Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Financial Literacy During Uncertain Times



From our sense of security and wellbeing to canceled troop activities, graduations, and birthdays, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives. For so many of us, the ongoing uncertainty means having to navigate difficult situations. So this April—for Financial Literacy Month—we’ve partnered with Morgan Stanley’s Financial Advisors to answer a few of the questions you submitted on Facebook and Instagram. Check them out!


Jeri Salmond, Financial Advisor 

A credit score is an important number that summarizes your credit history and credit worthiness. The score helps lenders determine how likely you will pay your debt and on time. Credit scores will change over time. It is very important to keep track of your credit score and find out how the amount of debt, your payment history, as well as the types of debt you hold affect your credit score. There are several different tracking tools that can be used for free to track your credit score without affecting your score. It is important to start building a credit score when you are younger. Having no credit is almost as bad as having a low credit score. Many people start with having a small credit card or secured credit card to make small purchases and pay off monthly. The more you make on time payments and keep your debt low, the more your credit score will increase. The better your score the more likely you will receive a preferred interest rate. Credit is usually needed for large purchases in which you may not have the immediate cash savings required for purchase such as paying for college, purchasing a car, starting a business, or buying a home. Having a good credit score allows you to purchase the item on credit while making monthly payments in order to pay off the debt. 



Michelle Ward, Financial Advisor

Good savings habits can help you achieve financial freedom. We recommend that you start saving early, automatically and often. This gives you the opportunity to benefit from “compound interest,” which is simply earning interest on the interest you earned the previous month. The longer you compound, the greater the effect. Pay yourself first, before you begin to pay optional expenses and make discretionary purchases. Treat your savings like any other expense and give it priority over optional expenses. Consider how much you can save annually by cutting out common habits, like buying coffee or eating out and think about making automatic, periodic deposits to savings accounts on a monthly basis. Your savings will help when you have an emergency fund for unexpected expenses, achieve short-term goals, like going on a trip, and longer-term ones, like buying a house or choosing an occupation that you love without having to weigh in how much will you earn. 


Teri Kelley, Financial Advisor

Creating a budget is always a helpful approach as it allows you to see your cash flow. Once you do that, you can identify essentials, like your rent/mortgage, utilities, medicine, transportation costs and food (needs) and pay those fixed bills first before paying for non-essential items like clothes, games, etc. (wants). In times of crisis that affect your finances like the loss of a job, you really have to stick to the basics and make necessary adjustments. You may need to defer or reduce payments on things like; saving contributions, credit card payments, etc. And remember, that hopefully this is just a temporary adjustment and once things get back to “normal”, you’ll be able to resume things you may have had to give up.


Jane Rojas, Financial Advisor

My suggestion to prioritizing bills when you are short on cash is to stand back, look at what is most important to your life, and decide what needs your immediate attention – and write that out from most important to least important. This should include thoughts about what you can’t live without: electricity, rent, etc. Then I would look at the actual cost of not paying each bill each month: a credit card may not be urgent, but if you don’t pay it, there could be late fees plus interest of 20% or more on top of that. Last – negotiate when you can on how to stretch out your payments in a way that you don’t get the high cost of ignoring them, but to a point that makes them manageable.

When you get the short-term problems fixed, then work on the bigger problem of not having enough cash for the bills you have. Look again at what is most important and look at how you might reduce the cost of each of them: move to a lower-cost apartment, get a cheaper phone or phone plan, do your own nails. The key to success is spending less than you make, NOT MORE.



Kate Waters, Financial Advisor

The goal should always be to have as little debt as possible, but there are certain instances where debt can be “good debt.” For instance, if you think you can get a better-paying job by going to college or going for your master’s, medical, or law degree, then it might be smart to take on a student loan if you can’t afford it all on your own. This also holds true for buying a home. In both instances, you need to understand how long it will take to pay off and to make sure there is potential for a positive longer-term return on your investment. You also need to make sure the additional expense of the loan fits within your budget and be prudent about paying it down. By being diligent about your personal finances and responsible about paying down debt, you can be well on your way to being debt-free! 

To help build girls’ confidence, Girl Scouts has developed Financial Literacy badges that your girl can start earning today! The badge activities are based on real-life situations, such as budgeting and philanthropy, to give girls a deeper understanding of financial literacy power their future life success! You can also check out Girl Scouts at Home—our hub of online activities, including some for financial literacy!

 

Thien Le, Financial Advisor

The first financial lesson is to learn how to set goals. Setting goals is a great way to determine what to save for and to stay focused on your financial objectives and your reasons for saving. Bucket each goal into short term, medium term, and long term. Short term could be buying a new car, while long term could be retirement; which it’s never too early to think about. Start saving now as soon as you have earned income from your part time job or when you begin to work full time. When my 16-year-old daughter got her first job as a math tutor, I opened a retirement account for her to encourage her to save a little each month. Lastly, don’t be afraid of investing, and learn how to do it. Staying focused and keeping money invested in the market can be rewarding over time, but it may require patience and a long investment horizon. With market volatility, people often panic and make irrational decisions, so it is important to review your goals and remain focused on your investment objectives. 



Lisa Benton, Financial Advisor

An emergency savings fund is money that you have set aside for unexpected life events, such as losing a job or paying for a broken-down car. It’s a good idea for everyone to create one. When you are first starting, aim to save a few hundred dollars in a separate savings account. A convenient way to do this is by establishing a direct deposit for your emergency savings account. This allows the funds to be transferred into your account automatically. The ultimate goal will be to save three to six months of your take-home pay as a cushion for life’s uncertainties. Remember that this can be done gradually as your cash flow allows. One of the best ways to be financially savvy is to plan and that includes planning for the unexpected. 

To help build girls’ confidence, Girl Scouts has developed Financial Literacy badges that your girl can start earning today! The badge activities are based on real-life situations, such as budgeting and philanthropy, to give girls a deeper understanding of financial literacy power their future life success! You can also check out Girl Scouts at Home—our brand-new hub of online activities, including some for financial literacy!
Thursday, April 1, 2021

Serving Girls Where They Serve: Girl Scouts Celebrates the Military Child



From Massachusetts to California and Brazil to Beijing, Girl Scouts is proud to serve military families across our country and the world. Each day, we’re inspired by the sisterhood of military-connected girls and volunteers who live and breathe our Girl Scout Promise to serve our country and continue to make a difference (and have fun!) while doing it.

That’s why this April, we’re proud to celebrate our military-based Girl Scouts who give so much to our Movement during the Month of the Military Child. 

No matter where a family’s military service takes girls, Girl Scouts is at the ready with tried-and-true programming and a supportive network that allows girls to continue their unique leadership journeys; build new friendships; and enjoy a reliable, safe space of their own. 

How can you participate? It’s easy!

Celebrate on Social Media 


Share your story! Post a picture or video on social media using #MonthoftheMilitaryChild and #BecauseOfGirlScouts, and tag @girlscouts and your home council. Like Chloe did, a Girl Scout Junior with USA Girl Scouts Overseas in Germany:

Girl Scouts has been a place I can come to be myself and to experience things I never thought I could. The best part of being a girl scout here in Germany is the girl power my troop has . . . we have bonded so much and have come together through all our experiences. I am so glad that I made the choice to become a Girl Scout, military life isn't always easy but my troop has made it easier.

Color at Home

Although we may not be able to gather to celebrate our military communities, you can show your Girl Scout and military pride with our Month of the Military Child coloring packet! Decorate your homes, windows, and communities with your own versions of this artwork throughout the month of April.

Earn Badges

Visit Girl Scouts at Home to complete creative activities that celebrate you, your families, and your communities.

Let’s Celebrate Girl Scout Volunteers!


It’s National Volunteer Month, and there’s no doubt that our amazing Girl Scout volunteers deserve a standing ovation. Yes, the Girl Scout experience may have looked a bit different last year, but from finding new ways to connect online to being in touch through phone calls and texting to coming up with safe ways to meet in person while following local guidelines, our troop leaders, cookie captains, and other volunteers have risen to the challenge and done their absolute best in trying times.

For all they are and all they do, we hope you’ll join us in saying thank you. Let them know their actions, both big and small, matter to you personally and make a difference in your community. 

