On the road to financial literacy: Stop at the library for valuable no-cost resources

Posted on August 28, 2019 at 6:00 am

By Stacey Goddard

In my last blog, I talked about my first real job (delivering newspapers with my brother). What I didn’t mention is the very different approaches my brother and I took with our hard-earned wages.

He had a budget, including a formula for how much money would go into savings each month, how much would go toward some short-term goal he had—like buying a new pair of running shoes—and how much he wanted to spend on things like going out with friends.

What was my approach, you might be wondering? Well, I did none of those things.

For my teenage self, working was something I did to support my favorite pastime: shopping. You can bet I was spending the money I made just as quickly as I was earning it! And once I was old enough to apply for department store credit cards, I did that, too. My friends did the same thing. After all, we’d grown up seeing our parents charging stuff—so it had to be okay. Right?

It was easy—way too easy—to get the credit cards. Before I knew it, I was making monthly payments to Macy’s, Sears, Nordstrom, and others. And of course I was only making the minimum payment each month, because why would I write the check for more (It was the 80s—we wrote checks back then!) when I didn’t have to?

As you might have guessed, I didn’t ever think about how much paying only the minimum amount would really cost me, nor did I think about the crazy high interest rates I was being charged. I also never thought about whether I really needed so many credit cards in the first place.

When I got into a bind—like when the alternator on my car went out, on top of charging too many sweaters at a department store—my fiscally responsible brother loaned me money for the repairs. But if something catastrophic had happened, I’m not sure what I would have done. In hindsight, I can appreciate just how lucky I was.

Because we never talked about money and personal finance when I was growing up, I arrived to adulthood and spent my 20s with no understanding of the financial mess I was making for my future self.

It wasn’t until my early 40s before I finally felt like I knew how to make smart choices for my financial present and future.

Maybe some of this sounds (uncomfortably) familiar. Maybe you’d like to use my example as a cautionary tale for a friend or loved one. Or maybe you’d just like to be a bit more informed when making decisions related to your own financial well-being.

Wherever you are on the financial literacy spectrum, the Library District has resources and workshops available to help you with a wide variety of personal finance topics!

If you’re looking for help to bring order to your finances, check out one of SNAP Spokane’s monthly Dollars & Sense workshops.

These two workshops will help give you tools you need for financial empowerment. During the Give Yourself a Raise workshop, you’ll learn budgeting basics, how to set achievable goals, and why you should avoid payday loans and other predatory businesses. In Navigating Your Credit World, you’ll learn how to get (and decipher) a free copy of your credit report, what to do to improve your credit score, and how to manage collection agencies.

Perhaps you have the basics down, but would like to delve deeper into financial topics, such as becoming debt free, avoiding identity theft, or protecting your credit score. Or maybe you’re thinking of buying a house but have no idea what is involved. In that case, you’ll want to explore some of the STCU workshops we offer.

If you’ve done some planning and are ready to pursue homeownership, SNAP’s Homebuyer Education Seminar might be your best next step. This free five-hour seminar will allow you to explore all aspects of the home-buying process. At the conclusion of the seminar, you’ll receive a certificate of completion, which can be used to apply for down-payment assistance. These seminars are offered twice a month at our libraries and require that you register through SNAP’s online education calendar.

We have a number of other workshops coming up as we head into fall, including information about Medicare and help with open enrollment, retirement planning, and getting started with investing. So no matter where you are financially, there is something of interest!

And I can’t end this blog without mentioning one of my favorite digital resources: Consumer Reports.

If you are planning a purchase, especially something with a large price tag like a car or major appliance, you should definitely do some homework and see which brands have the best (and worst) ratings. Consumer Reports ranks hundreds of items, from mixers to headphones to mattresses and more, in an unbiased and fair manner.

It’s a good idea to check Consumer Reports before your next purchase, no matter how big or small. It may not stop you from buying a lot of sweaters like I did in my 20s, but it could help you make a smart purchase that won’t cost you more to fix or replace down the road.

Stacey Goddard

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