Meg Greer believes young women should take control of their lives. And learning about money and finances early is an important part of that empowerment.
"We have to get away from that fairy tale that your daddy or your prince in shining armor is always going to be there," she says.
To quash that fairy tale, the Boston-based Salomon Smith Barney rep created Financial Camp for Girls, a Girl Scout-sponsored program that educates girls, ages 12 to 18, on the importance of making sound, independent financial decisions.
"It's a fact of life that women are going to make important financial decisions," Greer says. "Women generally outlive men, are marrying later and, in many cases, earn more than men. In fact, 2000 is the first year more women than men graduated from college."
The financial program takes place within a Girl Scout Camp outside Boston. "They take [the course] as an elective, instead of arts and crafts or swimming," Greer says. "We define goals. Then, that leads to [lessons in] saving for the short term or investing for the long term."
More than 150 girls have gone through the financial camp in its three years of existence, including Greer's own 17-year-old daughter. It will be offered again this summer at Camp Cedar Hill and other Girl Scout Camps in the Boston area.
Real-world experiences are part of the education. "Girls visit the Boston Stock Exchange and a Salomon Smith Barney branch where they meet women executives," Greer says. "And we go to a mall not to shop but to count the publicly traded companies and see how finances translate to actual business."
Greer doesn't fault society for girls' apparent lag in financial knowledge. "It's not done purposely," she says. "But as a practical matter, financial classes are taught when girls are starting to exhibit fear of math, fear of science and fear of numbers. Girls are also afraid to demonstrate their knowledge [in these areas]. It's a cultural distinction."
She founded the program as a way to tie together her work and passion to help. "I want to expose young women to a career that I love," Greer says. "The girls learn a lot at Financial Camp and it fits closely with the Girl Scout movement."
Greer herself has never been afraid to demonstrate her independence. "I've never been a girlie girl," she says. "I was always a pioneer. I usually wanted to do what the boys were doing. My social studies teacher was shocked when I told him I'd like to be an FBI agent. He said only men can become FBI agents."
What does Greer say to the millions of teenage girls who are at the mall not to count the publicly traded companies but to shop, meet friends and chase boys?
"Always pursue your dreams, but be practical," she says. "You can accomplish your dreams with a plan and thinking things through. Set financial goals, and make it for yourself."