Library Matters

Library Matters is a podcast by Montgomery County Public Libraries exploring the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning.
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Library Matters is a podcast of Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL) in Montgomery County, MD. Each episode we explore the world of books, libraries, technology, and learning. Library Matters is hosted by Julie Dina, Outreach Associate, Lauren Martino, Children's Librarian at our Silver Spring branch, and David Payne, Branch Manager of our Davis branch and Acting Branch Manager of our Potomac branch.  

Mar 27, 2019

Listen to the audio 

David Payne:  Welcome to Library Matters, with your host David Payne.

Lauren Martino:  And I'm Lauren Martino.

David Payne:  And for our episode today, we're going to be talking all about money.  There are two important events coming up in the calendar relating to money, one is Money Smart Week, the week of March the 30th to April the 6th, and then April is National Financial Literacy Month. 

Lauren Martino:  Not to mention tax month.

David Payne:  Indeed, how could we forget?  And joining us today I'm pleased to welcome our two guests, Mark Santoro who has swapped his usual technical producer role for guest.

Mark Santoro:  Hello.

David Payne:  And also Angelica Rengifo, who is normally to be found in the outreach department, but she's here, along with Mark, sharing her interest - strong personal interest in financial literacy.  Thanks for joining us, Angelica.

Angelica Rengifo:  Thank you.  Thank you for having me.

David Payne:  So, let's start off with asking you both, what do you mean by financial literacy.  Let's start with you, Angelica.

Angelica Rengifo:  Well, financial literacy can be a mix of financial credit and debit management, and the knowledge necessary to make financially sound decisions.

Mark Santoro:  So, I checked out - I went to Investopedia and checked out their definition of financial literacy, and it goes something like this; financial literacy focuses on the ability to manage personal finance.  It includes knowledge of and the ability to make decisions about investing, insurance, real estate, paying for college, retirement, tax planning.  So, that's kind of a formal definition.  My own personal definition is having the knowledge to control your finances rather than your finances controlling you.

Lauren Martino:  Think you covered it.

David Payne:  Think you covered it, yeah.

Lauren Martino:  So, Mark, how did you become interested in financial literacy, can you tell us a little bit about your financial literacy journey and why you're here talking to us about financial literacy today?

Mark Santoro:  I think basically it was life kept giving me prompts.

Lauren Martino:  Life will do that.

Mark Santoro:  Yes.  So I graduated from college and was living on my own for the first time, in my own apartment.  So there was all the financial aspects of that, finding an affordable apartment, and then what kind of car can you afford.  And that kept happening over the next couple of years; living on my own, getting married, buying a house, so - and every time something like that was coming up that was new to me I turn to books, and that kind of got me into it.

Lauren Martino:  So, and Angelica, can you tell us a little bit about your financial journey, and why this is of interest to you?

Angelica Rengifo:  So, the idea of being debt-free for good, no mortgage, no car loan, no student loans became very appealing to me when I started following people on Instagram.  And I follow people who are minimalists, and then I follow fashion bloggers.  And -

Lauren Martino:  The interesting combination.

Angelica Rengifo:  Exactly.  So, one, you can guess - one group will give me anxiety, and the one to like go, "Oh, I would like to have debt.  Oh, maybe I need that."  And then I will have the other one, the other group, and I'll be like, "I don't need any of this other stuff that I'm hearing from this other group."

Lauren Martino:  Talked a lot about that in our de-cluttering episode, I remember.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes.  So the idea of just not being a slave to the things that you own, to the debt that you have, and not being able to live your life because you worry about how you're going to make the next payment, it's something that is very appealing.  And also, I guess, seeing family members, I have a cousin, who I believe he was born with this knowledge.

Lauren Martino:  Born with this knowledge.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes.

David Payne:  That's useful, yeah.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes.

Lauren Martino:  Wow, that's winning the lottery right there.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes.  Ever since he was a little, five, seven, he will lend money to adults.

