Friday, August 6, 2010

Raimondo teaches dollars and sense with financial literacy program

Cranston Herald
August 6, 2010
All text and photos by Jen Cowart

MAKING IT COUNT: Democratic candidate for General Treasurer Gina Raimondo gives a presentation on fiscal responsibility at the Kelley Gazzero Post in Cranston.

Gina Raimondo, Democratic candidate for General Treasurer, has made good on one of her first campaign promises, and the election hasn’t even taken place yet.

Determined to make Rhode Islanders more financially literate, Raimondo held her first “Money School” workshop last Wednesday night at the Kelley Gazzero VFW Hall in Cranston.

In front of a full room of guests ranging in age from high school to retirement and beyond, Raimondo introduced herself and her platform.

“I never ran for office before, and many ask why I am running,” Raimondo said.

“My answer is that the time is now in Rhode Island for change, and we need leadership that is honest and capable, and we need someone who knows what they are doing.”

Raimondo explained that in her life, she has seen a tremendous benefit from her own parents’ good financial planning and responsibility with money.

As one of four children, all of whom went to college, Raimondo’s family managed to live on one modest income, with her parents scrimping and saving from the moment their children were born.

“Today, it’s not that simple. We’re dealing with things like foreclosures, bankruptcy and adjustable rate mortgages,” she said.

If elected to the General Treasurer’s office, Raimondo, whose campaign slogan is, “New Leadership, A Fresh Approach,” promised to create a program, a Financial Empowerment Institute of sorts, which will arm the public with financial information and tools to stay out of debt and in control of their finances.

“We’ll go to senior centers, VFW halls and libraries and teach people what they need to know to take care of themselves,” she said. “These are programs to help people help themselves.”

Raimondo discussed issues affecting the finances of her constituents, which weren’t necessarily an issue in the past, such as the fact that people are living much longer than they are financially prepared for. Long-term care is just one of the topics that Raimondo has planned for future workshops.

She emphasized that good financial sense helps to keep the peace within a family.

“It helps young people think about what they need to do to be sensible with their money,” she said. “If the credit card companies are on college campuses, then the State of Rhode Island’s Treasurer’s office should be on college campuses too, teaching students not to sign up for credit cards because the interest rates are too high, or not to ruin their credit ratings at 19 years old.”

One parent from the audience expressed concern about her child making smart decisions on their college campus.

Raimondo said that parent is not alone; noting that 55 percent of parents with children aged 16 to 24 questioned their children’s ability to be financially independent without assistance from them.

She began going through a PowerPoint presentation about setting financial goals.

“There is a huge amount of power in the facts,” she said as she discussed assets and liabilities.

She continued on through topics such as preparing a budget, planning for college or retirement and managing credit cards and debt. Her biggest emphasis, though, was on saving.

“I’m big on saving,” she said. “You’d be surprised how small things can add up. Start saving today. Drink your coffee at home versus at Dunkin’ Donuts and you’ll see $500 a year in savings.”

Raimondo issued her audience a challenge: to try to go one week without spending any money, stating that such a challenge would allow people to see where their money was going and if they can uncover a savings technique that they could live with forever, to help them save money.

“Start now, start small,” she said as she closed her presentation. “I feel strongly that it is the government’s job to educate the people so that they can have the information to protect themselves.”

Lauren Poplaski, a sophomore at Wheeler School, was struck most during Raimondo’s presentation about how much the littlest things can count.

“The little things are just extremely important now,” Poplaski said. “I have to think twice when I go to Starbucks.”

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