American Girl is a strange brand to put out a guide to money. Some of their dolls cost hundreds of dollars. That’s before you get into the extra clothes and accessories. My wife sold five of her niece’s American Girl dolls for around $500. They were used, without the boxes, and in some cases not even in the original clothes. Back when the nieces were in their American Girl phase my wife saw the prices on the accessories in a catalog and quipped, “I hope you get an American job that pays American money for this stuff.”
I have to admit that when we found out that we having were boys, a part of me was relieved to not have to get drawn into that consumerism. Instead of American Girl stuff, my kids got drawn into Pokemon consumerism. I don’t know if that’s any better.
When my wife saw the book, American Girl: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money by Nancy Holyoke, we joked that it must be one page long with only four words, “Don’t buy our products!” However, it was used and only a couple of dollars. Curiosity got the best of me, so I bought it. The copy I have is the original version from 2006 and that link is to the revised version that’s in print today. It has a different illustrator, but the same author. Using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, it seems like the content itself is the same and the illustrations are just as good – it’s just a different style.
So, with two boys and no daughters, I’m going to attempt to review a personal finance book for teenage girls by a company that sells outlandishly priced products. None of this makes any sense, but this is where we are.
To start, the book isn’t one page and four words long. It’s 95 pages, with colorful illustrations on every page. It’s the perfect presentation for a teenage audience. I can’t emphasize that enough, because getting kids to choose to read about personal finance is not easy. A teenager will plow through this book quickly. I’m tempted to ask my 9-year-old son to read it, but I know it would have be a big bribe – teenage girl books are weird for 9-year-old boys. I’ll give it a try anyway – chocolate usually works. Also, it would give me a chance to put a few dollars in his how to teach kids about money. Finally, there is a page about the power of compound interest.
The book closes out with a few pages on donating to charity. It also included one page about how $20 can mean different things to different people and even different things to you based on how you acquired it and what the expectations were. This particularly resonated with me. I can spend hours writing an article for this site. A dollar earned here means much more than a dollar earned in salary.
American Girl: A Smart Girl’s Guide to Money isn’t a complete guide. For its intended audience, it is close to perfect. It teaches just enough without getting too long and complicated that teenage girls would simply not read it.
Brian MacFarland has reached more than 10 million people on his personal finance journey to financial independence. He’s been featured in the Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, and Lifehacker.
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