Lauren Martino:  What?

Angelica Rengifo:  He will be able to like save so much that he will be able to lend money to other people and ask for interest.

Lauren Martino:  When he was five and seven?

Angelica Rengifo:  Uh-huh, or nine.  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Wow.

Angelica Rengifo:  So, and I didn't get that knowledge, and we were raised in the same household, so.

Lauren Martino:  So, I'm curious what's he doing today, is he a banker or -?

Angelica Rengifo:  No.

Lauren Martino:  No?

Angelica Rengifo:  No, but he's very good managing money.  And yes, I think I will bring him up a little bit more later as well.

Lauren Martino:  If we do the show again we'll have him on there.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes.

David Payne:  So, you've both given very good definitions as to what financial literacy is and your interest in it.  But can you sum up for us why financial literacy is so important.  Let me turn to you first, Mark.

Mark Santoro:  Well, like I said, you want to be in control of your finances and not the other way around.  And we all have to deal with money.  And the older you get the more complicated it gets.  So, everything from - you start out as a kid and you need enough money to buy that cool toy, and then as an adult, well, you got to think 40 years ahead and make sure you've got enough money for retirement and everything in between.

Lauren Martino:  And every one of those steps seems really pressing, doesn't it, like the toy is.  It's always a big deal no matter where you are.

Mark Santoro:  Right.  Yes, and that's probably one of the big challenges is prioritizing.

David Payne:  Uh-huh, exactly.

Mark Santoro:  So much of it, if you don't know it at all to begin with, know what is a priority.

David Payne:  Right.

Mark Santoro:  And the priorities change depending on your age.

David Payne:  Right.

Angelica Rengifo:  I think I agree with Mark about having that freedom, well being financially independent.  And being financially independent isn't like, "I don't live with my parents anymore." It's more like, "I don't owe the bank X amount of money, and this money I can use it for my benefit."

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Angelica Rengifo:  So, it's about changing your priorities also.

David Payne:  Changing your priorities in a world where financially there are so many different options right now, different choices for people that you can really get lost in things.

Angelica Rengifo:  A lot of consumerism in our everyday world.

Lauren Martino:  It seems like financial literacy isn't just about money and numbers, it's about your life, and your priorities, and where you're going to put that.

Angelica Rengifo:  And goals, yeah.

Mark Santoro:  Well, yes, that's what I've - I listen to a lot of personal finance podcasts.

Lauren Martino:  Do you have any favorites?

Mark Santoro:  So many.

Lauren Martino:  Sorry, let me put you on the spot then.

Mark Santoro:  We'll get to that.

Lauren Martino:  Okay.

Mark Santoro:  But my point was, one of the things they talk about in like selecting a financial advisor, right - because they always make this distinction on the podcast, "We are not offering financial advice, we are just providing you with information.  Then you've got to go - if you want the nitty-gritty see a professional, right."

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Mark Santoro:  But one of the big questions is, well, how do you choose a financial advisor.  And one of the things they talk about is, before the financial advisor is asking you about income or debt or whatever, what are your goals, what do you want to do, and you need a direction first before you can start driving the financial car.

Lauren Martino:  Is that a common term that they use, the financial car, or is that your -?

Mark Santoro:  No, that just - I just coined it on the spot.

Lauren Martino:  I like it.  Okay, so this is where it originated.

Mark Santoro:  Right.  You heard it here first, folks.  But yes, the goals are important.  And then you get into the nitty-gritty detail of how much do I have to save towards retirement or what kind of car do I want, et cetera.

Lauren Martino:  Angelica, can you tell us a little bit about how one begins to become financially literate?

Angelica Rengifo:  I will recommend someone to find books, find books that interest you.  It might not be the whole book, as we all are not inclined to read those kind of books for pleasure.  Some people might, I believe Mark is one of them.  But wanting to know where you stand financially will be the first step.

Lauren Martino:  So recognizing you have this need?

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes.  Because nobody is going to put that interest in you, no one is going to change your situation for you.  So, that is, again, being a little bit corny, knowledge is power, and in this sense is very true.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.  Mark, do you have anything to add to that?

Mark Santoro:  It's unlikely that someone's going to say to themselves, "I should become financially literate." So there's going to be a prompt, something's going to bring up this need, either because they have a lot of debts or because there's a life event, like they're buying a house or whatever.  So it kind of depends on where you are.  I mean, ideally you learn some of these - learn about personal finance as a child because your parents are talking to you about it.

Angelica Rengifo:  But it is never too late to start.

Mark Santoro:  But it is never too late to start, and you don't have to know.  If you're 30 and you're like, "What? Oh, how do I do this?" That's what the library is for.

Angelica Rengifo:  And there is no timeframe for learning, so you can learn maybe that you have to write down what you spend on a week, and that's your first step, and you can stay on that step for as long as you need.  And maybe you can go to the next step and say, "Oh, this is how much I owe here, this is how much I owe here, this is how much the interest for each of these accounts or debts are."  And just like have that little bit of knowledge or like in the back of your mind, "Okay, now I know this, but what am I going to do."

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Mark Santoro:  One of the nice things about financial literacy, for instance, is that you can use different formats.  So you can go to books or you can go to blogs, or you can go to YouTube videos or podcasts.  There's lots of different formats that you can use to get yourself started.  And depending on how specific information you need and how tailored it is to you.

Angelica Rengifo:  And people can also use different methods and mix them up to their own needs.  It doesn't have to be, "Oh, I can only use this one method, but it doesn't cover everything that I need."

David Payne:  It's a very personal subject, it's -

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes, it is.  Yeah.

David Payne:  Yeah, absolutely.

Lauren Martino:  There's such wide interests there's so many difference resources.

Angelica Rengifo:  Not two people have the same debt or the same income.

David Payne:  The same need, you're right.

Angelica Rengifo:  The same needs, yeah.

David Payne:  Right, yeah, absolutely.

Angelica Rengifo:  Or wants.

Mark Santoro:  So one of the things that you want to make sure is never rely on one source.  So, if you're, say, a fan of Dave Ramsey, who is a -

Lauren Martino:  There are some hardcore Dave Ramsey people out there.

Mark Santoro:  Yes.  So he is a - he does YouTube, he does podcasts, he does books all around the theme of personal finance.  And some of what he says I like and some of what he says I don't.  But don't just choose one person.  Don't be the Dave Ramsey guy or the Suze Orman girl or whatever.  You've got all sorts of different sources so you can, if five different sources say save 15% to 20% of your income, then that's a hint that this is kind of right.  And the more you listen or read the more you'll be able to kind of discern this is what everybody is saying, this is different, and it's wacky or it's - okay, just different.

Lauren Martino:  Or maybe this is where it's going to get.

Mark Santoro:  Right.

Lauren Martino:  This is what I need to get me where I'm going.

Mark Santoro:  Right.  And like I said, no one sits around and says, "I need to be financially literate." No, it's something prompts you.

Lauren Martino:  If you, gentle listeners, are that person that is - please write us and tell us what you think anyway.

David Payne:  So Mark, you talked about resources, and we talked about what financial literacy is.  Tell us about some of MCPL's resources that might be helpful for personal finance, investments, as well as other resources that one might find, perhaps on social media?

Mark Santoro:  Okay.  So, obviously, there would be books.  And you would have books such as something general, like Personal Finance for Dummies.  And I love this series because it just takes a topic and it just breaks it down, it's like an introduction in 300, 400 pages.  So, Personal Finance for Dummies, it's got real estate, it's got investing, it's got budgeting, all in one place in your hand.  So, we have books that are general like that.

Lauren Martino:  For people just getting started, yeah.

Mark Santoro:  Right.  And then we have things that are very specific, so just investing, just real estate, just taxes.  For example, there is Every Landlord's Guide to Managing Property.  You go really, really general all the way down to landlords, so.

