Apr 05 2017 | Written By Jennifer McHugh | Director of Public Affairs and Financial Education

The Barron County Financial Coalition and Royal Credit Union (Royal) partnered to present a financial education program for high school students. Test Drive…Next Stop Reality, is a simulation of real life when it comes to money and finances.  The event was held on Thursday, March 30 at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in Rice Lake. Nearly 300 students from 6 high schools in Barron County, one high school in Polk County and one high school in Washburn County participated.

This event offered a hands-on experience in which students select a career and research the education needed and salary that would come from that career.  The students were then required to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, and food.  Additional expenditures such as entertainment, pets, and unexpected expenses were also factored into the simulated activity.

“We piloted the program last year with the Barron County Financial Coalition and it was such a success we’ve decided to make this an annual event,” said Melissa Janssen, Royal Credit Union community financial education coordinator.  “Royal developed Test Drive…Next Stop Reality so that students understand what it takes to make it on their own and better prepare for their future. We are proud to be able to share these lessons on an on-going basis.”

At the fair, students visited various booths to make common purchases and pay typical bills. The booths were staffed by over 75 volunteers representing a variety of businesses in industries like real estate, insurance, utilities and child care. The volunteers helped the students make decisions and offered guidance if a student was faced with a difficult situation.

“The Barron County Financial Coalition is working to provide financial education in our communities and improve the financial wellness in Barron County,” said Missy Bablick, Barron County Financial Coalition spokesperson. “We have presented a variety of events and were proud to offer Test Drive…Next Stop Reality with Royal to high school students in Barron County again this year.”

Students were given an assessment prior to preparing for the reality fair that measured their knowledge of basic financial terms and concepts. The same assessment will be given to the students following the event so educators can evaluate the impact of the program. Students will also be given a survey asking for their feedback on the program design. Participating high schools include: Birchwood, Cameron, Chetek, Clayton, Northern Lakes Regional Academy, Prairie Farm, Rice Lake, and Turtle Lake.


About Barron County Financial Coalition
The Barron County Financial Coalition, based in Barron County, Wisconsin, was established in April of 2015. We are an all-volunteer group consisting of individuals, businesses, government agencies, financial institutions, non-profit agencies and educators, with a shared passion of improving awareness and financial wellness in Barron County. If you would like to participate, please contact   


About Royal Credit Union

Royal Credit Union is a federally insured credit union serving over 180,000 Members with 25 full service offices. Royal is driven by a core ideology which is built on strong purpose and values. You can open an account or apply for a low-rate loan at Royal Credit Union if you live or work in 23 counties in Western Wisconsin or 12 counties in Minnesota. Counties served in Wisconsin include Adams, Barron, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Jackson, Lincoln, Marathon, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Portage, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix, Taylor, Trempealeau, Washburn, and Wood.  Counties served in Minnesota include Anoka, Carver, Chisago, Dakota, Goodhue, Hennepin, Olmsted, Ramsey, Scott, Wabasha, Washington, and Winona. Realtors in the state of Wisconsin or Minnesota are also eligible to join the credit union. Visit or call Royal Credit Union at 1-800-341-9911 for more information.