First Financial Hosts its First LIFE™ Financial Reality Fair for Students at Lakewood HS

Press Release

LIFE Fair Housing Table and Wheel

Pictured above: Students from Lakewood HS spin the LIFE™ wheel and choose housing options.

On May 20, 2015, First Financial Federal Credit Union held the first LIFE™ (Learning Independent Financial Education) financial reality fair event for the students at Lakewood High School. While the credit union has hosted financial reality fairs in the past, this fair has been revamped and is specifically sponsored and developed by First Financial. Approximately 160 sophomore, junior, and senior students participated in this hands-on version of the “game of life,” during which they were required to make on-the-spot financial decisions.

Dress for Success

Above: Dress for success table with career wardrobe options.

The LIFE™ Fair consists of a full day hands-on experience where students, after identifying their career choice and starting salaries, are provided a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, and food. Once the students visit all the booths, they balance their budget and sit down with a financial counselor to review their expenses and get a “financial reality check.”

Getting ready for the real world - ties

Above photo: Students learn how to tie a tie, along with gaining resume writing and interviewing advice.

In regard to the school’s experience with their first ever LIFE™ Fair, the school’s Assistant Principal stated, “What an amazing experience for our students! The LIFE™ Fair afforded our students an opportunity to demonstrate skills they learned through our financial literacy curriculum and apply that knowledge in a fun and engaging way. We are extremely grateful to First Financial for providing financial counselors and other volunteers who helped our students better understand the real world financial concepts that they will utilize for the rest of their lives.”

LIFE Wheel

Above: The LIFE™ wheel.

While the LIFE™ Fair was certainly full of temptations, the students had to spend their money wisely while being able to save and budget themselves for the future – while also enjoying everything life has to offer. First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan, concluded, “Our mission for our first LIFE™ Fair was to help the students understand the value of money and how to manage their money, so as they grow as an adult they’ll become more financially responsible. Our credit union puts a high priority on financial education, after all – that’s how First Financial began in 1936, with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

Additional photos from the event can be seen on First Financial’s Facebook page. To inquire about or set-up a LIFE™ Fair for a Monmouth or Ocean County, NJ school or business – please contact the Business Development Department at

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About First Financial Federal Credit Union:

First Financial Federal Credit Union (formerly Mon-Oc Federal Credit Union) is a not-for-profit financial cooperative whose goal is to provide the highest level of quality products and personalized services while maintaining financial integrity and stability.  Our vision is to be a long-term financial partner with our Members. While First Financial has a highly trained, professional staff using the latest technology, we also pride ourselves on our personal touch. Unlike huge banking conglomerates, policy setting and overall strategic direction of First Financial are overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors made up of credit union members. The credit union is federally insured by the NCUA. For more information on First Financial, visit

New Standards for Teaching Kids About Money new set of standards for financial literacy will be crossing the desks of educators across the country. The hope is that schools will embrace these guideposts and begin to wedge money lessons into students’ daily activities.

The Council for Economic Education, a nonprofit promoting financial education, developed the new standards at the request of and with input from educators at all levels. “We have a specific plan to go state by state and get these implemented,” says Nan Morrison, CEO of the council.

The new standards establish clear benchmarks for what kids should know by the end of grades 4, 8, and 12. They are broken into six personal finance categories:

  • Earning income. This includes collecting rent, stock dividends and bonds. It also includes a discussion of the labor market and how education may lead to higher wages.
  • Buying goods and services. This includes planning, comparing, budgeting and making choices.
  • Saving. Includes near and long-term goals and how time, rates and inflation affect savings.
  • Using credit. This includes borrowing options and how credit history helps determine availability of credit and the rate you pay.
  • Investing. This includes risk, rates of return and diversification.
  • Protecting and insuring. Includes potential loss of health, assets, income and identity, and how behavior affects the cost of insurance.

The council’s new standards are clear and concise. In the section on saving, for example, the standards state that by the end of 4th grade a student should know that “income is saved, spent on goods and services, or used to pay taxes,” and that students can use this knowledge to “explain the differences between saving and spending and give examples of each.” By the end of high school they should be able to “identify instances in their lives where they decided to buy something immediately and then wish they had instead saved the money for future purposes.”

The standards emphasize developing critical thinking skills as opposed to memorizing rules of thumb. The idea is to teach kids how and why to save—not just that they should save 10% of everything they make. “Financial literacy should be treated as a discipline, not a set of rules to follow,” Morrison says. As the Council explains in its marketing materials: “A systematic approach to decision making acquired in economics permeates virtually all aspects of life.”

The Council’s standards build on a growing database of age-appropriate guideposts, which includes the Treasury Department’s Money As You Grow website. The Council’s standards augment those established by the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and the federal government’s effort to infuse personal financial education into the national common core standards for Math and English.

Increasingly, it appears that common sense money lessons will become a part of every student’s education, most likely embedded in courses they already take. After all, how tough can it be to spend a day or even a week talking about debt when discussing the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield, where a central character (Wilkins Micawber) gets sent to debtors’ prison?

Here at First Financial, we have a few products and services just for kids so they can start saving for their future while having fun doing it!

  • First Step Kids Savings Account : First Financial’s unique First Step Kids Savings Account is specifically designed for young people, with a focus on education and fun.*
  • Dollars for A’s Program: For every “A” your child earns on their report card, First Financial will deposit $1 into your child’s First Step Kids Account!* It’s a great way to reward your child for doing his or her best in school. It also teaches the life long practice of saving for the future. To earn your dollars, visit a branch location.**
  • Summer Reading Contest: Every summer we have a reading contest where First Financial kids up to age 18 can earn rewards for the books they read, along with a great grand prize!

To get your children started, call us at 866.750.0100 or stop into any one of our branches!

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*Credit Union membership and Savings Account is required to participate. Members up to age 18 are eligible to participate and must complete an entry form. Reader rewards must be deposited to a child’s First Financial Savings Account. Parent or guardian must bring both the child’s birth certificate and social security card when opening a First Step Kids Account at any branch location.  Parent or guardian will be a joint owner and must also bring their identification. A First Financial Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. Winning reader will be contacted by the First Financial Marketing Department.

**Offer applies only to report cards for most recent school terms. Letter grade “A” or 90%+. No back rewards available for prior semesters or marking periods. Available for First Financial members between 1st and 12th grades. Qualifying report cards must be submitted within 45 days from the date of issue. Child must be present and a $5.00 deposit to a First Step Kids Account is required to receive the Dollars for A’s incentive.  Parent or guardian must bring both the child’s birth certificate and social security card when opening a First Step Kids Account at any branch location.  Parent or guardian will be a joint owner and must also bring their identification. A First Financial Membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. As of 12/12/2012, the First Step Kids Account has an annual percentage yield of 0.05% on balances of $100.00 and more. The dividend rate may change after the account is opened.