Lauren Martino:  Which is a big thing around here, I mean it's not - it's specific, but there's a wide audience I think in this area for that.

Mark Santoro:  Yes.  I mean, that's in the podcast sphere there are some podcasters who are kind of really big into being landlords and having investment property that are residences and they're using the rent as an income stream.  So, yeah, that's one part of personal finance that you - and whatever your specific need is we probably have a book about it, or at least to get you started.  We have general finance magazines, personal finance magazines like Money Magazine, and Kiplinger's Personal Finance, I think it's called.  There are online resources as well.  I think the best one would be Safari, which is a collection of e-books.

Angelica Rengifo:  There's a lot on Safari.

Mark Santoro:  Yes, there's a lot on Safari.

Angelica Rengifo:  In depth.

Mark Santoro:  Yeah, so it's smaller than what you'll find physically in MCPL's collection, but it does the same thing where it's big broad personal finance to flipping houses, right.  It has books that are very broad and very specific. and Gale Courses are online classes.  They have a few items related to some aspects of personal finance.  Not as strong as Safari, but if you like to kind of sit there and watch the video or do the exercises you might find something in one of those as well.  And then finally, if you're really a hardcore stock investment type of person we do have online access to Morningstar, S&P NetAdvantage, and Value Line, so you could go and you could see all the very detailed information about Disney's finances.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Mark Santoro:  Or the mutual fund that you're looking to invest in.  And that's a lot more hardcore than I get into.  I'm a simple index fund guy.  But if you're really into it we've got them for you.  They're available online, you can get them from your house and anywhere else you have an internet connection, long as you have an MCPL library card.  Signup today.

David Payne:  And I probably should note or remind listeners that accessing, particularly those last few items that you mentioned, is completely free.  And that's a very good deal because normally it would cost quite a bit of money to get hold of those.

Lauren Martino:  And you can do it from home too, you don't have to be in the library to get a lot of that.

Mark Santoro:  Yes.  Enhance your personal finances by using the library, because all our stuff is free.

Lauren Martino:  Angelica, do you have anything you'd like to add?

Angelica Rengifo:  Some of the resources that I found were mainly some books.  The first book that I actually started reading when I wanted to become more knowledgeable was Beating the Paycheck to Paycheck Blues, which -

Lauren Martino:  This was a problem for you at one point or?

Angelica Rengifo:  It was just a good start because I didn't know how to live beneath my means.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Angelica Rengifo:  Below my means.  So, I think it was a good way to learn how to not overspend, a good point of reference.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

David Payne:  Something that's very easily done.

Angelica Rengifo:  It is not easily done.  It definitely takes time to even just make the decision to, okay, I want to learn about this, and then -

David Payne:  Follow through with it, yeah.

Angelica Rengifo:  The next decision is like how am I going to implement this, and what is the goal, what is the purpose.

Lauren Martino:  It's a lot easier to read books than it is to like practice what is says.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes, very true.

Lauren Martino:  So, this is - as it's April and we are celebrating Financial Literacy Month and other fun April events dealing with finances, such as tax season and Money Smart Week, can you tell us a little bit, Mark, about some of the events that are going on around MCPL for the month of April? 

Mark Santoro:  Okay, so yes.  There's Money Smart Week, which starts March 30th and runs through April 6th.  We've got events around that, and then all of April is National Financial Literacy Month.  So there's all sorts of different events centered around this.  One example is Making Sense out of Money, which is going to be at the Potomac Library in early April, and that's for kids.  So, a representative from the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection will lead a fun and interactive activity all about spending money wisely, we presume.

Lauren Martino:  Is this for children then or?

Mark Santoro:  This is for children, yes.  This is labeled for elementary school-aged children.  And we've got some other things later on.  For the end of the month there's something at Wheaton about the basics of investing, and then there's another one at Twinbrook, How to Protect Yourself Against Identify Theft.

