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News from the Reference Desk

Free Financial Literacy Programs

Summer is almost over, but the need for money smarts will never end! With that in mind, here are a few free, prepackaged programs and curricula selected and compiled by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) designed to help you improve your own financial literacy and develop the best personal strategy for saving, investing and more.

Elementary School Economics
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Personal finance and economic lessons are paired with popular children’s books. Librarians can read the book to the children and follow the reading with discussions about money decisions, saving, spending, choices, needs and wants and much more. Includes lesson plans and handouts.

Econlowdown
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
An online learning platform for more than 25 courses about money, financial decisions and economics. Register free to access the full list of courses. Instructors can select courses for their online “classrooms,” hold online discussions with classroom students, view progress, and present poll questions or surveys.

Money Smart for Older Americans
CFPB, FDIC
An instructor-led training developed jointly by FDIC and CFPB, this module provides awareness among older adults and their caregivers about how to prevent elder financial exploitation and to encourage advance planning and informed financial decision-making.

Thrive by 5
Credit Union National Association Inc.
Simple activities and other resources that are parent-and-child tested and meant to give you ideas for: Teaching how money works and what it can do, talking about how your family uses money, and modeling good money management.

By joecollier on August 6, 2014 Categories: Business, Consumer, Economic, Finance

Summertime tips for financial literacy

Summer is finally here, and between planning your holidays and wondering when you should turn on the AC, I bet the last thing you’re thinking about is FINANCIAL LITERACY! However, this is actually the BEST time to start figuring out a plan to keep your life cruising along while planning for the future (ok, actually ANYTIME  is a perfect time to work on financial literacy, but why not start now anyway?).

There are many resources that can help, one of which is Feedthepig.org. Assembled by the American Institute of CPAs (and they oughta know!), Feedthepig.org is a great site that offers tips and strategies for putting together a financial plan, including how to create a budget, review your expenses, manage saving, retirement, and student loan debt, and much more. It’s easy to use and fairly straightforward—the real trick, as always, is ACTUALLY DOING IT. Mint.com is another helpful site. Mint pulls all your financial accounts into one place. Set a budget, track your goals, stay on top of your finances. See what’s happening with all your accounts – checking, savings, investments, retirement – at any moment of the day. There’s even a free mobile app to help you stay connected on-the-go. If you’re a student fresh out of college and looking at a mountain (or a molehill) of student loans, you should check out YouCanDealWithIt.com. YouCanDealWithIt.com provides practical and easy-to-understand advice on how to deal with common financial situations facing today’s college students and recent graduates, such as: understanding student aid, including the repayment of student loans, learning effective money management, including setting a budget, and dealing with the dangers of credit cards while enjoying the benefits. In addition to being a resource for students, this website also provides information and tools for parents and college financial aid administrators to help them communicate accurate and effective financial advice to their prospective students, current students, and graduates. So bite the bullet and get started on the road toward better financial literacy today—it may be tough at first, but you’ll be glad you did!

By joecollier on July 1, 2014 Categories: Consumer, Credit Cards, Economic, Finance

Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently proposed rules regarding net neutrality or an open internet. They are seeking public comments to assist them in making these very important rules.

From the FCC website:

The FCC has previously concluded that broadband providers have the incentive and ability to act in ways that threaten Internet openness. But today, there are no rules that stop broadband providers from trying to limit Internet openness. That is why the Notice adopted by the FCC today starts with a fundamental question: “What is the right public policy to ensure that the Internet remains open?”

Initial comments to these proposed rules opened on May 15 and will close on July 15. Replies to comments will be open until September 15. Comments (termed “filings”) may be submitted on the FCC website.

For further reading:

American Library Association: Network Neutrality
Consumers Union on FCC Plan for New Net Neutrality Rules
Consumers Union: What is Network Neutrality?
New York Times: FCC Backs Opening Net Neutrality Rules for Debate
Washington Post: FCC Approves Plan to Consider Paid Priority on Internet
Washington Post: ‘Net Neutrality’ Puts FCC at Center of Storm
Washington Post: Why the Death of Net Neutrality Would be a Disaster for Libraries

By julie collins on May 16, 2014 Categories: Consumer, Technology, Web/Tech

Identity Theft

In 2012, approximately 16.6 million individuals (or 7% of the population) over the age or 16 were victims of identity theft in the United States according to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increasing number of security breaches occurring just in the past few months has made it imperative that consumers take precautions to safeguard their private information and to know where to turn and steps to take if they become victims themselves. The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website has an Identity Theft  guide which provides useful and detailed information for victims and tips for those who would like to safeguard their identity. Specific sections (e.g. initial steps to take if you are a victim; what to do later in the process; how to safeguard your identity and different types of identity theft) are presented in an easy to understand format with helpful checklists to simplify the process.

By julie collins on April 23, 2014 Categories: Consumer, Credit Cards

Chicago Consumers’ CHECKBOOK now with remote access

You can now access Chicago Consumers’ Checkbook from computers outside the Library if you have an MPPL card. You’ll need to register the first time you use it, but this will give you the privilege to submit reviews for all kinds of local services. It’s kind of like Yelp or Amazon, but you don’t have to write clever reviews, just concise.

The popular Chicago Consumers’ Checkbook contains articles and ratings on a wide variety of local service firms, professionals, and stores. Includes ratings for insurance companies, plumbers, heating and air conditioning contractors, auto repair shops, dentists, doctors and more. The Chicago Consumers’ CHECKBOOK online database also includes their national online Guide to Top Doctors, which lists 20,000 of the top-rated physicians in 35 specialties across the country, as well as their Guide to Hospitals which provides detailed information and ratings of more than 4,500 hospitals nationwide.

Steven Browne, Reference Librarian

By Patricia Smolin on October 28, 2013 Categories: Consumer

Choosing Wisely: American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM)

Choosing Wisely is a composite of U.S. specialty societies which represent more than 500,000 physicians.

They worked to develop lists of “Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question” in recognition of the importance of physician and patient conversations to improve care and eliminate unnecessary tests and procedures. Here are practical treatment guidelines, and suggested patient/advocate questions to ask in easy to understand language.

 

By Patricia Smolin on August 28, 2013 Categories: Consumer, Health

Consumer Action Handbook

The Consumer Action Handbook is published each year by the Federal Citizen Information Center at the General Services Administration. Inside, you’ll find helpful tips about preventing identity theft, understanding credit, filing a consumer complaint and many other useful topics. MPPL has two copies in English and one in Spanish in our collection. You may also view the entire Handbook online or in PDF format.

Topics include: Banking, Employment, Health Care, Housing, Identify Theft, and other consumer interests.

By Patricia Smolin on April 16, 2013 Categories: Consumer, Economic

Furnace and Central A/C Reviews

A pricey appliance purchase deserves some consumer research and a furnace investment is no exception. Consumer Reports hasn’t reviewed individial models since 2000, but it does provide descriptions of the top sellers.

Another site, FurnaceCompare gives details of brand models and customer feedback in very organized listings.

The most recent reviews of central a/c brands are noted in the Consumer Reports May 2012 issue.                                                                                              

And the Library’s access to ChicagoCheckbook is also useful when learning more about heating/cooling contractors. Please let us know if you need help using this or any of our subscription databases.

 

By Patricia Smolin on October 23, 2012 Categories: Consumer

Boosting Customer Service

Some new titles in the Library’s collection were recently highlighted at a Jump Start Your Business session, a series of business programs offered by the Library and Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce.

@ Your Service : How to Attract New Customers, Increase Sales, and Grow Your Business Using Simple Customer Service Techniques / Frank Eliason. (658.812 ELI) 2012

Scammed : How to Save Your Money and Find Better Service in a World Of Schemes, Swindles, And Shady Deals / Christopher Elliott. (332.024 ELL) 2012

Customer Service Management Training 101 : Quick and Easy Techniques That Get Great Results / Renee Evenson. (658.3124 EVE) 2012

The Apple Experience : Secrets to Building Insanely Great Customer Loyalty / Carmine Gallo. (658.812 GAL)

Winning The Customer : Turn Consumers Into Fans and Get Them to Spend More / Lou Imbriano, Elizabeth King. (658.802 IMB) 2012

Uplifting Service : The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet / Ron Kaufman. (658.812 KAU) 2012

The Loyalty Leap : Turning Customer Information into Customer Intimacy / Bryan Pearson. (658.8343 PEA) 2012

Who’s your Gladys? : How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan / Marilyn Suttle and Lori Jo Vest. (658.812 SUT) 2009

What’s Your Problem? / Jon Yates. (381.34 YAT) 2011

By Patricia Smolin on September 20, 2012 Categories: Business, Consumer

What’s FRED?

What is FRED? Short for Federal Reserve Economic Data, FRED is an online database consisting of more than 55,000 economic data time series from 45 national, international, public, and private sources.

FRED, created in 1990 and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, combines data with a tools that help us understand and display economic data.

The categories that can be searched include: Money, Banking & Finance; Population, Employment & Labor Markets; Production & Business Activity; Price Indexes; International and Regional Data.

By Patricia Smolin on September 13, 2012 Categories: Consumer, Economic, Finance