Financial literacy is one of the most important skills a person can develop, and yet it is often one of the least-emphasized subjects in K–12 schools or in higher education settings. As a result, many adults have a limited understanding of how to manage credit and debt, how to budget their money and save, how to prepare for retirement, or other issues that can have a significant impact on their quality of life. Library programs can help fill this need.
As LJ reported last fall, a handful of libraries have even begun pairing financial literacy programming efforts with branded “I Love My Library” debit cards, through a plan developed by SirsiDynix and Visa. This spotlight focuses on online tools, both free and subscription-based, that are available for guiding patrons toward solid financial decision-making, regardless of current life phase or economic status.
Product: Financial Literacy
Company: Rosen Digital
The subscription-based Financial Literacy collection of resources from Rosen Digital promises to prepare K–12 students for their financial futures right from their computer, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, or netbook. From personal and household finance to market economics and globalization, Rosen Digital’s Library Media Connection (LMC)/American Reference Books Annual (ARBA) award–winning database makes economics and money management easy to understand. Users learn to manage credit and debt, save and invest, plan for college and retirement, and avoid fraud and scams.
“Curriculum-correlated content supports Common Core state standards for English language arts (ELA) and mathematics; state standards for language arts, mathematics, and economics; and National Standards in Personal Finance Education as created by the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy,” according to product’s website (financialliteracy.rosendigital.com). “Educators will also appreciate lesson plans, assessment, and extension and enrichment activities, as well as the text-to-speech feature, printable research sheets, and article-specific glossaries.”
An instant translation element makes articles accessible in more than 50 languages, while text-to-speech and text highlighting serves those who prefer auditory learning. Interactive calculators, videos, quizzes, and polls help users get a grasp on budgeting, mortgage repayment, student and auto loans, and savings and retirement.
Product: Smart investing @ your library
Organization: American Library Association
Smart investing @ your library at smartinvesting.ala.org is a grant-funded program developed collaboratively by the American Library Association and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation with a goal of addressing the growing need for unbiased financial and investor education at the grassroots level.
Downloadable tools are available to libraries as resources to build an audience, create staff training, measure results, and build partnerships. Resources like “6 Fun and Easy Financial Literacy Programs and How To Do Them” outline financial literacy programs that have been instituted by various libraries, along with basic information about their programs and downloads to help libraries present those programs in their own communities.
Product: FTC Consumer Resources
Organization: U.S. Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) consumer information site (consumer.ftc.gov) has an interface that’s easy to navigate and is packed with information about everything from avoiding scams and using layaway plans to saving energy and dealing with foreclosure. Sections include money and credit, homes and mortgages, health and fitness, jobs and making money, and privacy and identity. The video and media section of the site features short videos on topics such as filing a complaint, dealing with debt collectors, saving money on gas, and shopping for lightbulbs. A blog offers up timely articles, each packed with links, tips, facts, and loads of resources.
“Take Action” is a convenient collection of quick links to file customer complaints, register for the do-not-call list, report identity theft, or request a free credit report. Each link takes you to an FTC site that provides the forms or in-depth information necessary to complete the requested action.
Product: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Library Resources
Company: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The newly created Library Resources area at the nonprofit consumerfinance.gov/library-resources serves to help libraries identify and connect with partners in their communities; provide librarians with a collection of financial education programs, resources, and tools; offer marketing support for financial education in libraries; and make available training for library staff and managers. The site posts monthly ideas and materials for programs like Family Money Night, Don’t Get Hacked, and Preventing Elder Financial Exploitation. Webinars for staff include monthly discussions on financial education topics for serving the needs of patrons, including understanding credit reports and scores and finding ways to save money during tax time.
The site also hosts a collection of graphics for use in print, website, and social media outlets to notify patrons that financial resources are available at their library. A listing of sites from federal government agencies and national nonprofit organizations are available to access and paste directly to a library website; the Partnership Guidebook helps institutions think through the process of building and documenting collaborations that work well for libraries, partners, and patrons.
Organization: U.S. Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission
MyMoney.gov was developed by the congressionally chartered Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission. This basic site organizes resources into five categories, called “My Money Five”: Earn, Save, Protect, Borrow, and Spend. The straightforward design makes it easy to access each category through a simple graphic. “Earn” helps readers understand pay and benefits—such as deductions, taxes, workplace benefits, and more. “Save” offers tips on setting money aside for short- and long-term goals. “Protect” gives advice on how to keep money, identity, and belongings safe with organizational hints, warnings of fraud and scams, and suggestions about insurance. “Borrow” helps readers track borrowing habits; shows how to plan, understand, and shop around for loans with a low annual percentage rates; and guides readers through monitoring their credit scores. “Spend” presents users with guidelines on living within their means, making a budget, and learning banking basics. Each category offers links to spotlight resources, such as tax withholding calculators, tips on homeowner and renter’s insurance, and financial literacy podcasts.
A “Life Events” area includes guides for making the best financial choices about major milestones with links to federal brochures, publications, websites, and videos on welcoming a new child, owning a home, starting a new business, or dealing with the death of a family member.
In “Tools,” users will find calculators for things like credit card repayment, tax withholdings, and even life expectancy.
Also, mymoney.gov includes a collection of resources designed specifically for younger patrons, with games and fun facts about money as well as tips for saving and planning for the future. A page for teachers and educators includes curricula, lesson plans, tip sheets, guidance, and other helpful tools.