Lauren Martino:  It's an important topic.

Mark Santoro:  Yeah.  So there's different events for different people that covers very different - lots of different aspects of personal finance.  And you'll be able to see a link to all these events from our homepage so you'll be able to check out when and where they're taking place during that first week of April and then throughout the month of April.

Lauren Martino:  In addition to the homepage, it’ll probably be on our show notes as well, right.

Mark Santoro:  Yes, it'll be on like our show notes as well.

David Payne:  And one might think that financial literacy is something that only adults should pay attention to, but clearly the younger the better.  Let me ask you both why is financial literacy as equally important for children and teenagers as it is for adults? Let me start with you, Angelica?

Angelica Rengifo:  I believe because teaching them about money and how to manage it could have a great impact in their future.  And the sooner they learn about it the easier it will be for them to master it.

Lauren Martino:  Like your cousin.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes where I don't know when I didn't - what I missed.

Lauren Martino:  I remember having to take a class where we had to budget and pretend - this is the job we were going to pretend to have and this is how we're going to pay for everything.  And I mean we did the exercises, but I don't think it made a very big impact.  So I'm like, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, I'll figure it out." Yeah, and then it's kind of hard to communicate to you, yes, you will have to do this in real life at some point.

Angelica Rengifo:  Maybe a way to teach kids also is with an allowance.  As they - maybe they might want something that is more -

David Payne:  More than their allowance, right, yeah.

Angelica Rengifo:  Expensive than their allowance so they have to budget for it.  And yeah, and plan for it.

Lauren Martino:  I think a lot of people employ that strategy.  I'm kind of curious, Mark, you've got kids at home.  Do you have a sense of are they learning this in school or do you give them an allowance to - how are they learning about financial literacy?

Mark Santoro:  So yeah, there's a thing in the parenting sphere, and I guess to a certain extent in a personal finance sphere, allowance or no allowance, all right, so there's a little -

Lauren Martino:  Yes, we've been pondering this in my house actually.

Mark Santoro:  A little controversy here, and my family -

Lauren Martino:  And do you make it work for them - or do you have to work for your allowance or do you just give it to them, and -

Mark Santoro: Exactly.

Lauren Martino:  All these questions, yes.

Mark Santoro:  Exactly.  So, my family is in the pro allowance camp.

Lauren Martino:  Okay.

Mark Santoro:  Until you get to 16, then we cut you off.

Lauren Martino:  And you get a job on your own?

Mark Santoro:  Right.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.

Mark Santoro:  So, our oldest daughter turned 16, well, she kind of cheated.  She already had a job.  So by the time we cut her off it was all right.  But yes, so the kids get an allowance.  There's a mandatory savings amount that they have to - so it's almost like a family social security program.  So yeah, your weekly income is - now I'm going to get in trouble because I don't know what it is.  Thanks, hon; my wife takes care of that.

Lauren Martino:  Your wife dolls out the money?

Mark Santoro:  Yeah.  Anyways, so let's say it's $10, for easy math, they only see $7 of it.

Lauren Martino:  Well, that's an important lesson to learn, isn't it, because they will be dealing with that for the rest of their lives?

Mark Santoro:  Right, and the $3 goes into a - they all have bank accounts.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Mark Santoro:  And so that's where that taxed money goes, into their bank accounts.  Actually I think it's six.  So, yes, we're in the pro allowance camp.  So, what was the original question about why is it important for kids and teens, well, one, they got to deal with money right now.  And not just in the future when they're adults; they're alive now and it's something.  Why can't I have this $100 replica of the Millennium Falcon or whatever, so it comes up.

David Payne:  And it's interesting because therein lies the difficulty, particularly with teenagers if you think how much of the advertising market.

Lauren Martino:  Right.

David Payne:  Is aimed at teenagers, in particular, spending money, so important for that age group to really understand.

