Financial Empowerment Training – A Good Idea For Young Girls?

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Girl Scout Picture

Toyota Financial Services (TFS) has partnered with Girl Scouts of the USA and pledged $2.1 million to provide financial literacy training for young girls.The program, which aims to empower 26,000 young girls, includes rolling out a new line of Girl Scout badges, providing college scholarships and conducting financial literacy events across the country.

Financial Skills for Future Business Leaders

The CEO of Girl Scouts, Anna Maria Chávez, has a goal of closing the “leadership gap between men and women within one generation.” – a goal that will require teaching young girls business management skills. While this may sound ambitious to achieve in one generation, Girl Scouts already has a reputation for breeding strong female leaders with more than two thirds of U.S. Congress women and 80 percent of female business owners former Girl Scouts.

Not to mention, the current generation of Girl Scouts is already ripe with driven goal-setters. In 2014, the Girl Scout cookie sales record was broken by a 12-year-old, Katie Francis, who sold 21,477 boxes. This translated to 7 hours/day on weekdays and 12-13 hours/day on weekends, with sales targets of 30-46 boxes per hour. She marketed herself with a daisy in her ponytail, an Irish jig at her cookie booth and a story about which charity the proceeds from the sales would benefit.

But why financial literacy training though? Is financial illiteracy even a problem? Do young girls even want to learn about financial literacy? And what would a financial literacy program for young girls look like?

Is Financial Illiteracy Even A Problem?

Turns out, yes, it is a problem. An international financial literacy study by the OECD Programme for International Assessment tested 15-year-olds and found that approximately “18 percent of American students couldn’t perform basic financial literacy tasks.” This figure was higher than the 15.3 percent average for all OECD countries. For the assessment, basic financial literacy tasks included: “recogniz[ing] the difference between needs and wants, mak[ing] simple decisions on everyday spending and recogniz[ing] the purpose of everyday financial documents such as invoices.” Now, if you also happen to feel insecure in your financial literacy capabilities, here is a top ten list of money management tips.

Financial literacy has increasingly become the focus of policy makers as of late due to an increase in economic uncertainty and complexity and the shift in decision rights for retirement planning from the institution to the individual. Financial literacy has also become a hot topic in poverty alleviation circles. In recent years, poverty reduction strategies have shifted from job creation and housing subsidies to financial empowerment training. This shift is based on the premise that increasing an individual’s income is not enough to reverse poverty if the individual does not know how to manage that money through saving and asset-generation.

Financial literacy’s effect on wealth is not just speculation. Research has found that financial literacy positively affects financial status. Financially literate individuals outperformed financially illiterate individuals in studies on budgeting, saving and wealth-accumulation.

Financial Illiteracy in the Female Population

Certain parts of the population are also more likely to be financially illiterate – women in particular. Research has found that, on average, women underperform men in financial knowledge and are less confident in their financial skills. The testing included questions on calculating interest rates and explaining concepts of risk diversification.

Girl Scouts Financial Empowerment Study

Turns out, the Girl Scouts also did their own study on financial empowerment. They surveyed 1,000 girls aged 8-17 and found:

  • 90% know how to save money
  • 85% know how to shop for the best value
  • 59% know how to make a budget
  • 58% know how to pay bills

However, girls claimed to know far less on credit-related topics with only 36% knowing how to invest money and 24% knowing what a 401K is. In addition, only 51% of girls feel confident making financial decisions (with only 12% feeling very confident).

But do they even want to learn about money management?

  • 90% think it’s important to learn how to manage their money
  • 87% think it’s important to set financial goals

In that case, what do they want to learn?

  • 68% want to learn how to plan for their future in general
  • 46% want to learn how to make big purchases
  • 45% want to learn how to pay for education
  • 35% want to learn how to make a budget
  • 29% want to learn how to establish good credit
  • 20% want to learn about the basics of running a business

The New Financial Literacy Program

To meet this demand, the financial empowerment training will be targeted through five avenues:

1) Girl Scout Cookie Program

  • Learning by earning
  • By participating in the cookie sales program, girls learn skills such as: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

2) The Girl Scout Cookie Business Curriculum

  • Expanding business skills
  • Girls will be able to earn business badges by learning skills anywhere from setting cookie sales goals (for grades K-1) up to reading profit & loss statements (grades 11-12)

3) The Girl Scout Financial Literacy Curriculum

  • Building money savvy
  • Badges under financial literacy will be awarded to girls that can recognize different bills and coins (grades K-1), are able to assess needs versus wants (grades 4-5) and even know how to establish good credit (grades 11-12)

4) The Girl Scout Entrepreneurship Program

  • Developing innovative thinking
  • The innovation component of the program includes learning web-design and learning how to create innovation solutions to social problems

5) Online Learning for Girls

  • Inspiring girls in the digital space
  • The online component includes games and inspirational videos of female entrepreneurs

This ambitious program will also aim to develop empathy in the young girls. Instead of using business to create “cool, shiny new objects”, the girls will be encouraged to “make the world a better place” and “identify what people really need”.

Future plans include taking the tried-and-true cookie sales model to an online platform. eCookie will provide girls with tools and information, as well as the ability to sell cookies online. Watch out, Katie Francis, but with the power of the internet, your sales record may be challenged.

The Current Market For Girl Scout Cookies

Looks like inflation hit the Girl Scout cookie sales market in 2015 and the Wall Street Journal even took note. Some councils, or regions, have increased the price of a box from $4 to $5 to account for rising costs. Apparently each council sets the price so a box going for $5 in the Greater Los Angeles area can also be bought for $4 in Greater New York. However since a portion of the proceeds flows through to the local organization, more expensive cookie councils are hoping for customer loyalty. What is the elasticity of a Girl Scout cookie anyways? What would people pay for a rare commodity (sold only once or twice a year) that provides irreplaceable nostalgia?

Despite the price increase, the Girl Scouts are hoping that sales will not be dampened, since at the same time about half of the councils are shifting to a direct sales approach. Instead of having to pre-order your cookies and wait for them to be delivered, you can get your goods at the time of payment. This should appeal to impulse shoppers. And with 75 percent of Americans having made an impulse buy in 2014, this may be an effective marketing strategy.

The Girl Scout cookie model has existed for nearly 100 years and its success is likely attributed to its adaptability to the business environment. Box designs and flavors have constantly been updated throughout the years to meet customer demand and the Girl Scouts organization has proven to be savvy in knowing what the customer wants. Most recently, the organization has capitalized on gluten-free and vegan food trends to offer cookies that meet these dietary requirements. All I can say is that the Girl Scouts may be onto something with the idea that empathy should be a core business principle.


Picture Credit: USMC Archives from – Unedited

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