California teens take a “Bite of Reality”

About 55 Teens Participate in Financial Education Simulation in Van Nuys

A group of teens from California recently got a “bite of reality” recently when they attended an interactive financial education simulation designed to teach them how to manage money.

The May 30 event at the Airtel Plaza Hotel was run by staff from Van Nuys, CA-based Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union, all of whom volunteered their time. The Bite of Reality program is offered by the Richard Myles Johnson (RMJ) Foundation, the state foundation for credit unions in California and Nevada. It aims to teach young people the basics of finance by having them take a “real world” test drive complete with a job, money and the freedom to make their own financial decisions.

About 55 students were given a fictional occupation, salary, spouse and family, student loan debt, credit card debt, and medical insurance payments. They then visited various stations to “purchase” items such as housing, transportation, food, clothing, household necessities, and daycare. They battled their way past pushy salesmen, unexpected expenses and windfalls, and expensive tastes to learn how to budget and make wise financial choices. Those staffing the “credit union” station provided assistance when some overspent.

It was quite an eye-opening experience for many of the teens—all of whom have shown an interest in pursuing a career in law enforcement and are being mentored by Los Angeles Police Department staff.

“It’s good. We’re getting to experience of what we’ll be dealing with in real life,” said 16-year-old Brian Brass. “I’m glad I’m getting this experience.

“I’ll need this,” Brian added, since he’ll be a senior next year.

This taste of reality is exactly what Tena Lozano, executive director of the RMJ Foundation, hopes young people take away from the Bite of Reality program.

“Giving students this opportunity to experience making financial decisions in a low-risk setting gives them a better understanding of the challenges of adulthood,” she said. “The hope is they walk away with lessons now that often takes adults years to learn—the hard way.”

Sponsoring the Bite of Reality program was in keeping with LAPFCU’s financial literacy efforts, which it began 2008 to help members make the best financial decisions.

“As so many schools have done away with any sort of financial literacy education, creating educational programs for our young members is especially important to LAPFCU,” explained LA Police FCU Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Manny Padilla Jr. “We understand that our youth members are LAPFCU’s future, and the sooner we can engage them, the greater opportunity we have for making them members for life.”

The Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, founded in 1958, is dedicated to supporting credit union efforts in spreading the financial literacy message to young people. The Foundation offers the Bite of Reality program, a hands-on simulation program that teaches the basics of finances to teenagers. It is funded through donations from credit unions, League chapters, corporations providing credit union services, and individuals. More information about the Foundation is available at its website at  

The Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union was founded in 1936 to serve the financial needs of the sworn and civilian employees of the Los Angeles Police and their families. It is owned by its members who elect a Board of Directors to establish policies for the not-for-profit organization. LAPFCU has been a “Best Places to Work” honoree seven times, including California honors by Employers Group, numerous San Fernando Valley Business Journal honors (including a No. 1 award in 2010), a 5th Place honor by Los Angeles Business Journal in 2012 and a Best Credit Unions to Work For Award by Credit Union Journal in 2014. With more than 38,500 members, the credit union boasts assets of $835 million in assets. Membership is open to sworn and civilian employees of those who work in the Los Angeles County law enforcement industry, including sheriffs, county or municipal police departments or commissions; nonprofit foundations that benefit these departments; retirees or pensioners from any organization listed above; employees of Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union; and the immediate families of those listed above. LAPFCU has four branches: Van Nuys (headquarters), Academy, Santa Clarita and Brewer at the Ahmanson Recruit Training Center. Additionally, it operates 27 ATMs at all LAPD stations and other LAPD locations. For additional information on any of the above, please contact LAPFCU Vice President of Marketing, Manny Padilla Jr., at (818) 779-3311 or

PHOTO CAPTION: Los Angeles Police Federal Credit Union Senior Collector Cathy Etcher gives 16-year-old Brian Brass the groceries and dining options he has during an interactive financial education simulation held recently in Van Nuys, CA. The Bite of Reality program was hosted by Van Nuys-based LAPFCU, and is offered by the Richard Myles Johnson Foundation, the state foundation for credit unions in California and Nevada. It is designed to teach the basics of finance and budgeting to young people.

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