Angelica Rengifo:  But then, I do not have kids, but I will think that teaching them about delayed gratification it's a good way to teach them how to -

David Payne:  How to think about -

Angelica Rengifo:  Save for something, maybe be, be a little bit tight for a couple of weeks, and in the end you'll get something bigger than if you had not waited.

David Payne:  Right, absolutely.

Mark Santoro:  Yes.  And as Angelica mentioned, it sets them up for their adult years when they have bigger responsibilities.  I remember when I was growing up my parents never taught me anything about money.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Mark Santoro:  I mean they might have said something generally like, save money.  That's true, and not very useful, so -

Lauren Martino:  More to it than that.

Mark Santoro:  Yeah, my poor children, they get the lectures -

David Payne:  They get the [CROSSTALK].

Mark Santoro:  Yeah, at the dinner table, "Why do we live in this house?  Let me tell you, it's because blah, blah."  Lots of very specific information about why we did this, why my wife and I did this, or how we paid for this, or how we plan for this; everything from housing to college education to - so, because I didn't get much growing up in terms of information about - I have no idea what my father made when we were kids.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Mark Santoro:  No scope of what the limitations where or anything, what he felt about how expensive a vacation we could go on; nothing.  So I've probably gone too far the other way, and they know a lot about our specific situation and why we do what we do.

Lauren Martino:  But do you think it helps that they understand maybe a little bit more about why you make the choices you make?

Mark Santoro:  Hopefully, that's the plan.

Lauren Martino:  Because I remember, oh gosh, the other day, like my daughter destroyed one of her water bottles and she's like, "Oh, we can just go out and buy another one." It's like, "Well, we can.  But we can't willy-nilly destroy everything we have and just buy other ones.  Like there are limits." I remember go asking my parents, it's like, "Oh, we need money; we'll just go to the ATM and get money, right, because that's what you do."

David Payne:  It's a money tree.

Lauren Martino:  That's what you do to get money, right.  So, Angelica, what do you think one of the worst mistakes people tend to make with their finances is?

Angelica Rengifo:  I think blinding yourself to where you stand; not knowing what is coming in every month and what has to come out every month.  A lot of people get the look of deer on headlights kind of when they hear the word budget.

Lauren Martino:  I can relate, yeah.

Angelica Rengifo:  And budget is not just like putting yourself limits, but also budgeting for fun.  I have in my budget, personally, like a little bit of me.  I have on my budget certain amount of money for every two weeks.  There was a time recently that I spent my allowance.

Lauren Martino:  You gave yourself an allowance.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes, I spent my money for the two weeks in a weekend.

Lauren Martino:  Oh wow.

Angelica Rengifo:  So I had to make changes for that week.  And the only person to blame was myself, but it puts limits on what you can spend.  I can go to the movies, I can go out to have drinks with friends, I can go out to have a lunch or dinner with friends, but I'm not going to be doing that every single day.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Angelica Rengifo:  So that's where it comes, the limitation.  And also, maybe not a mistake, but something that you find with like creating a budget is contentment.  Contentment that a walk in the park, which is free and good for your health, it's a good way to spend your time.  So, I will say, yeah, not knowing what your financial situation is is a mistake.

Lauren Martino:  So knowing your financial situation isn't just about knowing your limits, it's about using your limits to create freedom.

Angelica Rengifo:  Uh-huh.

Lauren Martino:  And being able to explore those things that we're so focused on our consumer culture it's like this is going to make me happy, this is going to make me happy, whereas you miss everything that makes you happy that you're not getting advertised about all the time.

Angelica Rengifo:  Uh-huh.  And that's the thing that we think that what we are getting and buying is going to make us happy, but that's not going to last for a long time.  The high is not going to last until - and then we need another thing, and another thing.  And we go back to a little bit of minimalism with like trying to be happy with what you have.  You do not need to be spending money all the time to be happy, and thus contentment.

