‘Be prepared’ … financially

Jennifer Guerra Apr 20, 2012

Adriene Hill: One bright side of the recession — and believe me, I know there aren’t many — it boosted talk about financial literacy, a subject near and dear to us here. Even the Girl Scouts, best known for their cookie-selling, do-gooding ways have created a bunch of new badges for everything from Comparison Shopper to Good Credit.

Reporter Jennifer Guerra has the story.

Jennifer Guerra: The motto of the Girl Scouts is “Be Prepared,” especially in this post-recession economy.

Just like Girl Scout Kaylan McClain. The 16-year-old says on a scale of one to 10, her money management skills are right around…

Kaylan McClain: One! I usually save my money, I don’t go out and spend it all, but I don’t know how to spend it, if it’s worth it or not to buy anything.

Kaylan and several of her fellow Girl Scouts are gathered at a counselor’s office to talk about personal finance. Kaylan admits she hasn’t thought much about money — until now.

Kaylan: I think it’d be really good for me to learn about budgeting and all that different stuff that I haven’t really done before because, I just, we need to learn about it for when we go to college and we’re all on our own.

The Girl Scouts’ new “personal finance” badges are like the brussels sprouts of awards: Not the most exciting thing at the table, but they’re good for you.

Kaylan and her friends Paige Barkoviac and Jane Hodges are on a mission to get the “Financing My Future” badge, which requires them to come up with a plan to pay for college. The first step towards earning the badge is to figure out your dream job.

Girl Scouts: I came up with a lawyer, a principal or a psychologist. Animal researcher of some sort, biologist and park ranger. My career choices were a movie director, an astronaut and an owner of a super, classy restaurant.

That’s the fun part. The next step is, well, more like homework. The girls had to come up with a list of all the things they need to do in high school to prepare for college and go over that list with their high school guidance counselor, Kristi Doyle.

Kristi Doyle: OK, so junior year, I’m looking at what you ladies have put down…

Sixteen-year-old Paige gets right to the heart of the matter.

Paige Barkoviac: How much do you think the first year of college would cost? Generally.

Doyle: That can really vary. On average, I think most colleges now are around 25,000 would be an average cost for a year.

You can’t hear it on the radio, but the look on the girls’ faces when they heard that number…

Doyle: 25,000

…Their eyes got huge.

Girl Scout: She gets like five bucks an hour!

I asked the girls what they thought about the push to make them think about personal finance.

Kaylan Yeah, I really wasn’t thinking about colleges and budgeting for college either until this badge.

Paige: It’s your life that you’re planning.

Kaylan: This is gonna be hard for me.

Paige: It’s like “Yeah, let’s just be a kid right now.” But there’s a time everybody else does it, so we’ve gotta do it too.

And while planning a budget for college and beyond isn’t nearly as fun as hanging out with your friends or watching “Breaking Dawn” for the fifth time, it’s probably a lot more fun than watching your credit score go down the drain because you weren’t prepared.

In Ann Arbor, I’m Jennifer Guerra for Marketplace.

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