Eau Claire Area Chamber Helps Students Prepare for Financial Independence

There are so many great things about the Real Life Academy that I don’t know where to start.

Applied learning, community engagement, life skills training, volunteerism, education… and the list goes on.

Let’s start first by talking about what the Real Life Academy is.

Hosted by the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, the Real Life Academy is an event designed to help area high school students understand the importance of financial literacy. The financial literacy component is the goal of the event, though it encompasses so much more.   

Twice per year, students from Eau Claire, Altoona and Fall Creek go through a simulated budgeting and money-management exercise, preparing them for their future after graduation. They are given a career, family status, and other factors that impact their lives. They are then required to manage their salary while taking into account all of the expenditures they are likely to face, including:

  • Housing
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • Apparel
  • Investing for retirement
  • Other day-to-day expenses

Community members volunteer to man stations, which represent each of these different areas. Students then go around to each station and make purchasing decisions. Each expense is tracked in their check ledger and they are required to manage online payments, automatic withdrawals and other transaction types.  

Most students in attendance are enrolled in a personal finance or accounting class.

I have had the pleasure of volunteering at the event for the past two years and thoroughly enjoy every minute! It is great to see the students engage in the activity and discuss with them the many challenges they will face as they learn to manage their personal finances.

For as long as I have been at the event, Globe University has sponsored the cell phone table, where participants stop to purchase a phone and sign up for a service plan. The table is one of the required stops for students, since many will not have a landline phone.

Phones and service plans are designed around current pricing and students are challenged with balancing wants versus needs. This can often be a very eye-opening experience for the students, as many have no idea what their parents spend each month on their cell phone plan.

Adam Rocksvold, admissions representative at Globe University-Eau Claire, and I volunteered together for the past two events. Adam said enjoys participating and interacting with the students. From his perspective the academy provides an additional benefit to students beyond the financial education. Adam also noted that it helps students improve their communication skills by allowing them to “interact with businesses face to face in a professional setting.” 

Events like this are a great example of how we as a community can come together to help students gain valuable skills outside the classroom in an innovative, hands-on approach to learning. I look forward to next spring and the opportunity to participate in this amazing event once again!  

For an opportunity to learn more about the event, check out the news story on WEAU or the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce.