The Seekonk Public Library’s Dollars and Sense program reached out to help women develop clearly defined financial goals and then capture their learning with a personal, written financial plan.
Know the Numbers
A community-wide survey showed that 78% of respondents were women who wanted more library programs on topics such as saving money and investments. Library research coupled with census data showed a significant disparity of income between males and females in Seekonk. Project director Michelle Gario noted, “The reality is that women make daily financial decisions in many households. Research supports the distinct likelihood that most women will outlive their spouses.”
Programs and Partners
With partner Money Management International (MMI), the library created sessions in four segments: building blocks (managing personal finances); molehills and mountains (setting goals and reducing debt); managing milestones (paying for college, buying a home, starting a business); and golden nuggets (investing and planning for a sustainable retirement).
Each program in each segment was stand-alone, making it easy for many women to participate, and everyone could start at her own level. Participants worked with their actual bills and goals worksheets, allowing them to produce a plan to meet their financial obligations while still putting away money for the future. Pre- and post-testing measured change. Findings showed increased confidence in setting goals, budgeting and eliminating debt. 100% of participants who enrolled in the workshop completed their long-term goals and needs worksheets.
“Spouses were welcome, and one woman who initially attended a financial planning seminar by herself later brought her husband and then other family members,” said Gario. “Before the end of the workshop series, her two young sons were also attending.”
• “Segment marketing messages and activities to reach varied target audiences,” suggested Gario. “Our program schedule did not work for every age group we wanted to reach. We frequently visited pre-schools, talked with program directors and other organizations serving families to encourage participation from young mothers with small children.”
• “Sustainability was built into the project from the start,” Gario continued. “The library has become a member of the Massachusetts Financial Education Collaborative. This grant helped us uncover the need for financial information, and we’ve added this focus in the library’s new long-range plan.”