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June 24, 2016 | By Tee Rogers

On Friday, June 24th, several central Florida Boys and Girls Clubs attended the annual Reality Check, a day full of activities, speakers, and workshops to provide middle and high school students a sneak-peak at the reality behind being fiscally responsible adults.

The highlight of the event is the afternoon, where each student receives a card that tells them their profession, their educational level, the amount they make per year (and per check) and how many children they have to support.  Then, they get their first paycheck.

With that check they have to go to different stations set up with volunteer hosts.  Stations like housing, transportation, grocery, entertainment, and “life’s unexpected” provide a glimpse at the challenges of budgeting and decision making, all while making a plan to save for the future.

Najiah, one of the students, said “This is nice.  I like what they did for us.  I loved how we walk around and see how our money just … leaves.  It feels good to learn what it is like to budget.”

Students were heard making comments like:

  • “I didn’t realized that grownups had to buy all this stuff”;
  • “the most surprising expense was how much a car costs, with licenses, insurance, and how the cost of the car can change because of your credit score”; and
  • “this is what real life is about? Man, I don’t have any money!”

The volunteers from sponsoring companies like Wells Fargo, Publix, State Farm, Sushi Eat Station, Central Florida Commercial Association of Realtors, and others were also impacted by this event.   They enjoyed counseling the kids at the different stations and providing advice about making realistic, sound financial decisions.

One volunteer said he really enjoyed a conversation about pets.  The student wanted a large dog until he realized how much they cost in terms of neutering and other vet bills, and the cost of dog food: “They eat that much EVERY day?”  Maybe, he decided, a cat would be a good pet.

It was interesting for volunteers to see the differences in individual decisions, and how people invest differently based on the lifestyle they want.   Those working at the insurance station were pleasantly surprised by the positive response by students who were interested in the right insurance to help protect their families.  Several commented how all of the students took the exercise seriously and really learned from the experience. It got them thinking about the big picture of how our financial decisions, even small ones, impact ourselves and families.

Tabitha from Wells Fargo has been guiding young people in financial decision making for a long time.  To others who might be interested in volunteering at events like this she says it is important.  A lot of people do not know, and knowledge is power. She feels that had she learned these things at a younger age, she might have been a better parent, and a better person.  We have an opportunity to give that knowledge and power to others, and we have to give back.

All of the volunteers enjoyed the great conversations – even the difficult ones – and felt that they had truly made a difference in the lives of these students.  Many of the youth commented that this day was “really real – a real reality check”.

Special thanks to the UCF departments that supported this amazing event: UCF United Way Campaign Team, Nicholson School of Communications, CFE Arena, Parking and Transportation Services, UCF Police Department and SEPS, Administration and Finance,  Housekeeping, Undergraduate Admissions, Finance and Accounting, Undergraduate Admissions, and Landscape and Natural Resources.





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