Girls Inc. Trailblazes Financial Literacy Innovation
With an enduring focus on financial literacy and a pioneering model of mentoring, Girls Inc. is seeing significant results in fostering financial literacy among girls throughout the United States and Canada. The financial education success exhibited by Girls Inc. is based in large part on the organization’s paradigm of delivering the program through trained mentoring professionals in environments in which the mentee girls feel most comfortable.
Girls Inc., the network of local nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the lives of girls ages 6-18 throughout North America, has been focused on financial and economic literacy for a long time. Built upon the knowledge that women are often responsible for a household’s financial affairs throughout some point in their lives, combined with the low levels of financial literacy currently reported among large numbers of individuals in both developed and developing nations, Girls Inc. has positioned economic literacy as one of its central programs.
The innovation and breadth of the Girls Inc. approach to financial literacy have been the hallmarks of the organization’s strategy. Specifically, their economic literacy initiative not only teaches girls about key financial topics such as budgeting, saving, investing and debt management, but it also provides girls with a foundation for financial independence and an understanding of how personal finance issues can impact individual, family, community, national and global matters that impact girls and our society at large.
Another innovative element of the Girls Inc. economic literacy program is its focus on both proprietary initiatives and partnerships with major organizations. In terms of its own programs, Girls Inc. has rolled out the following projects:
• She’s on the Money! (for girls ages 6 to 8) uses games, role plays, art projects and field trips to build girls’ skills for identifying and counting money and to increase their understanding of basic concepts and topics such as using banks, saving for the future, planning for a career, differentiating between wants and needs, donating and volunteering, comparison shopping, taxes and government services, and global economics.
• Dollars, Sense, and Me (for girls ages 9 to 11) further enhances girls’ understanding of economic and financial concepts and introduces additional topics and skills, including exchanging goods and services, investing in the stock market, entrepreneurship, budgeting, writing checks and labor and management.
• Equal Earners, Savvy Spenders (for girls ages 12 to 14) deepens girls knowledge about and appreciation for economic and financial topics covered by previous components. Additional skills and topics include loan options, investment risk vs. return, consumer tips, credit card use, labor laws, economic equity for women and girls, work-life balance, and global economics.
• Futures and Options (for girls ages 15 to 18) prepares girls for entering the world of work by helping them examine topics such as attitudes and values about money, career strategies, economic justice and workers’ rights, paycheck deductions, responsible use of credit and avoiding predatory lenders, renting vs. buying, and investing.
Girls Inc. also has spearheaded notable partnerships to further take financial literacy to new heights. One prominent example is the organization’s venture with Voya Financial, dubbed the Voya-Girls Inc. Investment Challenge. This pioneering initiative provides girls with hands-on investing experience and enables participants to retain their gains in the form of college scholarships. Consistent with the Girls Inc. strategy of matching adult mentors with young mentees, the Investment Challenge leverages trained Girls Inc. staff and Voya Financial employee volunteers to work with teams of girls to build and manage investment portfolios as part of a comprehensive financial literacy curriculum.
With financial illiteracy remaining at unsatisfactory high levels and with college loans and credit card debt continuing to skyrocket, there is no better time for a focus on financial education for girls. Moreover, given the Girls Inc. strategy of matching mentors with mentees, combined with the organization's combination of proprietary programs and third-party partnerships, Girls Inc. continues to provide an important and innovative financial literacy solution for girls throughout North America.