David Payne:  So you've both obviously read and learnt an awful lot about financial literacy.  Let me put you on the spot and ask you both, out of everything that you've read and learnt what's the best piece of financial advice you've ever heard, Angelica?

Angelica Rengifo:  I will go back to my cousin.

David Payne:  Can't blame you.

Mark Santoro:  Yeah, we wanted to hear more about him actually, so.

Lauren Martino:  [CROSSTALK] start his own empire after this.

Angelica Rengifo:  I hope that he listens to this.  The fact that he says that the light gratification, it's a way to save for bigger things has put things on the spot.  I don't need to have, oh, I need something, I have to go to the store and I can get it because everything is available within 24 hours with Amazon Prime, for example.

Lauren Martino:  Oh gosh.

Angelica Rengifo:  Which is a bane of my existence right now.

Lauren Martino:  The bane of your existence, yes.

Angelica Rengifo:  But that's the thing, changing our mindset about what we need and what we want is, I think, is key in being financially stable.

David Payne:  How about you, Mark?

Mark Santoro:  Goes back to the idea of planning.  And the first part of that is to know where you are.  So, what's your net worth, how much debt do you have, if you only know what your monthly payments are and don't know the total that's a problem.  Knowing how to calculate these things or how to find out what these things are.  Maybe people avoid it because it's a scary number, but knowing is better than not knowing, and that's the key to get started.

Angelica Rengifo:  But it's like not being afraid is a good - you cannot be afraid forever.  And the other side of that is living without debt.  Like what if your whole income was yours to do whatever you wanted; no mortgage, no car payments, no credit card payments, just food, clothing, and a roof or not even that, like electricity and things like that.  What if that's all you had to worry about, you wouldn't have to worry about making a lot of money either, and you could have more hobbies, more fun.

Lauren Martino:  Or the choice to do what you like as opposed to what's going to earn you enough money to sustain this amount of debt.

Angelica Rengifo:  Uh-huh, yeah.

Lauren Martino:  So we talked a little bit about budgeting.  Do you think, Mark, that maintaining a budget is a guarantee to a financial success or is there other things that you need to take into consideration?

Mark Santoro:  Well, guarantee, no.  There's no guarantees in anything.  But I mean that's part of knowing your situation.  You can't really succeed if you don't know where you are at the time, so you would start with that.  There's among the podcasts that I listen to, personal finance enthusiasts are all about like know where every penny goes.  And then there's others who are a little bit more relaxed who are, "Okay, know what your expenses are, have a savings goal, and what's left is yours to be free with."  So, having a budget, it depends on where you are.  And of course how much room you have.  If you make a lot of money you have a little - in theory anyways have more elbowroom than if you don't make a lot of money.  And we have budgeting books in the library.  We have books about helping you get out of debt.  So, for instance, this one had a fun title, The Spender's Guide to Debt-Free Living.

Lauren Martino:  Sounds very useful for a lot of people.

Mark Santoro:  Yeah.  And then one of Dave Ramsey's things and why he is a little controversial in the personal finance sphere is he's vehemently anti-debt, anti-debt extremist.  But if that's your thing, if you're starting at the bottom of the heavy debt load that might be a place to start, Dave Ramsey is the entry level personal finance person.

Angelica Rengifo:  He has Baby Steps - they are called Baby Steps to Financial Freedom, and they are definitely a good way to start.  You can - but time or learning about other methods can change them to your liking, but he is a good first step to financial freedom, debt-free life.

Lauren Martino:  So, it sounds like understand debt and credit is really important understanding financial literacy.

Mark Santoro:  Right.  And as a, say, as a foil to Dave Ramsey, you would have someone like - there's a podcast called Money for the Rest of Us, by a guy named David Stein, and he's a little bit more traditionalist.  In his previous professional life he managed investments for universities and other large organizations.  So he kind of has more of a traditionalist view of things, about how to manage debt versus investments, for instance.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Mark Santoro:  So as we said before, you don't want to rely on one person, so get kind of a broad view.

