On two different Philmont trips, our troop has faced unexpected financial difficulties. In one case, our gear was stolen in Denver the day before arriving at Philmont, and our leaders had to quickly resupply the crew at REI. In another case, plans to travel via Amtrak fell through, and we had to rent 15-passenger vans and arrange for drivers. Fortunately, we had plenty of cash reserves to take care of those surprises.
I occasionally hear people arguing that a Scout troop shouldn’t keep much money in the bank or that it should zero out its bank account every year. Otherwise, they say, you’re just hoarding money.
The truth is, however, that it’s okay—even advisable—to keep some money in the bank. That’s certainly true if you’re saving up for a major expense like a troop trailer or a high-adventure trip. But even if your troop isn’t planning big expenses, it’s still a good idea to maintain a rainy-day fund. As we learned on those two Philmont trips, it’s really a question of when—not if—you’ll need to dip into your reserves.
According to the American Institute of Philanthropy, “a reserve of less than three years is reasonable.” Or, to use more Scout-like language, it’s okay to be prepared.