A sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences has started a new club to teach Penn students how to manage their money.
Penn Common Cents, founded this fall by College sophomore John Ta, is the first club at Penn dedicated to teaching financial literacy to undergraduates. There have so far been several open information sessions about the club, and club leadership plans to bring in speakers to teach Penn students how to manage their finances for life beyond college.
Potential events include a talk from a Capital One representative about long-term debt planning and a presentation from 2013 Wharton School graduate and NFL player Brandon Copeland, who taught a class on personal finance last spring.
Ta came up with the idea for the club when he learned a friend of his was applying for a credit card but did not know what a credit score was.
“The thing that was really worrying was that this was one of my smartest friends, and he could make a mistake now that could affect him seven years down the road,” Ta said. To deal with this problem, Ta founded Penn Common Cents to promote financial literacy at Penn.
Since 2016, Wharton Common Cents has been teaching personal finance to MBA students. Ta said when he reached out to heads of the group, they came to the agreement that undergraduates would need to be taught by a separate group, since undergraduates have completely different financial needs than graduate students.
“Graduates have to worry about financing a wedding ring, whereas undergrads are touching a credit card for the first time,” Ta said.
Wharton sophomore Julia Zhu, one of the club's vice presidents, said there is a large demand for basic financial information in the undergraduate community, especially because most high schoolers do not receive a formal education in managing expenses.
“For a lot of students nationwide, not specifically at Penn, university is the first time they become independent in a financial sense,” Zhu said.
Ultimately, Penn Common Cents hopes to expand beyond Penn’s campus to the larger community. Co-Vice President Vivek Olumbe, a sophomore in Wharton and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, stressed a desire to give back to the community and address poverty in Philadelphia.
"We really want to expand to the local community by going to high schools and teaching students about personal finance," he said.
For now, however, the focus remains on providing resources and education to any undergraduates interested in learning more about how to handle their money.
“We’re an open, educational club,” Zhu said. “I would encourage anyone who has an interest in learning more about personal finance to come out to our events.”