George J. Charette III is president and CEO of Pawtucket Credit Union. The credit union recently hosted Real World Day, a day dedicated to helping Rhode Island students better understand personal finance.
Charette talks with Providence Business News about the day, why the credit union has been doing it for 16 years and why he thinks it’s important.
PBN: What is Real World Day and how many people attended this year?
CHARETTE: Pawtucket Credit Union’s financial literacy program culminates in Real World Day – a simulation where students apply lessons learned to real-world situations. Our program helps students identify their money-management goals, develop a budget, understand the cost of using credit and learn about general banking products [such as] checking, savings and CDs. This year, we had over 1,750 area students participate in classroom exercises with over 570 attending Real World Day.
PBN: Why does PCU put this together each year?
CHARETTE: With America’s rising number of personal bankruptcies, increases in consumer credit card debt and inadequate retirement savings, the need to teach financial literacy in the nation’s high schools is critical.
PBN: Why is it important to teach students financial literacy?
CHARETTE: In response to [the aforementioned] need, Pawtucket Credit Union began teaching a six-week course in 2004 to high school students that focuses on educating and preparing them for real-life financial decisions after graduation.
PBN: How does it resonate with students? What do they get out of it?
CHARETTE: Students appreciate this authentic learning experience because it allows them to see how financial literacy lessons play out in real life. On Real World Day, students attend a budgeting fair and receive projected salaries based on career interests along with information regarding living expenses. They must then visit community partner booths representing food and housing needs, transportation, insurance, utilities, in addition to enticements such as travel, health and/or golf club memberships. After each student completes a balanced budget and savings plan, a volunteer audits his or her financial decisions and provides recommendations.
PBN: What does PCU get out of the experience?
CHARETTE: Serving the community has long been a PCU tradition. Our financial literacy efforts serve to instill the importance of fiscal responsibility and understanding in today’s youth. This foundation will serve us all well in the years to come as today’s children become tomorrow’s leaders.