In today’s world of payday lenders, credit card companies and countless mortgage options, Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo has made it a priority to keep Rhode Islanders feeling secure in their finances.
As part of the treasurer’s Financial Empowerment Library Tour, Raimondo made a visit to the Warwick Public Library Tuesday night to speak before a personal finance presentation by Capital Goods Fund.
“My office is constantly asking what more can we do to make people feel financially secure,” said Raimondo to 32 people, many of whom were furiously taking notes.
Raimondo said financial security was the main purpose of the night’s program, and one of biggest priorities for her office. “At the end of the day, everything I’ve done is to make people feel financially secure.”
One of those things is a partnership with Capital Goods Fund, a non-profit, Providence-based organization that offers financial coaching and micro loans for the Rhode Island Financial Coaching Corps.
“The partnership between Treasurer Raimondo, Capital Goods Fund and the library is a very good service for the public,” said Michael Zarum, who attended the presentation.
The Corps is part of the Treasury’s EmpowerRI initiative and works to match Rhode Islanders seeking financial guidance with a “coach” for no cost. Coaches are typically volunteers with financial skills and knowledge.
Lisa Gallant, special projects coordinator for Capital Goods Fund and Tuesday night’s presenter, explained that if she is made aware of specific concerns people seeking financial help have, she can try to match the individual with a coach who has that experience.
“We need to help people. It’s harder and more complicated than it used to be,” said Raimondo.
Tuesday night’s presentation also served as the final event in Warwick Public Library’s “Get on the Road to Financial Stability” series. Reference Librarian Jessica D’Avanza explained that patrons constantly ask where information on personal finance can be found. Per the request of Library Director Diane Greenwald and Programming Director Wil Gregersen, D’Avanza began to research programs that could be incorporated into a “home economics reference series.”
D’Avanza said previous events were presentations by the Attorney General’s Office on avoiding scams and College Planning Center of Rhode Island on paying for college.
The librarian was very pleased with Tuesday’s attendance and felt she could even benefit from it.
“It is always a good reminder to listen to a financial talk,” said D’Avanza.
Warwick resident Zarum shared D’Avanza’s attitude. Keeping a personal budget spreadsheet since he was in college, Zarum understands the importance of financial planning.
“It is important to know where every penny that comes in is going,” said Zarum. “That includes managing personal expenses, personal debt and budgeting for the future.”
Zarum said he feels planning for future expenses or putting aside funds for investments and vacations can be beneficial.
While the Financial Empowerment Library Tour provides financial help to the public, it also benefits one of Raimondo’s favorite services, the public library.
The treasurer has been a longtime supporter of libraries and recalls visiting the Greenville Public Library in Smithfield when she was growing up.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without public libraries,” said Raimondo. “Schools and libraries level the playing field.”
Warwick residents of all ages turned out to receive financial advice on a variety of topics, including mortgages, credit cards and credit reports. Gallant was especially pleased with the number of questions the group had following her presentation.
While some took the opportunity to ask brief questions about their own situations, others asked about the one-on-one coaching.
“I am definitely going to [meet with a coach],” said Kerri Iannacone, who attended the program as part of a family self-sufficiency program. She explained that she is trying to get her finances on track to buy a house of her own.
Warwick resident Donna Johnson attended the presentation in hopes of learning about estate planning but learned something new.
“I got educated about always having at least three credit cards,” said Johnson. “I always thought one credit card, one bill, one stamp.”
Johnson explained that she had always kept track of her budget, but not as often as she should.
“I’ve done it before, but things change, even month to month,” she said, citing unseen medical costs as something that can throw off her monthly budget.
Although estate planning was not on the agenda, Johnson said the event was “wonderful” and plans to take advantage of coaching.
“I always need free help,” she joked.
Before heading back to Providence for another meeting, Raimondo offered three pieces of advice she believes every Rhode Islander should know when it comes to personal finance: Watch out for debt, especially when it comes to credit cards and loans, look out for banking fees and start saving as early as possible.
If you missed Tuesday’s event, Raimondo and Capital Good Funds will be at Kingston Free Library (2605 Kingstown Road in Kingston) tonight at 6:30 for a modified version of the program. Raimondo will speak and take questions from the audience, before a representative from Capital Goods Fund delivers a short presentation and provides sign-ups for coaching. Call 783-8254 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
The final stop on the Financial Empowerment Library Tour will be on Monday, June 10 at 6:30 p.m. at Weaver Library at 41 Grove Ave. in East Providence. Call 434-2453 to register.
Ashley O’Shea, associate director of communications for the Office of General Treasurer, said other libraries have expressed interest in hosting presentations and the tour may pick up again in September.