Project provides free financial advising


Jerry James, a retired Kelley lecturer, gives financial advice to Anita Decastro during an It's Your Money Talk to an Expert session on Tuesday at the Monroe County Public Library. The sessions are free and available every month. Annie Garau and Annie Garau Buy Photos

Ryan Stacy likes to say while money isn’t everything, money is behind everything.

The leader of Monroe County Public Library’s “It’s Your Money” project said he doesn’t mean to sound materialistic when he uses the phrase.

He simply wants people to realize how important it is to pay attention to their finances.

“It’s become a little bit more complicated and challenging to stay on top of your money, and there is not a corresponding formal education going on in schools,” Stacy said.

“In the information age we live in, there’s so much information out there that it’s hard to wade through.”

The “It’s Your Money” project serves to provide people with a reliable and unbiased source of advice for all of their financial 

Stacy said it’s a very important resource, especially for young people. The group is currently targeting people age 20 through 39.

The project organizes seminars on topics such as apartment hunting and student loan debt, as well as monthly “talk to an expert” sessions.

Out of the 12 sessions offered this week, Stacy said nine appointments were made.

Jerry James, a retired senior lecturer of finance at the Kelley School of Business, has been working as an adviser with the project for four years.

“It’s good stuff,” he said. “Sometimes I get really inspired and encouraged 
because people are taking action to take control of their money.”

He said he’s happy to give advice on everything from student loan debt to investment strategies.

Rachel Klausman, a 26-year-old information assistant at the MCPL, took advantage of the free sessions to ask about a mutual fund she started in 2011.

“If you’re a young person and you’re thinking you want to do better with your finances, it can be hard to find someone you trust,” she said. “This program gives you that. Plus, it’s not intimidating.”

As a retired teacher, James knows how to discuss financial concepts in easy-to-understand ways. Food metaphors seem to be one of his go-to explanatory methods.

The large pepperoni pizza plan, for example, is a scenario where a person takes the $10 they would have spent on a pizza every Friday night and saves it instead.

Over one year, that would add up to $520.

“And that’s something,” he said. “That’s the magic of compound interest, and that’s why it’s important to start early.”

Another way James illustrated the importance of starting early was with an anecdote about two young friends who both graduate from college.

One friend starts putting money in an Individual Retirement Account right away and the other friend waits.

The first friend puts $2,000 a year in her account for six years and then stops.

That’s when the second friend starts putting money in his IRA, depositing $2,000 a year for the next 40 years.

When the friends turn 68 and retire, they both have $1.5 million in their IRA. But the first friend only put in $12,000 while the second put in $80,000.

“Again, the magic of compound interest,” James said.

When you don’t start investing, saving and learning about money early, you might go through a “peanut butter and jelly stage,” James said.

“It’s when a young person has gone over their debt capacity,” he said.

“They’ll get through it, but they’re going to be eating a lot of peanut butter and jellies.”

For more information on the “It’s Your Money” program or to set up a free appointment with a financial adviser, go to

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