When it comes to money, most people lack the know-how to make smart moves on their own. Even at Wharton, one of the nation’s top business schools, financial illiteracy is widespread.
To address the problem, a few MBA students in 2016 founded Wharton Common Cents to shed some light on personal finance topics that aren’t often taught in the classroom.
“There are a ton of financial circumstances you have to deal with as a graduate student that you’re not fully prepared for,” said Laura Gentile, 29, incoming co-president of the student-run club. Without the know-how, “you are at a huge disadvantage.”
The club’s mission is to provide fundamental skills and resources to create a secure financial future, Gentile said.
Surprisingly, it’s the first-ever club of its kind at a business school, according to current President Anuj Khandelwal, 28. The club hosts nearly weekly programs for graduate students on topics such as the difference between credit and debit cards, saving now versus later and how to talk about money with a significant other.
They are also bringing these lessons to members of the greater community, just outside the ivy-covered walls, including Jane Addams Place, a homeless shelter for women and children, and Say Yes to Education, an after-school program for public school students. “We acknowledge that Philly is one of the poorest cities in the nation,” Khandelwal said.
Similarly motivated, Penn graduate and NFL linebacker Brandon Copeland recently returned to his alma mater to teach an undergraduate class on financial literacy, which he nicknamed “Life 101.”
Along with professor Brian Peterson, Copeland starts with the basics: budgeting and living within your means; good debt versus bad debt; whether it makes sense to rent or buy; how to save for retirement; and the value of compound interest.
Even as financial literacy education becomes more prevalent in high school and college, only 8% of millennials have a high level of financial knowledge, according to a survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education and George Washington University. About a quarter demonstrated just a basic understanding of how to manage their money.
At the same time, millennials are also a generation burdened by record-breaking student debt, which is having long-term consequences. From buying a home to getting married and even having children, many millennials are putting off life’s major milestones because of their outstanding loan balances, studies have shown.
In general, students who are required to take personal finance courses have better average credit scores and lower debt delinquency rates than those who aren’t, according to data from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation, which seeks to promote financial literacy.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.