Reality Check: OK Extension Helps Teachers Meet Financial Education Requirements

Article excerpt

According to the Jump$tart Coalition, Oklahoma is one of 24 states to adopt financial education requirements for students (Jump$tart Coalition, 2010). The Passport to Financial Literacy Act of 2007, Oklahoma House Bill 1476, requires Oklahoma students in grades 7 through 12 to fulfill established financial literacy requirements to graduate with a standard diploma (Oklahoma H.B. 1476, 2007). Fourteen areas of financial literacy instruction are specified (see Table 1). The Oklahoma State Department of Education (2009) provided detail on the standards to meet these requirements. Cooperative Extension educators use the "Reality Check" program to help schools address eight of these instruction areas (Cothren, Simpson, & Moffat, 2009).

What is Reality Check?

Reality Check is an interactive, hands-on financial educational program. The goals of the program are:

1. To give students a glimpse of their future in fun and exciting ways;

2. To help all students become aware of basic skills in financial planning, goal setting, decision making, and career planning; and

3. To clarify the need for young women and men to examine their attitudes about their futures and their career expectations.

County high schools are recruited to participate in the program, so the program is typically held at a centrally located facility such as a vocational technology center or large high school auditorium. The program is run over 1 or 2 days, depending on the number of participating schools. If a large number of students are participating, students go through the program in shifts. Students are usually given from 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete the program.

At Reality Check, students receive a worksheet indicating an occupation and a lifestyle status that a 25 -year old may experience. Examples of occupations include mechanic, banker, teacher, and flight attendant. Students may have a (non-) working spouse, be a single mother or father with X number of children, or be single, living with or without roommates. Monthly salary and payroll deductions are indicated on the worksheet, as is health status.

Students first visit the bank booth to create a bank account and receive money based upon the salary of their assigned occupations. They also decide if they want to open a savings account. Students visit approximately 20 other booths to complete a monthly budget. Students are encouraged to visit the transportation, housing, and insurance booths first because these expenses take up the majority of their income. The majority of students live in rural areas and thus are required to have a car. Public transportation is not an option at this time in the program. Students then visit the remaining booths: utilities, car tag and excise tax, childcare, clothing, communications, entertainment, eye care, furniture, grocery, health/grooming, and medical/dental. Students must designate some income for charitable donations. At the chance booth, each student must draw a chance card that represents an unexpected event, such as an unplanned expense for a child or a bonus at work. Unexpected income must be put into a savings account. Due to time limitations, life-altering events such as divorce, an unplanned pregnancy, or a job layoff are not considered for the chance cards.

A student having a hard time balancing the budget first returns to the bank booth to consider withdrawing money from savings. If the student did not set up a savings account or is still experiencing financial struggle after withdrawing savings, the student must visit the SOS booth. Here a financial advisor helps re-evaluate the student's choices. Advice may include trading in a car for a cheaper one, downsizing to a smaller house, or helping the student find a second job.

The safety booth has police volunteers who move throughout the event area checking on students. Tickets are issued and a fine is paid if students are without auto insurance, are running (a speeding ticket), or not participating (a ticket for loitering). …