Swati Patel, WG’18, gives the top financial advice learned by Common Cents, the MBA personal finance organization she founded at Wharton.

Through hearing my classmates reflect on their own journeys, I noticed a topic that repeatedly arose in a number of conversations: personal finance. Neither in the educational system nor in the workplace were we ever taught to think critically about our own relationship with money. And yet, every decision we make in the present or for the future comes with a price.

If money is the ultimate enabler, which allows us to discover, make choices, and be independent, why do so many struggle with it? As nations, businesses, and even individuals grow increasingly more focused on their bottom lines, why is it that conversations around money often inevitably end with “I wish somebody had taught me this?”

A simple search on Google verified that I alone do not ponder such questions. When typing “why isn’t financial…” into Google’s search bar, the top suggestions are:

  • Why isn’t financial literacy taught in schools
  • Why isn’t personal financial planning easy

These questions validate an unfortunate irony: on a macro level, economic growth has served us well but on a micro level, many of us are challenged. Do we really understand how to build and sustain wealth for ourselves? As students, who are overwhelmed with debt and face the specter of rising costs, the answer to this question becomes even more important.

While borrowing and sacrificing scarce resources such as time and money, we must understand how to assess both the cost of an opportunity and its opportunity cost, respectively.

Where “Common Cents” Comes In

Benjamin Franklin, the founder of the University of Pennsylvania, once said that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” There is no one better positioned to understand your particular aspirations, abilities, and interests than you.

Utilizing superior decision-making and leveraging personal finance knowledge will enable you to further expand your professional and personal developmental opportunities. By recognizing the void and validating the appetite, Wharton’s first personal finance initiative, Common Cents, was born.

Over the past year, Common Cents has hosted nearly 20 events and partnered with a range of investment professionals on a variety of personal finance topics. Our team is passionate about educating and empowering our classmates so that they may secure a more stable tomorrow and dream even larger.

With Graduation nearing, here are the top 5 basic financial hacks that our class learned during our time at Wharton:

  • Identify a budget for travel (and stick to it)
  • Ask for student and group discounts
  • Purchase renter’s insurance (even when you aren’t required to)
  • Monitor your weekly spending and pay bills on time (elect autopay)
  • Incorporate potlucks into your dining options rather than always eating out with friends

While the above is by no means exhaustive or definitive, these are some factors to keep in mind throughout the business school journey (and even beyond).

We must acknowledge the reality that money will always remain an important consideration for not only our present but also our future. And, while we utilize it to provide for ourselves and our families, let us not forget that it is not the only metric of success. Ultimately, we will not be remembered by our balance sheets but rather by the changes we delivered to the world.

Swati Patel, WG’18

Posted: February 2, 2018

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