All about the benjamins

Archery and swimming. Arts and crafts and campfires. These are the activities that come to mind when I think of summer camp. But camp can also be a place where you can learn valuable life skills while making new friends and having a good time.

Numerous studies have shown that Americans need to improve their financial literacy skills. Heck, we don’t need statisticians to tell us that. Problem is, few states require stand-alone personal finance courses. Minnesota isn’t one of them.

If your child isn’t likely to listen to your well-intentioned lectures about saving or spending, or you fear your lack of financial know-how will shine through, why not send your kid to money camp? Summer camps focusing on financial life skills are growing in popularity around the nation.

Minnesota nonprofits BestPrep and Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest teach kids about business and money matters at overnight and day camps.

BestPrep has been teaching high school students about running a business and handling money matters for nearly three decades at its Minnesota Business Venture sleep-away camp. Students spend a week on a college campus and learn about everything from compound interest to credit scores from financial professionals who volunteer their time and expertise to the cause. Sponsors pay $1,000 of the camp’s $1,125 cost to ensure campers from diverse family circumstances can attend. A session on philanthropy teaches kids that money can be used for good. And campers see giving back firsthand thanks to the numerous volunteers who were Minnesota Business Venture campers before being successful financial planners and bankers.

This is the fifth year for Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest’s JA BizTown summer day camps. JA offers two camps: JA BizTown Summer Camp for fourth- through seventh-graders and JA BizTown Extreme for sixth- through ninth-graders. JA’s Jennifer Baldwin says counselors keep the attention of campers on potentially dull topics such as checking accounts by teaching concepts in a hands-on, real-world way. Students earn paychecks working at their JA BizTown job and make decisions about what to do with the dough. They also learn financial responsibility on the job. “The campers must determine their business expenses, apply for a small-business loan, pay expenses, and repay the bank loan from money earned from customer sales,” Baldwin explains.

JA BizTown Extreme is focusing on entrepreneurship this year. But it also helps students take their financial literacy skills to the next level with lessons on managing credit, investing, and understanding the stock market.

Did I miss a money camp? If so, send an email to [email protected].

Kara McGuire is the personal finance columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and a St. Paul mother of three. Follow her on Twitter:


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