After he leaves your troop, a Scout might never cook over a campfire, hike into the wilderness or use CPR to save a life. But he will undoubtedly need to manage his time and money. How effectively he does that could depend on what he learns from the Personal Management merit badge.
For tips on teaching this important badge, Scouting talked with Mark Pellegrino of Yardley, Pa., a CPA who’s been counseling the badge for 35 years. Here are his top tips.
Requirement 2 has the Scout prepare a budget of expected income, expenses and savings, and then track those categories over a 13-week period. Pellegrino says this requirement is essentially meaningless if the Scout doesn’t have a job and if his parents pay his way for everything. In such cases — which seem to be becoming more frequent — Pellegrino encourages the parents to temporarily stop covering certain expenses, like school lunch fees, and instead to pay the Scout for doing his chores.
“I want to make sure they have enough expenses and enough leeway and enough decision-making capability that they understand their choices are going to affect what may happen,” he says.
Pellegrino also says it’s important for Scouts to turn in their proposed budgets before they start keeping records. Years ago, one Scout didn’t do that because he didn’t understand that a budget is a planning document, not a money diary.
“I want to make sure you didn’t do 13 weeks and then backfill the budget,” Pellegrino says.
From Theory to Practical
The badge’s first requirement has the Scout write a plan for a proposed family expense; the last requirement has the Scout research a career. In both cases, Pellegrino encourages Scouts to keep it real. In the latter case, the Scout will come out with some valuable information he could use as he thinks about life after high school. In the former case, he might just come out with a new flat-screen TV or family computer (items Scouts often research for that requirement).
“Don’t just do these requirements as if they’re in a vacuum,” Pellegrino says.
Learn by Doing
Finally, Pellegrino encourages Scouts to approach the badge as they would approach any time-management challenge.
“I usually recommend that they work on one or two of those big requirements first and get that going,” he says. “Since that’s going to take some time, they can do these other five (requirements 4 through 7) where we just sit together.”
When a Scout is working on any merit badge, he’s supposed to take the initiative instead of relying on the counselor to tell him what to do next. Pellegrino says that’s especially important with Personal Management.
“I want them to figure out how to manage themselves and figure out how to get the merit badge done,” he says. “If they want to ask me questions about specific things, I will definitely give them the information, but I want them to figure out how they’re going to do it, using me as a resource or whatever resources they have.”