Good Thinking, Girl Scouts: Making Kids Smarter About Money

Libby Kane
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Anyone who has ever faced down (or been) a doe-eyed Girl Scout bearing cookies knows that the Scouts are shrewd businesswomen at heart.

And now there’s proof.

The Girl Scouts of America have just conducted their first overhaul of the badge system in 25 years, and have updated it to include a variety of badges to encourage financial literacy.

We’re so excited by the Girl Scout’s initiative that we couldn’t help but wonder: How could the non-Girl Scouts of America take a page from their book?

Using Their Powers for (Financial) Good

The badges, which have different levels of difficulty and different challenges for Daisies (ages 5-7) through Ambassadors (ages 16-18), have a whole new lineup. New badges—ready for this list?—include Money Counts, Money Manager, Philanthropist, Business Owner, Savvy Shopper, Budgeting, Comparison Shopping and Financing My Dreams.

For those unfamiliar with the inner workings of the organization, a troop’s day-to-day activities are largely centered around earning badges, woven patches given to scouts who have completed a pre-determined list of tasks. (Some non-financial badges include “digital photographer” and “making friends.”) The badges, once received, are sewn onto vests or sashes by the scouts (AKA: Mom).

How Are You Teaching Your Kids About Money?

What systems do you have in place to help teach your kids about money? Would you consider using a badge system in your own house?
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The badges tend to reflect the organization’s values–for instance, outdated badges include Fashion, Fitness and Makeup, first introduced in 1987 and now replaced by Science of Style, while the new guard includes Website Designer and Computer Expert. For that reason especially, we’re excited to see such an influential group adding money knowledge to its list of must-know skills. In fact, this complete overhaul of the badges offered is the Girl Scouts’ first in 25 years.

“Girls really want to feel financially independent,” says Girl Scouts USA spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins in a Credit.com interview. “The effect of money on every level—it’s something so prevalent right now in families, in society.”

Now, the Girl Scouts will be absorbing valuable financial knowledge, but what if your child isn’t a Girl Scout, or even a girl? (For the record, the Boy Scouts of America offer American Business and Entrepreneurship badges, as well as one called “Personal Management,” which explores goal-setting and investing.)

Not to worry. Turns out, the system is pretty easy to recreate at home.

DIY Financial Literacy

Badges, at their core, are just tangible rewards for tasks accomplished, much like gold stars, stickers or a big red ‘A’ on a paper. To translate the scouts’ reward system into your home, you only need two things: 1) What you want your children to learn, and 2) A desirable reward.

Since the object is to learn to manage money, we discourage monetary rewards (which end up being a little too bribe-like). Ideally, a reward would be something collectible, so your child can have proof of his or her accomplishments, and something they can display: Badges are meant to make the child who’s earned them proud. It’s easy enough to create your system, with gold stars affixed to a chart on a wall, a sticker book—or if you’re a DIY whiz—with badges you whip up yourself. Awarding them is also simple: Tell your child how he or she can earn a specific sticker or badge, make sure he or she carries through, and apply.

(To make sure you’re on the right track, don’t make these seven mistakes when teaching your kid about money.)

Ready to get assign badges—but don’t know where to start? Our handy guide to Financial Milestones for Kids will give you an easy-to-follow timeline of what financial lessons children are ready to learn at each age.

And, if you create badges, please take a picture and share it on our Facebook page. You just might turn the Girl Scouts green!

Image Credit: Libertarian Republican

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  • GS Leader

    I am a Girl Scout leader of two troops and an active volunteer in the Girl Scout community.  Thank you for posting this article!  It has been so hard to change the way people think of Girl Scouts.  While our organization may have started with teaching girls basic home making skills, it has come a very long way.  Now one of our biggest goals is to teach our girls how to be strong, independent, courageous women, who also happen to know how to sew a button back on! 

  • Anonymous

    We are using http://www.bankaroo.com to teach our kids about money and making smart financial decisions as well as tracking the kids funds and allowances from the web and our mobile devices.