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Age: 52
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Cause: Financial literacy

Stirred by studies of financial illiteracy, the Italian-born Lusardi in 2002 co-designed an influential survey detailing baby boomers' ignorance of concepts such as inflation and compound returns. Through further research and public speaking, she's pushed nonstop for financial education, helping companies justify providing such guidance to workers. She co-created an NYSE-sponsored workplace toolkit explaining ideas like automatic savings escalation. And in 2011 she founded a center at George Washington University to promote financial learning around the world.

Says Lusardi: