Monroe County Public Library teaches young adults to handle finances

If your mind is drawing a blank, you’re not alone. Statistics show most college students don’t have a good understanding of personal finance.

The Monroe County Public Library is trying to change that.

Designed specifically for 15 to 29 year olds, MCPL’s new program, “It’s Your Money,” works to help young adults take control of their finances.

“We’re a place where people can come to ask questions about anything financial without feeling like they’re being sold something,” said Jason Groth, the librarian in charge of the program.

“It’s Your Money” aims to supply unbiased financial help for anything related to money, from getting out of debt to knowing what to invest in.

The program provides resources, which can be accessed in the library and at, and programming such as workshops and individual financial consulting. MCPL’s program is free of charge due to a grant from the American Library Association and Financial Industry Regulatory

A needed program

More than 80 programs similar to “It’s Your Money” have been started throughout the United States to address a key national concern: the lack of financial literacy among Americans, especially young adults, Groth said.

According to a 2009 Young Adults & Money Survey sponsored by Charles Schwab, more than three of four young adults described their financial health as either “a little flabby” or “seriously out of shape.”

Groth said this lack of financial knowledge covers five main topics: budgeting, saving, spending, investing, credit and debt management.

“Because it can be an awkward or embarrassing topic for some people, they don’t always know how to ask for help,” Groth said. “They need somewhere to go where can people can point them in the right direction.”

Benefits for IU students

A significant part of the “It’s Your Money” program focuses on issues facing college students.

This month, the library will have a saving and paying for college information session and a FAFSA workshop. The library will also provide the opportunity to talk one-on-one with personal financial expert and Kelley School of Business professor Jerry James.

“People come in to talk about all kinds of issues,” James said. “We sit down and figure out a game plan to help get them on the right track.”

These services aren’t only for college students with money problems.

“It’s crucial to start thinking about money now, no matter how much of it you have,” Groth said. “Because if you don’t learn how to handle it responsibly, you are going to eventually run into trouble.”

Bettering the community

During the 10 months of planning “It’s Your Money,” the MCPL partnered with local organizations and nonprofits to understand the specific needs of the Bloomington community.

“Now nonprofits can turn to us when they don’t have time or know how to assist people in need of financial help,” Groth said.

Program advisory board member Matt Wysocki said a more financially literate community is a better community.

“When more people understand how to manage their money, they can save up for amenities that help out the community, like buying a house or investing in an education,” said Wysocki, who is also director of workforce initiatives for the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

Why turn to the library?

In 2009, the Indiana State Board of Education mandated instruction in personal financial responsibility for students in grades six through 12.

Groth said that although this mandate was a step in the right direction, it’s not going to be sufficient just yet.

“The burden lays on a lot of really busy people in schools to find a way to implement it without any more staff or more money,” Groth said. “So it can’t happen as quickly as it should.”

Libraries provided with the grant that MCPL received, however, have $80,000 to contribute to the cause.

“Money is something that everyone has to worry about. The library is a place where everybody has access, too,” Groth said. “We just want to encourage people to start thinking about their finances.”

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