"Ugh, you figure out the tip...I'm the worst at that."
"I have no idea where my allowance went. Like, NO idea."
"My mom says it's rude to talk about money."
"Math hates me and the feeling is mutual."
Middle school girls, you have said these things. We've heard you. Heads bent together in a diner booth as you slide the check back and forth. Bewildered by the fact that you had ten dollars in your pocket six minutes ago...so where...did it...go? Chastised for asking how buying a car works. Silent in class during the Money Math chapter.
Yep, we heard you. And we get it - these can be intimidating topics. But you know what? You're in middle school now and developing confidence in tons of new areas: trying out for higher level sports teams, running for student council, even - ahem - raising your hand in class more often. Don't kid yourselves - you're getting braver by the minute. So why does the topic of money management send you under your desk wishing loudly for a fire drill?
We have a theory.
While encouraging girls in STEM is getting more and more popular, it feels like less attention is being given to improving girls' financial literacy. Pause to bang forehead slowly on desk. Why? Not enough personal finance classes being offered to teens? Sure, that's part of it. But there is an undercurrent of #badmanners related to these conversations that cannot be ignored.
When it comes to money talk, old customs seem to rear their pretty little heads and open discussions with daughters are too often discouraged. You might get an allowance for chores performed at home, but likely no one is telling you what portion you should be saving. Or how interest works. Or how with your savings you could someday buy a share of stock in a really cool company. No one is offering information or answering your questions, because they think girls who talk about money are impolite.
Well, guess what?
That kind of talk is not impolite. In fact, it's essential.
It's essential that you learn how to earn and save money. It's equally important to understand the differences between needs and wants...between value and cost. Do you need the red and green light-up sneakers that play Christmas carols? Skeptical eyebrow raise. And even if you swear you do, what are the odds they won't be on sale really, really soon?
Market forces aren't mysteries, girls. They're fairly straightforward concepts that, once understood at the basic level, will make you a better decision-maker in every aspect of your life. And trust us when we tell you that you want to be the girl who is financially confident...because she's the one who grows up to be independent. She's the girl who always knows exactly what's in her bank account (because she put it there), understands how to invest it wisely and looks for opportunities to pay it forward.
For real, you want to be that girl.
So start now.
Middle school is not too young to become financially informed, and there are age-appropriate resources out there geared to help you and your friends #BeWi$e. When you're ready, you may even want to put your newfound knowledge to work: an allowance is one thing, but imagine getting a job where you can earn money independently. Ask your parents - are there trusted neighbors looking to hire a responsible middle schooler for babysitting, snow shoveling or dog-walking? Having the confidence to seek and perform a job on your own is a crucial life skill. Having the financial awareness to know how to save and invest what you earn will put you light years ahead of everyone else. And having the generosity of spirit to share a portion of your earnings with those less fortunate is...well, an awesome way to make a meaningful difference at a young age.
Girls, it's time to get comfortable speaking about money.
Come out from under your desks. Ask your questions and pursue answers. Figure out the tip. And skip the light-up caroling footwear...save your money and buy a share of your favorite sneaker company instead. We promise...it's the smart girl move.