Financial literacy remains a key challenge for both developing and developed economies. Ten years after the 2008 crisis, many people continue to grapple with an array of personal finance matters amid a fragmented educational landscape. While the lack of mandatory, standardized curriculum within the traditional schooling system contributes to the chaos, there is a growing consensus on the need to improve financial knowledge.

In the fall of 2016, I pitched an idea to Michael Roberts, William H. Lawrence professor of finance, and Howard Kaufold W75, vice dean of the MBA program and adjunct professor of finance. With their support, Common Cents was founded as a Wharton initiative to empower and educate MBA students on personal finance. By gauging students’ interests each year, Common Cents ensures that programming addresses relevant knowledge gaps and remains topical. Workshops and discussions are conversational rather than academic, to increase engagement and participation. For example, as a service to students who were thinking of buying a home, Common Cents invited classmates who were homeowners or rental property owners to share their knowledge about and experiences with the residential real estate market.

Since its first event in January 2017, Common Cents has hosted nearly 30 more and grown to more than 550 members, making it one of Wharton’s largest student clubs. It has secured sponsorships from leading financial institutions such as Vanguard to assist club marketing and event planning, and has attracted guest speakers including Investopedia CEO David Siegel and “The Points Guy” Brian Kelly.

In light of the industry-agnostic nature of personal finance, Common Cents has hosted workshops for graduate students in the university’s law, medical, dental, veterinary, and nursing programs. The club’s mission also resonated with Wharton’s undergraduates, and a successful pilot collaboration last spring will, we hope, lead to more events and relevant content for them in the future.

Conquering financial illiteracy requires collaboration among multiple stakeholders, and Common Cents provides a refreshing perspective as a movement founded for students, by students. Along the way, it has positioned Wharton to deliver on the reality that personal finance is just as important as corporate finance. —Swati Patel WG18


Published as “Now It’s Personal” in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Wharton Magazine.