her future, "This gives an outlook on life. In reality, this could be someone's life. It's a good opportunity for how we're going to live in the future. It's a great experience and I'm enjoying it!"

"I think this is a great use of our time. A lot of kids don't get this opportunity and most of them end up in debt," Jhayse said. He learned of others' misfortunes on the news and took it to heart, "NFL and NBA players usually lose a lot of money because they don't know how to manage their money."

The event was available to 75 Seniors and 75 8th graders who were interested in attending, had good behavior, good academics, and also had acceptable attendance records.

Dr. Green's thoughts are already set on the future, “This was a great opportunity, a great partnership, and we’re excited to bring it back to DeSoto ISD bigger and better next year.”