Photo courtesy of Jacquelyn Marshall. TD Bank hosted the first ever Financial Future Fair at Bloomingdale High School in April.

April is Financial Literacy Month and, in that spirit, TD Bank recently held an event at Bloomingdale High School to teach the students firsthand how to handle their finances when they graduate and head out into the real world.

“Only 17 states require students to complete a financial literacy course before graduation; Florida requires an economics course, but not one that teaches students real-life money management skills,” said Jacquelyn Marshall, Bloomingdale High School AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), who helped organize the event.

The Financial Future Fair was a success, with nearly 120 graduating seniors attending. According to TD Bank Apollo Beach Store Manager Bonnie Peacock, who also helped organize the event, they set up a small version of the game of Life to help illustrate what it would be like to have financial responsibilities.

“It’s important that when they get out of school and they are out there on their own, that they have an idea of what they are looking at when it comes to life,” she said.

The students had to make realistic decisions about what to do with their money, such as choosing housing options, if they were going to rent or buy a condo, if they were going to have roommates, transportation options, etc. There were 15 different booths for the students to visit and make their choices. At the end, they sat down with the banker and balanced their budget.

“Seniors that will be attending college or entering the workforce need to know what expenses they may be incurring,” said Marshall. “We were amazed that kids didn’t know how to calculate their taxes, how much eating out five times a week really costs or when you should start saving for retirement.”

“Financial literacy is one of our ready commitments at TD Bank,” said Peacock. “It’s a personal passion of my own because I was one of those kids that never had that benefit, so I learned the hard way. We like to increase access to people to help them improve their financial security, and we are firm believers that that has to start in the schools.”

This was the first time Bloomingdale hosted this event, and Peacock and Marshall hope to do it again next year.

“It was, I think, a really great success,” said Peacock. “The students all were very engaged, they enjoyed it and a lot of the feedback they gave was that they felt like this was something they really needed and that it was a wake-up call for them.”