Real Life started in 2010 with the objective of teaching “real-life” applicable skills to refugee and immigrant teens throughout the Salt Lake Valley. The main goal of the program was to assist students as they transitioned through the various stages of their lives, through graduating high school, and on. As Real Life assessed the needs of their target demographic, a common complaint emerged surrounding the academic requirements for classes such as Algebra or Chemistry but a lack of explanation surrounding how to balance a check book and create a budget. This, combined with the additional challenges that our students face, such as learning English as a second language and navigating a country with unfamiliar requirements and structure, put financial literacy high on the list of priorities for curriculum included with our program.
Real Life quickly got to work creating a financial literacy curriculum that was a good fit specifically for our students. This curriculum included things like identifying coins and bills, budgeting, financial factors of success, money attitudes, savings and credit, currency around the world, and decision making. Over the years, this curriculum developed and changed. The financial literacy lessons saw the largest change in 2017 when Real Life was blessed to partner with Merrick Bank to develop and offer a robust curriculum to continue to benefit the students. This curriculum included four core lessons: (1) Currency and Banking, (2) Credit, Debit, and Prepaid Cards, (3) Budgeting Basics, and (4) Budgeting and Financial Goals. And the best part: students began to be taught by Merrick employees, who are experts in finance!
This year, Real Life continued to utilize the financial literacy curriculum written and administered by employees at Merrick Bank. The financial literacy unit continued to include four lessons and a review. The first lesson, Currency and Banking, focused on coins, bills, and checks. The objective of this lesson was to be able to identify all physical types of currency, understand the value of each coin and bill, and understand the basic elements of a check and how checks are related to currency. In the second lesson, Credit, Debit, and Prepaid cards, students were taught basic credit terminology, the impact of credit card and credit usage on their financial goals, and the differences between credit, debit, and prepaid cards. Within the third lesson, Budgeting Basics, students learned how to keep a record of their income and expenses, and how to divide their income into a simple spending budget- ‘Spend, Save, Give.’ The fourth lesson, Budgeting and Financial Goals, taught the students to decide whether their goals were short-term, mid-term, or long-term, and how to save accordingly. Each lesson had a set of activities to help the students have an interactive way to understand and retain the material.
Merrick also piloted a new lesson this year for a few of our sites: Filling Out an Application. This lesson went into the do’s and don’ts of completing an application and gave students the opportunity to practice applying for a job or a library card in a practical and hands-on exercise. Into the future, Real Life will continue to partner with Merrick Bank to offer financial literacy to all our students. In addition, Merrick and Real Life is in the process of developing a new curriculum surrounding job and college readiness that the students got their first taste of in the Completing an application lesson. We are hopeful to transition between this new curriculum and financial literacy each year, offering an engaging and meaningful variety of lessons to our students. We are grateful for this partnership and appreciate all the time and resources Merrick Bank supplied to create this visual and interactive curriculum!