Whether you’re short on time or want to make a whole project of it with your troop, check out these simple ways to show your appreciation.

  • Bake a special treat to brighten their day.
  • Give them a shoutout with a special social media post.
  • Send a quick video thanking them for all they’ve helped your troop accomplish.
  • Choose a project from Girl Scouts at Home to make and give to your volunteer. 
  • Team up with other troop families to purchase a token of appreciation for your volunteer from the Girl Scout Shop—plus, when you use code VOLUNTEER2021, you’ll get a sweet 10% off!* 


 
When it comes to showing gratitude, we’ve got this!

*The code is active April 1 through April 30, 2021, for a 10% discount at girlscoutshop.com. The code is for one-time use per customer, online-only, at girlscoutshop.com. The discount is not taken on any applicable shipping, handling, or taxes for each order.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Everything You Need to Know About the Upcoming Virtual STEM Experience


There’s no better way to inspire girls to make a difference than to provide a sneak peek into our exciting line-up of virtual experiences developed in collaboration with AT&T.

From exploring space, coding apps, and designing (and racing!) cars to learning about the science behind cheerleading and Broadway shows, there’s something to spark every girl’s interest when your girl participates in the National Girl Scout STEM Festival or Virtual Family STEM Events (available at selected pilot councils).

Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming virtual experiences:

National Girl Scout STEM Festival (available to Girl Scouts and non–Girl Scouts nationwide) 

Together with AT&T, we’re planning an epic virtual STEM Festival featuring exciting activities for all grade levels, including a special patch girls can earn during the event! Mark your calendars for April 17, 2021 from noon to 4:30 p.m. ET! (Registration closes on April 9).

Your Girl Scout will explore different STEM topics with subject matter experts—all from the comfort of your own home. Best part? We’ll work with selected councils and organize activities that incorporate their local STEM ecosystem and use their own regional specialties, such as technology or marine biology. Girls will be able to follow a recommended track or explore different breakout sessions over the course of the day. Here are sample topics girls will be able to choose from:
  • Automotive engineering
  • Broadway tech
  • Career Exploration
  • Citizen Science
  • Coding
  • Cybersecurity
  • Design thinking
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Natural sciences
  • Robotics
  • Space Science
  • Taking action with STEM
  • Plus: the science behind Broadway shows, cheerleading, social media, and more!
But wait, there’s more! Your girl will be able to choose from a wide range of experiences that include:
  • Hands-on activities from Girl Scout badges and Journeys
  • Behind-the-scenes presentations (followed by Q&A) inviting girls to explore the exciting worlds of Broadway, the FBI, NASA, and Instagram
  • Expo booths where girls can chat with exhibitors, watch videos, and download materials
  • Group challenges
  • Giveaways
  • Limited-edition patch

Virtual Family STEM Events (English and Spanish, available at select pilot councils)


Girl Scout Virtual Family STEM Events will provide an opportunity for parents/caregivers to engage with girls in grades K–5 (ages 5–11) through fun, hands-on programming, while removing the pressure to be “STEM experts.” The activities are designed to allow girls to show, share, and teach what they’ve learned. These virtual events feature activities from the Girl Scouts “Think Like an Engineer” Journeys. Families will be able to download a “take home” guide after the event, which will provide additional STEM activity ideas for families to complete together at their own time. Check for availability and dates with one of the participating councils:
  • Girl Scouts Heart of the South​
  • Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson
  • Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia​
  • Girl Scouts of Hawaii ​
  • Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland​
  • Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas​
  • Girl Scouts of Colorado​
  • Girl Scouts of Alaska​
Whether you choose to attend the Virtual STEM Festival, or a local virtual Family STEM Night, you’re going to give your girl an opportunity to learn something new, e-meet female STEM role models, and maybe even find an exciting career path or a new hobby!

Learn more about our collaborator, AT&T:

As a seasoned GSUSA collaborator, AT&T has long supported Girl Scouts by backing programs like:
  • Coding for Good badges, which give girls hands-on experiences in STEM through algorithms, coding, and app design
  • Imagine Your STEM Future, which inspires girls to pursue STEM careers
  • G.I.R.L. 2017, the world’s largest girl-led event for girls, young women, and everyone who supports them
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