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Libraries add tools to help with personal finance

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Jackson County Library Services has added books and other items in English and Spanish to help people with personal finances and disaster recovery.

Jackson County Library Services is expanding its personal finance collections in English and Spanish after receiving a $5,000 grant.

The additional tools and resources will help ensure that residents have the information they need when making critical money decisions as they repair, rebuild and recover following the September 2020 wildfires and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, library officials said.

Residents of disaster areas face many challenges, including filing claims, accessing government resources, managing lump-sum payments from insurance companies and meeting their immediate expenses when their income is disrupted.

The $5,000 grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation will help provide tools to navigate those tasks.

“Many of us lack experience with these decisions. Nonetheless, we have to get it right the first time around or face long-term financial consequences. Fortunately, the library has information that can help,” said Gerri Walsh, foundation president.

Many of the informational resources are already at local libraries, with more ordered and on the way, said Elanna Erhardt, business librarian for Jackson County Library Services.

Items can be found by searching the library system catalog at jcls.org.

Offerings in English include “The Fire Smart Home Handbook: Preparing for and Surviving the Threat of Wildfire,” “Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home,” “Budgeting 101,” “The Money Saving Mom’s Budget,” “The Complete Guide to Personal Finance for Teenagers and College Students,” “Raising Financially Confident Kids” and “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers.”

Resources in Spanish include guides to banking, budgeting, shopping, staying safe from hackers, making a will, buying your first house and investing.

The Medford, Ashland, Rogue River and Eagle Point library branches have Take & Make packets for teens and children with individual and family activities to learn about personal finance. They include activity instructions, supplies and treats, Erhardt said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the library system’s 15 branches are currently closed to in-person browsing, but patrons can place holds on books and other items, then pick them up at a branch of their choice.

Patrons can also describe their area of interest and ask a librarian to create a list of up to 15 titles that they can check out. The request form is at jcls.libwizard.com/f/jcls_discovery.

Librarians are available to answer questions and help with research on a variety of fronts, including small business resources, college financial aid, wildfire survivor aid, remote learning support and COVID-19 vaccinations.

Send your questions or requests to information@jcls.org or call 541-774-8689 or 541-774-6996.

In addition to funding more personal finance items for the library system, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Investor Education Foundation is helping people avoid becoming victims of fraud.

The foundation estimates consumer financial fraud costs Americans more than $50 billion a year ― and is especially prevalent following major natural disasters. Since it was established in 2005, the National Center for Disaster Fraud, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, has logged more than 100,000 disaster-related complaints from all 50 states. Financial fraud makes tough times even more difficult for people recovering from the trauma inflicted by disasters, foundation officials said.

The foundation has issued an alert with practical guidance to help residents protect themselves from fraudulent financial schemes. For information, visit www.saveandinvest.org/disaster-fraud-Oregon.

“Recovery follows disaster, but the path can be smooth or very bumpy,” Walsh said. “Financial fraud can be one of the biggest potholes along that road. Jackson County Library Services has information to help people avoid the financial potholes and bring the route to recovery into sharper focus.”

For more than 15 years, the FINRA Foundation has provided funding, staff training and programs to build the capacity of public libraries to address the financial education needs of people nationwide. Much of this has been accomplished in partnership with the American Library Association through a program known as Smart investing@your library.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.