Girls in America are exceedingly optimistic about their futures, career opportunities and having it all, despite their own admission that they “lack the financial confidence and knowledge to achieve their dreams.” That is according to a 2012 nationwide survey by The Girl Scout Research Institute (TGSRI) about girls’ confidence, attitudes and experiences with money.
“We need to help girls figure out their best path to career choice, money management, financial success, and mastering savings and investments,” advised Nancy Jauregui, owner of Grand Canyon Financial Services in Prescott. “Girls need to learn financial negotiation skills for every day living, including the value of their professional contributions for wages and benefits.”
Over their lifetimes, women statistically experience more sole-earner households, higher health care costs, lower income and more part-time employment. That and the following facts are reported in “Women in America,” a 2014 narrative from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Marrying later, having fewer children, giving birth to their first child at older ages and raising children without a spouse are noted. Women also are more likely to live in poverty, mostly because of lower wages from career paths outside of science and technology.
Despite higher rates of college graduation and achievement of advanced degrees, girls in general remain significantly disadvantaged in math and science. Educational differences by gender arise at a young age, when girls excel verbally and boys begin to think more spatially. Girls outscore boys in reading assessments and underscore them in math. Schools offer programs for the reading and language disparity for boys, but often fail to remediate mathematics challenges for girls.
Lifestyle and educational trends signal a lifelong need for the most effective management of earning, spending and saving among females of all ages. Families headed by women “have far less income” than married couples because women earn less in general and two-earner households command higher earnings, the Department of Commerce study concludes.
“Young women should do everything in their power to put away as much as they possibly can starting at the youngest possible age as they can because of the uncertainly going forward,” says Ron Stevenson, investment advisor and owner of American Financial Investments in Prescott. “Considering health care costs, inflation and tax rates, they will need every dollar they can save for retirement. Starting with a little bit now and increasing savings as their income increases will bless them later in life.”
“Having It All: Girls and Financial Literacy,” the report by TGSRI, states that the lack of standardized financial literacy coursework in grades K-12 has pushed the responsibility for educating young people about money management to parents, families and programs outside the schools. However, many adults themselves may not be comfortable with the financial concepts they should be teaching their children.
“It’s not just a young person’s problem,” said Jauregui. “It’s very rare to find someone who has a healthy relationship with money. The result is families not communicating about their finances, becoming frustrated when they are not on the same page, and putting themselves at the mercy of circumstances they likely could control.”
Fear and discomfort with money can get in the way of people optimizing its potential for achieving life’s goals, she says. “Money is a conduit from wish to fulfillment. Financial success requires confidently speaking the language of money.”
Stevenson says adults need to talk to girls about guaranteed income sources that they can rely on for the future. “If they are hired by an employer who will match what they can put away in a retirement account – say, six percent – they should really try to do that. They will be much further ahead. Also, we advise everyone to live within their means and keep debt low.”
Girls in the TGSRI study ages 11 through 17 claimed to know how to save (90 percent), how to shop for the best values (85 percent), how to make a budget (59 percent), how to pay bills (58 percent), how to establish good credit (46 percent), what a credit score is (38 percent), how credit card interest and fees work (37 percent), how to invest money and make it grow (36 percent) and understand 401Ks (24 percent).
Most insight about money and finances was obtained from moms (85 percent) and dads (61 percent), per the TGSRI study. Eighty-six percent of parents considered themselves to be financially confident: dads at 92 percent and moms at 83 percent.
Jauregui says optimizing that parental confidence is critical for setting a good example for their daughters in managing money responsibly and educating them on the elements of financial success. Money and career education include reaffirming the need for math skills, empowering exploration in math, science, finance and economics, inclusion in discussions about family financial decisions, and acknowledgement that some purchases might need to wait until money is available.
“When kids start asking for money, they need to understand the concept,” Jauregui said. “Somebody always has to exchange time to receive money. If kids want to be handed money, they should be encouraged to trade their own time earning it.”
She suggests starting with an allowance. “Teach your daughters about the three buckets: saving, tithing and spending. Give them a general rule to save 10 percent of what they earn and never, ever kill the goose laying the golden eggs of savings and investments.”
Jauregui summarizes, “Everything is a relationship of cause and effect. You go to work and bring money home. Then, you sort through must haves and desires for how to save and spend it.”
Stevenson says girls should be encouraged to seek out information to help themselves become more financially literate. “There’s so much financial information on the Internet. Financial professionals and many others can really help give young people a good education.”
Websites such as moneyasyougrow.org, PracticalMoneySkills.com and Learn4Good.com offer ideas and ways to understand money. Information about a K-12 Financial Literacy Badge, a video series on running a business and the business practicum – selling Girl Scout Cookies – is available at girlscouts.org. QCBN
By Sue Marceau, QCBN