Girl Scouts Teach Girls to Get Real About MoneyMost of us understand intuitively that the Girl Scouts of America aren't just about selling cookies. What you might not know is that the green-sashed entrepreneur who preys on your weakness for Thin Mints is also preparing to be your son's boss.

A new curriculum of merit badges proposes to teach the GSA's more than 3 million members everything from good credit to budgeting to the ins and outs of savings and investing. In all, there are 13 Girl Scout badges and awards related to financial literacy.

Can I please get an "amen"? As the father of a soon-to-be-9-year-old girl, I call this a welcome detour for those too often caught up in the Kardashian Age of glam slamming.

Starting Early

The new badges are part of a rebranding campaign designed around what girls want to learn. Money management ranks high on the list. Or as GSA spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins put it in a interview: "Girls want to feel financially independent."

Desire is a good start, but financial independence also takes work -- a difficult truth that, thankfully, the badges don't ignore. The "Financing My Future" badge requires girls to create a plan for paying for college, a task many parents still struggle with. The "Financing My Dreams" badge requires demonstrated skill in budgeting, while "Good Credit" requires an understanding of the various ways to borrow money and what goes into building a good credit score.

In each case, the GSA is asking girls to rise above their peers. According to the most recent survey of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, American high school students scored just 48.3% on the organization's test of basic money knowledge -- the lowest score in the survey's history.

In Good Company

The troubling data doesn't end there. Only 16.8% of high school students and 19.2% of college students surveyed felt that stocks were likely to produce higher returns over an 18-year period than either savings bonds or checking and savings accounts, and that's in spite of decades of research that show stocks outperform every other class of investment vehicle over the long haul.

Data like that may help explain why the GSA is focusing so heavily on financial literacy. Fortunately, the girls aren't alone. The Boy Scouts of America has a finance-related merit badge for "Personal Management" that not only requires studying credit and saving but also the stock market and the ins and outs of mortgage debt and other types of loans.

Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) (BRK.B) chief Warren Buffett is also involved through an animated series called The Secret Millionaires Club that airs on the Hub TV Network operated by Hasbro (HAS). The AOL Kids channel online also has access to episodes, while a "Learn and Earn" promotion will bring the show to schools and other kids organizations throughout the next year.

Occupy Your Child's Financial Mind

Surely these and other financial literacy efforts will have at least some impact. And yet mistakes -- even lasting mistakes -- are easy to make, even for financial columnists like yours truly. I've spent years digging out of debt as a consequence of earlier mistakes made, ironically, in the years after I left the Boy Scouts. (Though, to be fair, the BSA didn't have a financially themed merit badge in the early 1980s.)

The key is minimizing these gaffes, and in this sense both scouting programs -- or, really, any financial literacy program -- can be a huge help. At the very least, they reveal the truth that becoming a millionaire gets easier when you're willing to plan well, budget wisely, and maintain good credit. All the things the Girl Scouts are teaching with its new merit badges.

So next time you get a visit from the neighbor girl pitching shortbread cookies, be sure to say hello. She's the Millionaire Girl Scout Next Door, and she's already preparing to make her mark.

Are you a parent to a Girl Scout? What other financial literacy programs do you support? Please let us know using the comments box below.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers owned shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Follow Tim on Twitter: @milehighfool. The Motley Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Hasbro and Berkshire Hathaway.

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November 29 2011 at 12:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Girl Scouts is a FOR PROFIT child exploitation organization. Each local Troop only gets to keep 50 cents from each box of cookies they sell. The rest of the money goes to Headquarters.

The Girls Scouts also makes the kids pay Dues, buy their Uniforms, Pay for their trips, Pay for the use of Girls Scout facilities they use, and on and on they make them pay.

So what do the kids get out of this. A couple a meetings a month at a friend's Parents house.

Meanwhile The people at the top live large, getting nice salaries with benefits. The whole organization is designed to exploit the kids to get money to support the life and lifestyles of a small group of people at the top.

November 13 2011 at 3:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow, My best fríènd ,she just has annóuncéd hér wēddīng wīth a rich mān who is a cèlèbrìty !They mèt via~~~~SéêkSúɡárDαd.Сσм ~~~~ is the lārgēst and bēst clúb for rich man with yung and beautiful woman and theìr àdmirèrs to chát ōnlìnè. …You do nǒt hávè to bê rīch ór fāmóùs. ,bùt yōu cān meēt yóùr trùē lòvê , It’s wòrthy ǎ try!GS spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on colorful programs and other things to whip the girls up into a frenzy to sell those cookies with pictures showing troops that earned enough money to go to Disneyland or Europe. To even afford a trip to the water park here each girl would have to sell 32 boxes. For a 3 day park hopper pass 250 boxes.

November 13 2011 at 10:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a previous leader and a current cookie mom I can't believe how GS is not accused of child labor. This year in Hawaii cookies will be $5 a box. Guess how much our troop gets per box? .80 cents Yes only .80 cents. .85 cents if the whole troop wants to opt out of incentives. But that usually does not happen because each year there is one girl who can't resist the IPad being dangles in front of them is they sell 5000 boxes.
GS spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on colorful programs and other things to whip the girls up into a frenzy to sell those cookies with pictures showing troops that earned enough money to go to Disneyland or Europe. To even afford a trip to the water park here each girl would have to sell 32 boxes. For a 3 day park hopper pass 250 boxes.

So yes cookies makes a fortune for Little Brownie Bakers and the other companies that produce the cookies, who knows what the GS national council does with its cutt, Hawaii council had to sell the old Girl Scout house because they could not afford the upkeep. But the girls are already being pushed and encouraged to sell the cookies already and the cookies dont even arrive until March. All of this for .80c per box.

November 10 2011 at 4:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great article but it's Girl Scouts of the United States of America or GSUSA or Girl Scouts of the USA but never GSA or Girl Scouts of America.

November 10 2011 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good to teach finances...and the cookie sales are a good way to teach capitalism also...

But...if you search "Girl Scouts Planned Parenthood", you will find many articles...most of which claim that Girl Scouts partner with Planned Parenthood to teach girls about abortion... What a way to WEAKEN girls...! Teaching them that they are "losers" who cannot/shyould not bring their child into the world...! PS I know friends middle age...still grieve the aborted child. But GOD is faithful to heal these sad woulds

November 09 2011 at 10:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
John Brimhall

Really want to teach the girls about money and finances, then start by having them audit their own books once a month so some greedy finance director doesn't steal their hard eaned money. Next explain how many doors they must knock on and how many cookies they must sell to regain the $300.000 Thousand dollars your phony finace director stole from them. If she is found guilty the next picture anyone ever sees of her should be on the back of a milk carton . I for one will not donate a dime to the girl scouts and will ask my many associates to do the same until such time as the finance director pays back the money in full plus interest and does hard time. Would like to see some comments as to anyone else out there who feels the same way! J.L P.S Pissed to the max !

November 09 2011 at 9:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Timothy Geithner should have went to Girl Scouts along with Obama, those two dopes haven't got a clue about managing real money.

November 09 2011 at 7:30 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply