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July 10, 2012

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My son is still a cub scount so I haven't done this yet, but...

>Is there anything missing?

I didn't see any mention of index funds- they did have a question on mutual funds.

I didn't see anything on asset allocation and rebalacing:
There questions seemed to be steeting toward understanding different types of investments, but I didn't see any guidence that they didn't have to pick a single investment.

They had a section on compound interest, but they really need graphs. Compound interest isn't linear so most people's intiution are really off. I would add quesitons to see how much a 1% difference in interest rates makes over 40 years. Calculate how much you need to save per month to reach $1M by age 65 starting at 20, 30, or 40. How much was interest income and how much was savings?


-Rick Francis

I earned this merit badge, but I was 15. I did a bulk of these requirements. My parents and I planned and saved for a major purchase. My personal budget was easy to make as my income was still based on chores. (I didn't have a job until I was 16.)

Scoutmasters talked about risk, return, credit, debt and loans. We talked about different types of bank accounts, too. But we either skipped the career discussion and the stock requirement, or I zoned out.

On the whole, it was a good experience. My concern is that Scouts may be too young to let this sink in as earning a merit badge isn't like going to class. It's not that rigorous and the metrics to measure what you've learned are minimal.

Scouts get out of earning badges what they put into getting them.

-Christian L.

I took this merit badge while in Boy Scouts. I believe it or another merit badge called Personal Finance is required to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout. Many of the merit badges give a solid starting point on a particular subject and frequently get to an intermediate knowledge base on that subject.

I remember having to keep a spreadsheet on everything I brought in and everything I spent for a solid 3 months as part of a requirement, it was a very good way for me to learn about spending and saving, and it obviously stuck since I remember doing it to this day! One of the traits of a Boy Scout is to be thrifty, this is taught as a general rule in the organization and I feel fortunate to have had this guidance as so many of my peers in school never did.

I would recommend teaching this to kids whether they are in Boy Scouts or not, it could be sort of a challenge or game for them, and the merit badge book provides everything you need for less than $5. It will not overwhelm them and by the time they do get mature enough to make serious financial decisions on their own, they will at least have a knowledge base or foundation to learn upon.

I have two Eagle Scouts who both went through the Personal Management Merit Badge which is a required merit badge to get the rank of Eagle and it is a wonderful experience for both of them. The major purchase that both of them helped me with was the purchase of a new vehicle. Seeing that they will probably buy more cars in their life time than a house it worked out to be great.

During the process of the merit badge questions did come up about various things which was a spring board to other tangent topics. Also topics effecting a lot of people like foreclosure, bankruptcy, short sale, etc. The one son did it at the age of 14 and the other at age 15 which seems to be a good point because they are starting to know more about the world and how it works. Especially when they come home with his first paycheck and he knows that taxes were taken out and it is not a big surprise. With the first son done with his first year of college, he was very responsible with his debt card and purchases.

I find that a lot of things in scouting have given them a first exposure to concepts that will help them.

Even though they both experienced the same merit badge the one is Mr. Frugal and the other is Mr. Spend it if you have it in your pocket. They may have learned a lot but there are some things that the one may have to learn from the school of hard knocks.

What a great badge! I never made it past cub scouts, personally, but you've got to applaud the Scouts for doing their part at raising informed citizens. Of course nothing is complete, but seems like a great reinforcement of personal fiances, which their parents should already be teaching them.

Those are some impression goals for an early teen to start getting a grasp of! If only most adults understood those basic concepts how different would our culture be? Do they have boy scouts in Greece? ;^)

I earned this merit badge when I was in Boy Scouts, and I have to say that I'm not sure I would have learned these concepts anywhere else. They certainly helped me in learning to manage my own money growing up. On the other hand, I understood basic math and realized that if I spent all my money there would be nothing left for whatever I might need the rest of the month or next month. I'm not sure how much this merit badge helped me in learning those things and how to handle money, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.

There is a good bit of stuff missing and some which is probably not all that useful. But it's a good start and something I think any parent could use with a child.

I have taught this merit badge a couple of time and the 3 months of record keeping is one of the most important parts because it show Scouts how they spend and how much they spend which is a real eye opener for most of them. 14 to 16 is the best age, and they seem to get the most out of it.

Something like this should be taught in all schools and shouldn't be limited to the Boy Scouts. Sounds like a great program. I wonder if the Girl Scouts have something similar?

I'm glad someone teaches this stuff. I quit after cub scouts so I never got to it but this is a lot more than a lot of kids get. Could it be better? Probably, but it is just one badge so you can't spend a ton of time on it.

Being born in England, the country where the late Lord Baden Powell (BP) created scouting around 1907 I joined cub scouts in 1940, then moved up to Boy Scouts, and later to Senior scouts. Some of my best early childhood memories were when our scout troop went to new and exciting places for our summer camp. By about 1950 when I was 16 I started realizing that I was more interested in girls than I was in scouting so that's when I quit. I obtained many merit badges and was just a few badges away from qualifying as a King's Scout. However there was no such badge as "Personal management" back in those far distant days.

In the course of our summer camps my best friend and I sometimes met girls that were also enjoying time in a Girl Scout camp, and we would often exchange addresses with them. Another benefit of scouting for us was that if we wore our scout uniform and started hitch hiking to visit with girl scouts that we had met living hundreds of miles away we would get rides so fast that we could get to our destination at no cost and much faster than going by train. That has all changed with the introduction of Motorways and now hitch hiking is illegal in the UK as it is on US freeways.

When my wife and I went on a trip to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Botswana in 1989 we visited the small one room cottage near Mount Kenya that BP moved to in 1939, and where he died in 1941.

I think it's great that kids are being taught this, and encouraged to take on such financial common sense. This type of basic financial skill is great to see in a private organization, but should also be taught in public schools. Why not? It can only help us all out. Maybe if we had a nation of financially literate people, we wouldn't have a massive mountain of debt to deal with as a country!

FMF have you considered putting your boys in scouts? They will learn accountability, responsibility and many other things.

One thing to keep in mind: the merit badges are designed so they can be earned by a 13 year old. That isn't an insult or derogatory comment, that's just the age most boys are ready to start working on them. It means that most merit badges serve more as an introduction to the subject than an in-depth examination. So many of these topics you identify as "missing" may have been deliberately left out. That said, BSA is continually reviewing and updating merit badges. Finance has changed enough in the past few years that this one may need an overhaul.

The Venturing and Exploring programs for high school and college students frequently go into more depth.

What do you think of the material?

It covers a lot for a middle school student. I don't believe I got into much finance until high school.

Is there anything missing?

Of course, advanced concepts of money management and the way the economy works, but I still think it teaches that age group the basics, and if it gets them interested, they will continue.

Do you think this is something you could use to teach your kids about money?

Yes, whenever I have kids, the boys will probably be in Boy Scouts. Hopefully, I'll begin teaching them about money long before that, though.

Anyone actually had a son in the Scouts (or been through yourself) who got this merit badge? What did he/you think of it?

As an Eagle Scout with 40 some odd merit badges, I believe I earned this one. I don't really remember what I did back then - I earned my Eagle 15 years ago at age 14 - and I'm sure things have changed quite a bit.

**FMF** - with so many responses from people who are/were in Boy Scouts it might be an interesting survey to see just how many of your readers are/were part of it!

PJ --

My son is to old for the Boy Scouts and I didn't really consider it when he was younger. Not that I was opposed to it, the opportunity simply didn't enter my mind.

JC --

It does seem like a lot of FMF readers are past Boy Scouts (or have sons who are current ones)! That's very cool IMO!

My teenage soon is almost done with the Personal Management merit badge, and it has been very helpful to him. I have been trying to teach him about budgeting and finances for the past couple of years with little success. This merit badge laid it all out in a great program that sank in from him though. Love the Boy Scout program!

I'm a counselor for this merit badge and as others have said it is a good introduction but doesn't cover all aspects of personal finance. The intent is to cover a few select personal management topics that include scheduling, career counseling and finance. Some of the requirements are specifically designed to help the Scouts with their Eagle project requirements.

When I counsel Scouts on this merit badge I try to talk with the parents to get them involved also. I ask them to review how they manage a check book and to show their son one of their credit card statements pointing out the information on how much credit costs if you only make the minimum payment or pay enough to pay off the balance in 3 years if you make no other charges (who does that?).

The boys that do the best in my experience are typically the older ones who have a little more understanding of the concepts but also the ones who obviously get support from their parents to expand on the basic material.

There is a workbook that I have the Scouts download from meritbadge.com that includes links to lots of supporting information that goes beyond the basic requirements.

Wow, I didn't know they did this for the Boy Scouts either, I wonder if they do it for the Girl Scouts as well. It is a very good idea to start teaching this kind of stuff when children are young, even if it is just getting the planing steps into their heads, being knowledgeable about money management will set them up for more financially sound futures than those who weren't taught about money and finances. Even if the studies to get this merit badge don't go into greater detail, making young kids aware of financial situations (even if their taking a look at their parents or family's) is really smart, I wish this had been available for me.

My only concern is that there are so many different requirements that a boy scout could spread his time and effort too thin trying to accomplish all of them well when he could benefit more from focusing on one. I think the one assignment of creating a budget and understanding how credit, debit, and cash would work to pay it from month to month would be beneficial for kids before they ever got to the stock market. I hope kids don't hurry over budgeting or credit, interest, and debt terms so they get the assignment done and get the badge.

But who cannot think highly of the boy scouts for putting this list together! These are all great assignments. I know I would have benefited from some of these activities as a teenager.

Personally, I would try to work with my son or daughter on one of the individual assignments in detail to work toward a more comprehensive knowledge of that assignment. As JayB said in a previous comment, "Many of the merit badges give a solid starting point on a particular subject and frequently get to an intermediate knowledge base on that subject." Why not get even more hands-on

I remember this merit badge. I was a scout and a scoutmaster myself. It was useful stuff that many adults today could do well to learn from.

Besides this particular badge kids in my troop needed to learn how to budget and plan their camping trip meals. They would have a limit of how much they could spend per boy and they had to plan out each meal, what they needed for them, and then shop and keep the total under their limit. It was a great way to learn to shop and handle money.

And let's not forget that "Thrifty" is part of the scout law.

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