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In these times, seniors need money management advice, too

by: PHOTO: MERRY MACKINNON - Innovative Changes Misha Staggs led a seminar on Holiday Finances and Budgeting held in November at Multnomah County Midland Library. Stress levels can ratchet up during the holidays, especially when money is scarce. Ways to calm nerves and limit expenses that Staggs recommended included throwing a potluck holiday dinner and agreeing ahead of time to secret Santa gift giving. Multnomah County's public libraries have always held events that help improve people's lives. Some, such as AARP's free tax assistance for those 50 and older, routinely have long lines by the meeting rooms adjacent to the book stacks.

But after the nation's 2008 market crash and housing and unemployment crisis, the library has geared up with more events and classes focusing on financial literacy, under its program called Smart Saving. While often targeting adults of all ages who have trouble making ends meet, Multnomah County Library also is reaching out to the county's 116,000 people age 60-plus, as well as its vulnerable seniors surviving annually on or less than $11,170, the federal 2012 poverty level for a single individual.

"Currently, there are over 77,000 people 65 and over living in Multnomah County," said Ross Betzer, Multnomah County information services librarian. According to the American Community Survey, 10.6 percent of them had incomes below poverty level in the past 12 months, Betzer said.

Boosted by a FINRA Investor Education Foundation grant and partnership with the American Library Association, the library is educating seniors and others in money management — and, for those with financial resources — investment decisions. For instance, after receiving the first two-year FINRA grant in 2010, library staff brought a mobile tablet computer lab to 19 local retirement centers where the staff taught "MoneyTime," a learning program with topics that seniors can easily link to and open. Topics included investing, life insurance and annuities, and protecting against identity theft, as well as a link to the library's Smart Saving website.

Multnomah County Library describes Smart Saving as a way to help "find effective, unbiased information to get control of your finances." The website offers links to assistance programs, financial education websites and other tools. Smart Saving also features a long list of books available for library loan with titles such as "The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire" and "The 7 Most Important Equations for Your Retirement."

A second FINRA grant continuing through 2014 also will help fund library-sponsored financial literacy programs, with future Mobile Learning Lab visits to retirement centers likely, Betzer said.

And more money and finance classes held at Multnomah County branch libraries will be forthcoming, including ones scheduled on wills, trusts and estate planning, and on long-term care.

Manage your money

  • A class on the basics of wills, living trusts, powers of attorney and health care directives will be held Wednesday, Dec. 5, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the St. Johns Library, 7510 N. Charleston Ave., Portland.

  • A class titled "Think About the Future: Long-Term Care" will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Midland Library 805 S.E. 122nd Ave., Portland.

  • A list of other upcoming library programs on money and finances can be found online at events.multcolib.org/category/program-type/financesmoney.

  • Multnomah County Library's Smart Saving page is at multcolib.org/ref/smartsaving.

  • Multnomah County Library Telephone Reference Line representatives also will answer questions on a variety of topics. Call 503-988-5234.