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Matt Wrye,
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Richard Myles Johnson Foundation Program Offers Interactive Simulation of Real-World Money Challenges
January 15, 2013

Some 28 children of employees of various Los Angeles area credit unions recently took a "Bite of Reality" at Kinecta Federal Credit Union’s Operations Center in El Segundo, CA, and learned the basics of finances courtesy of the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation's program.

The youth participated in Bite of Reality, a hands-on simulation program offered by the RMJ Foundation—the state foundation for credit unions in California and Nevada—together with the California and Nevada Youth Involvement Network—which provides financial education to young people in the two states. The event was hosted by the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues’ Beach Cities Chapter, Kinecta FCU (Manhattan Beach, CA), and SkyOne Federal Credit Union (Hawthorne, CA). It featured volunteers from Kinecta and SkyOne as well as from chapter credit unions American Airlines Federal Credit Union (Los Angeles, CA), Farmers Insurance Federal Credit Union (Los Angeles, CA), Nikkei Credit Union (Gardena, CA), Southern California Postal Credit Union (Long Beach, CA), Wescom Credit Union (Pasadena, CA) and a Glendale Federal Credit Union member.

At the Jan. 12 event, the participants were assigned a fictional occupation, salary, spouse and family, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments. They then visited various table-top stations to “purchase” housing, transportation, food, clothing, household necessities, day care, and other services. In addition, there was a “credit union” to help with financial needs. They also faced some unexpected expenses and windfalls.

The participants enjoyed the program, saying they learned to be more wise in their finances by focusing on purchasing things they needed first before spending money on things they wanted.

“It really wakes me up,” said 16-year-old Sabrina Chaco. “My mom brought me here and now I really see everything she’s going through.”

“You can spend money a lot faster than you think,” is the main lesson Chris Jacques and Donnie Mathias, both 15, got from the simulation program. That’s a lesson Rufus Gray, 15, also learned, going “broke” five times during the event. And Ariana Rives, 12, put it this way: “handling money is hard.”

Southern California Postal Credit Union Vice President and Beach Cities Chapter President Ken Peterson said those lessons are what make this program such a good one for young people.

“It’s good for the kids to see what things cost,” Peterson said. “It’s a taste of what it’s really like in the real world.”

RMJ Foundation Board Chairman and Honda FCU CEO Jim Updike attended the event, and said Bite of Reality “helps fulfill the mission of the RMJ Foundation to provide and support quality youth financial education programs.”

“This interactive activity gives teens a hands-on opportunity to experience making financial decisions, and a better understanding of the challenges of living on a budget,” said Tena Lozano, executive director of the RMJ Foundation.

— CCUL —