When studying data on Philadelphia’s poverty, Thomas McDevitt noticed a lack of local programs promoting economic success and financial education.
“When I looked around and started talking to people and I started drilling down into exact ZIP codes, it really blew my mind as to how deep the poverty is here in Philadelphia,” said McDevitt, a certified financial planner and chartered financial analyst.
The 2002 MBA alumnus decided to take matters into his own hands and founded Philly Financial Planning!, a financial literacy organization that helps low-income Philadelphians. The nonprofit will launch in September and aims to close the city’s wealth gap.
The financial planning and literacy services will be orchestrated by volunteer financial planners. This includes tax experts, legal counselors and financial analysts from organizations like the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, a nonprofit standards-setting organization for financial planners.
In 2017, Philadelphia ranked as the poorest of the nation’s 10 most populous cities with a 25.7 percent poverty rate. U.S. Census Bureau data indicates the national average poverty rate for 2017 was 12.3 percent.
“A lot of the wealth, inequality, and a lot of the poverty here in Philadelphia extends from one generation to the next,” McDevitt said.
Many government programs and nonprofits only provide “band-aid,” short-term solutions to financial hardships, like offering mortgage payment extensions, he added.
McDevitt hopes to promote financial education by providing free coaching services, where financial experts advise people on stocks and investments, and professional financial planners to families and young people with economic hardships to help them build assets and savings, he said.
Elisha Lowe uses McDevitt’s coaching services, invested in the startup because she wants to see education on financial literacy topics, like investment and the stock market, made accessible to Philadelphians, she said.
“It’s not just for old white guys,” Lowe said. “This is everybody’s market, and we’re all consumers, so why not benefit from it? Once people learn how to make money, no one can take that away from you. You can lose everything, but as long as you have those basic skills, you can retain it.”
McDevitt also wants to make financial literacy and education more fun through initiatives like Eagle’s Nest, a program modeled similarly to the popular ABC reality show “Shark Tank.” The nonprofit will help young entrepreneurs create business plans and give them a platform to present their pitches to local investors.
McDevitt also plans to create a city-wide stock market challenge, where community members can predict the best performing stock of a market quarter to win a cash prize.
“There’s a lot of people out there that don’t get to learn about financial planning concepts in a school,” said Bill Kline, a 2012 strategic management Ph.D. alumnus and McDevitt’s former business partner.
In 2007, Kline co-founded McDevitt & Kline LLC, a professional continuing education company. He is excited to see McDevitt take their mission to the next step with Philly Financial Planning!
“If you can start educating people on the skill side of things, then you can make sure that they’re not making bad decisions and that they’re maximizing or optimizing their situation,” Kline added.
McDevitt is finding local community organizations to partner with for his nonprofit. In the long run, he hopes its educational model can be duplicated to serve other high poverty cities with wide wealth gaps like Baltimore, which has about a 22 percent poverty rate, and Detroit, which has about a 34 percent poverty rate, according to Census Reporter.
“Things have to change,” McDevitt said. “You can’t have so much wealth concentrated in the hands of so few people, while so many people are struggling just to get by and actually living in deep poverty.”