New club promotes financial literacy

The Swarthmore Wealth, Investment, Finance, Trade Education Club, SWIFT, arrived in fall 2017 as a newcomer to Swarthmore’s student organizations. The organization teaches students basic wealth management and investment skills. The organization recently gained attention around campus after releasing an email summarizing the finances of each meal plan.

The club began when Joshua Collin ’20 realized that many students lack a basic understanding of money and wanted to create a space in which the community could learn about it.

“It started the summer before this year when I said to myself, ‘I’m broke and I don’t know anything about money … how can I better understand money?’ After doing research I thought to myself, ‘I’m not the only one. I’m not the only college student who’s going through some money problems.’”

The club, headed by Collin, offers interactive workshops twice a month. The workshops aren’t run by the club leaders, but rather by guest speakers. A financial educator, Loan Vu, helped to get the club started and will run many of the workshops this spring. According to Collin, the workshops focus on life skills that students won’t learn in the classroom.

“People have been interested in talking to us about things like credit score and tenant laws,” said Collin. “Things people don’t really think about, like car insurance. It’s not just stocks and bonds, or how I can get my bread up.”

David Buckley ’21, another leader of the club, described how the workshops compare to classes.

“The workshops are very similar to a class in that you’re learning a lot,” said Buckley. “But the things that you’re learning in these workshops are going to be things … applicable to your life and immediately applicable to your future.”

To Kevin Zheng ’21, who took part in some of the meetings, the opportunity to learn everyday skills differentiates SWIFT from other investment-related clubs.

“I think what they’re doing makes a lot of sense,” Zheng said. “It’s almost a joke; when people finish college, they’ll say: ‘I know so much about how these cells interact, but I have no idea how to do my taxes.’”

Zheng described the information covered in SWIFT’s workshops as basic but necessary, and structured like a lecture class. In one of SWIFT’s first workshops on Dec.10th, Swarthmore director of investments Frank Gorsuch covered topics such as stocks and bonds. He also spoke about how to look at one’s personal needs in terms of risk assessment. According to Collin, the club plans to have workshops covering other useful skills such as using spreadsheets and Microsoft Excel.

The first few of meetings of the club attracted about 13 to 15 people according to Collin, but SWIFT plans to expand and add interactive elements. For example, it recently sent out a meal plan guide to help students to budget their meals.  They have already attracted attention from Tom Spock, Chairman of the Board of Directors, who may want to get involved, Collin said. He also envisions the club expanding beyond Swarthmore, possibly to Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges. He hopes that students will share the skills they learn with friends and family to influence a larger community.

“We have ideas to expand to other colleges in the area because this affects everybody,” said Collin. “You have to learn how to manage your wealth and how it’s going to work for you and your family in the future.”

Zheng agreed about the importance of learning wealth management skills.

“Saving for retirement might seem easier than being pre-med, but it’s equally important,” Zheng said.

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