2012 Financial Literacy Essay Contest

Knowledge@Wharton and KWHS 2012 Financial Literacy Essay Contest

Topic: What does financial literacy mean to you? Why is it important? How will it enable you to succeed in our increasingly complex global economy?

Every day in the news media, we read about the crisis in the housing market, excessive fees charged by banks for credit cards, burdensome student loan debt — all coming on top of the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath.

In addition, we are frequently reminded of major changes on the way with respect to the demographic makeup of the global workforce. As more and more baby boomers retire, fewer and fewer workers are available to take their place — a phenomenon now apparent in most industrialized nations. These demographic changes will force the United States and other countries to revamp government-sponsored entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.  The bottom line: The world is becoming both more complex and more integrated — with serious consequences for the global financial systems that affect our everyday lives.

In a 500-word essay, explain why financial literacy is so important to you as an individual, and describe the goals that achieving financial literacy will help you meet. Please answer the following questions in your essay:

  1. What does financial literacy mean to you and why is it important?
  2. How will this type of knowledge allow you to succeed in the future?
  3. What types of mistakes will this knowledge help to prevent?
  4. How will this knowledge enable you to become a better leader?

Because the contest is open to students, professionals and retirees from all countries, we ask that entrants further tailor their essays based on the following guidelines: Students should focus on credit cards, school and/or car loans, budgeting, entrepreneurial ventures and other relevant subjects. Professionals should focus on school loan repayment, taxes, mortgages, managing investments, retirement planning and other relevant subjects. Senior citizens should focus on estate planning, portfolio management, health care costs and other relevant topics.

Financial Literacy Essay Contest

Who:  Open to individuals of any age and from any country who are registered users of Knowledge@Wharton or Knowledge@Wharton High School

What:  Essay contest to stress the importance of financial literacy to these individuals

Why:  To enhance financial literacy and win great prizes

When:  Knowledge@Wharton and Knowledge@Wharton High School will be accepting essay submissions from February 20, 2012, to March 16, 2012

Where:  Send in your essays to KWHSFinLit@wharton.upenn.edu

The 2012 Financial Literacy Essay Contest is sponsored by Knowledge@Wharton and Knowledge@Wharton High School, which were launched to help spread knowledge about the world of business to a global audience. The purpose of this contest is to challenge all participants to think about what financial literacy means to them and how possessing this knowledge will enable them to succeed in the future.

Contest Deadlines
All essays must be submitted by e-mail by Friday, March 16, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Late essays will not be considered.  All finalists will be notified in March. Prizes – including a Philadelphia 76ers basketball game, meet with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania State Treasurer Rob McCord  – will be announced then (please note travel not included).


The contest is open to individuals of all ages and from all countries, including students, career professionals and retirees. The only requirement is that all contestants must be registered at Knowledge@Wharton or Knowledge@Wharton High School. To register, go to https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu or http://kwhs.wharton.upenn.edu. Immediate relatives of employees of the Wharton School are not eligible to participate.

Entrants who do not meet these requirements will be disqualified from the competition.

Rules and Guidelines

  1. To enter the contest, email your essay as a Microsoft Word document to KWHSFinLit@wharton.upenn.edu. The first page of your submission should be a  cover page containing the following information:
  • Full name
  • Grade (if applicable)
  • Title of your essay
  • Full word count (not counting cover page)
  • Home address, email address and home phone number
  • School name (if applicable)
  • School address and phone number (if applicable)
  1. Your essay must be:
  • In English
  • No longer than 500 words
  • Typed as a double-spaced Microsoft Word document in Times New Roman 12-point font

3.  If you use outside sources, you must include correctly formatted citations and a bibliography at the end of your submission. All essays without proper citations will be disqualified. Plagiarism is an automatic disqualification.

4.  Remember to number the pages of your document. Your name and school should not appear anywhere on the document except for the cover page.

5.  First, second and third place contest winners cannot enter future essay contests sponsored by Knowledge@Wharton and Knowledge@Wharton High School. However, honorable mention awardees are permitted to enter future contests.

Judging Criteria

Judging will take place in two rounds. In the first round, the finalists will be selected by a team from Knowledge@Wharton and Knowledge@Wharton High School. In the second round, our judges will read all finalists’ essays and determine the first, second and third prize winners, as well as the honorable mentions. Prizes will be awarded based on geography and age group. There will be one set of prizes for residents of Philadelphia and another set for global participants. Separate prizes will also be awarded for students, professionals and retirees. By entering this contest, you acknowledge that in both rounds of judging, decisions are final and cannot be appealed. Your essay will be judged based on the following criteria:

  • Focus: Is your essay on-topic? Does it provide a comprehensive response to each aspect of the prompt?
  • Structure: Is your essay written in a clear and organized way? Does it contain an introduction and a conclusion? Can the reader easily follow the flow of your argument?
  • Research: Do you use a variety of sources to support your ideas and analysis? Do you use sources beyond what is available on the web? Do you cite your sources properly?
  • Analysis: Based on your own experiences and research, do you develop interesting and insightful conclusions? Do you support your conclusions in a compelling way?
  • Style and Grammar: Is your writing coherent and concise? Is your essay grammatically and mechanically correct? Do you use original sentence structure and word selection?

Questions?  Contact: KWHSFinLit@wharton.upenn.edu

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What exactly is Knowledge@Wharton High School?
    Knowledge@Wharton High School, KWHS for short, is an interactive online knowledge site for students interested in finding out more about the world of business. The site officially launched in February 2011.
  • I haven’t learned anything about financial literacy in school.  Does this put me at a disadvantage?
    No. This essay contest emphasizes original ideas and creativity.
  • What if I miss the deadline for submissions?
    Late essays will not be considered. All essays must be submitted by e-mail by March 16, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
  • Is it okay if my essay runs long by a few hundred words?
    Essays should run 500 words or less.
  • Can I use direct quotes in my essay?
    Yes. Use whatever tools necessary to create an informative, creative essay that engages the reader. Be sure to include proper citations for any material you use that is not your own.