Financial Reality Fairs

Northwest Credit Union Foundation financial reality fairs are designed to deliver financial education to high school students in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington communities. By partnering with associated credit unions, we are able to expose young people to financial management’s relevance and importance to their daily lives.

Each fair follows an established blueprint, provided by the foundation to each credit union facilitating the event. The Foundation provides materials and ongoing support while the credit union executes an informative and impactful event. Each student that experiences a financial reality fair is challenged to manage a budget and is rewarded with relevant knowledge that will benefit him or her immediately.

The financial reality fair has historically been facilitated with pen and paper. The Foundation recognizes that today’s students are digital natives, adept at learning through a digital interface. As a result, the Foundation has integrated a user friendly app, allowing students to absorb the complexity of financial decisions in a comfortable learning environment.

Bite of Reality is a real world simulation that guides high school students through a day in the life of an adult’s financial responsibilities. Each student is provided with an occupation, income, partner, child, and possible debt. The student moves between merchant booths, purchasing monthly necessities, including rent/mortgage, car payment, grocery bill, and lifestyle preferences.

An individual fair has been designed to accommodate 50-125 students over 90-120 minutes. Total time is dependent on number of students and volunteers. A credit union host will lead an introduction, debrief, and manage volunteer training. The Foundation recommends at least one volunteer per booth; two volunteers is ideal for a large participant size. Volunteers may be credit union staff, teachers, parents, or other community members.

The fair is split between hard copy and digital materials. Hard copy materials include a facilitator guide, table posters, and Amazon kindles. Digital materials include an implementation guide and interactive app. The Foundation provides all required materials and offers app support. Additionally, credit unions are encouraged to add relevant table accessories, such as toy models, for booth appeal at their discretion.

The interactive app guides students between merchant booths. When a student selects an item for purchase, he/she enters the code in the app, and the app calculates remaining monthly income. When a random cost event occurs, the student’s income is reduced and a local credit union visit may be required for financial counseling and/or returns. The student can return any item purchased, allowing him/her to reevaluate a financial decision. The app also provides a participant survey. This survey reports the fair’s impact on student attitudes toward their personal financial management.

How can my credit union get involved?

The Foundation invites all NWCUA credit union members to submit a grant application. If approved, the Foundation will provide all materials and support to facilitate a successful financial reality fair(s).

If your credit union is ready to plan its first financial reality fair, please visit the Foundation’s Scholarships and Grants page here. You will be asked to submit a brief grant application. We recommend submitting an application 6-8 weeks prior to your planned fair date(s). Grant determination is communicated within 30 days of application receipt.

For additional information, please send inquiries to