New Consumer Finance Course at HBS

ptufanoHarvard Business School‘s Working Knowledge published an interview last week with professor Peter Tufano, who teaches the first course in consumer finance to be offered by a top-ranked B-school.

“It’s shocking to me how little we think about the family in the MBA Program,” Tufano tells interviewer Roger Thompson. “By the time our MBAs graduate, they will have looked at financial statements for hundreds of companies. Other than our course, they would have never looked at the financial statements of a single household.”

Forbes also picked up the story, and explains that as business schools grew in the 19th century, they traditionally taught men how to run corporations, while the study of household finances became the focus of programs tailored to women.

The Consumer Finance course looks at topics ranging from the best ways to boost the savings rate to how banks can deliver better products for low-income customers. Rather than the typical corporate case studies, students will focus on the financial lives of real middle-class families. In one exercise, they create a budget for a Boston family of average means, figuring in costs for such everyday staples as food, transportation and insurance.

“We now know that consumer financial decisions are not only huge activities but have the potential to make or break entire economies,” Tufano says.

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