For many of us who have financial plans, this market retreat is testing how well we’ve prepared.

But the stumbling economy will pinch everyone, especially those lacking the basics of how to manage their finances.

That’s why it was impressive to see 180 girls from West Philadelphia and other city high schools on the University of Pennsylvania campus Friday attending a one-day financial conference.

The sixth annual DollarDiva conference was presented by Wharton Women, a group of undergrads at the business school.

The curriculum was designed to teach about saving, budgeting, preparing for job interviews, and applying to college. It was smartly presented by the Wharton student organizers.

One exercise was modeled off The Price is Right game show. On a big screen flashed images of items, such as Ugg Australia Classic Short Boots or a gallon of milk. The girls, most wearing pink DollarDiva T-shirts, were asked to write down their guesses for each price.
Judging by the hoots that filled the room when some of the answers were revealed, lots of them knew the value of the luxury items.
The goal? To get them to think about the cost of things and how that spending would fit into a budget.
Surveys have shown that men tend to have a higher "financial literacy" than women. That’s why programs like DollarDiva, which attracted 20 corporate sponsors, are so important.

The half-dozen high school girls I talked with reassured me that many of the concepts discussed at the conference have come up in their classes.

All of us can learn to be financially fabulous, as the divas say. But it takes discipline to practice it week in and week out.
We are seeing so many companies in China literally going out of business by the thousands, caught in the squeeze between sinking demand and higher operating costs in terms of labor, social cost and taxes, just as we predicted it would happen a year ago.
- James M. Papada III, chairman and CEO of Technitrol, a Philadelphia maker of electronic components with seven factories in China, talking to securities analysts on a conference call last week.