David Payne:  A broader view.

Mark Santoro:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  A range of opinions to figure out what's good for you.

David Payne:  Right.

Mark Santoro:  I don't know how to shoehorn this in.

Lauren Martino:  Shoehorn away.

Mark Santoro:  Thank you.

Lauren Martino:  Shoehorn away.

Mark Santoro:  In preparing for this I ran across a book that brought a smile to my face.  So I mentioned before how life events were kind of prompting me to go look at books.  So, my wife and I were pretty young when we bought our house.  And no one had talked to us about how to buy a house.

Lauren Martino:  And that's a big thing.

Mark Santoro:  Yes.

Lauren Martino:  I remember I had the same experience, like what the heck are we doing.

Mark Santoro:  So, we knew we were ignorant.  So we went to the bookstore and we found this book with this cheesy title, 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask.  And in preparing for this podcast I find it's still around.  The library owns it.  It is in its fourth edition.  It is straightforward and it brought back memories.  And it's literally - it's just each section is a question, and it's very straightforward and very easy to follow, and I was glad to see it still around.

David Payne:  That's great.  As Lauren said, it can't get much bigger than buying a house.

Lauren Martino:  I wish we'd had that.

David Payne:  Yeah.  So, can you tell us what your favorite apps for money management or budgeting are, Mark?

Mark Santoro:  Ah, well this is where I'll show my age.  I'm going to have to defer to Angelica, because I don't actually use any money management apps, other than listening to personal finance podcasts.  I've heard of them, but I haven't actually used any of them.

Lauren Martino:  So, Stitcher is your favorite money management app?

Mark Santoro:  Yes.

Angelica Rengifo:  I think the first app that you need to be looking at daily or maybe even more than once every day is your bank's app.  You need to know so that way - you need to know what you have so that way you don't overdraft.  That's $30-$35 right there that you're wasting.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Angelica Rengifo:  So that will be my first recommendation in apps, the bank app.  If you have a few banks check them constantly so you also know when checks clear, and anything that looks suspicious you would know what it is or what it isn't.

Lauren Martino:  And there are apps that will consolidate like different banks, right.  And we use Mint at home.

Angelica Rengifo:  Oh.

Lauren Martino:  And that'll give us all the credit card debt.  And you have to kind of go through and say, okay, well this money it decided was a -

Angelica Rengifo:  I usually use Mint for budgeting.  So, like I said, I have a budget so I put this is how much I can spend on this, this is how much I can spend on gas, this is how much I can spend on food per week.  So that way if I'm getting close I'm like, okay what do I need - like especially on food, what do I need right now that cannot wait until my next budget or my next allowance comes in, so.

Lauren Martino:  I might be showing my ignorance because, yeah, I'm not the one that typically sets all this up.  So, I'll leave it to you, sorry.

Angelica Rengifo:  The other app that I found looking for ways to pay down the only thing that I have right now, thank god, student loans.

Lauren Martino:  Oh, student loans.

Angelica Rengifo:  But I found an app called Debtor, D-E-B-T-O-R.

Lauren Martino:  Uh-huh.

Angelica Rengifo:  And the app is free.  You do not have to connect it to anything.  And it's up to you if you use it.  I just like the -

Mark Santoro:  Not connected to any bank accounts or credit card accounts?

Angelica Rengifo:  Bank accounts or credit cards, yes.  The reason why I like it is because it gives me a visual of my debt.  I input how much it is my loan, how much it is the interest rate.  And I can either enter how much I pay monthly and it gives me how many months I will have to be paying that amount, which is scary.  Or it gives me the option to enter months.  So I can enter 12 months, I can enter eight, 15, 18, 24.  And it gives me also how much I will have to pay per month and how much I will save, or overpay in interest rate.  And it will show me a graph of the debt, of the amount.  So I really like that because a lot of people don't know how much more they will be paying on top of the original loan or debt that you have, but this app does it all for you if you have.

David Payne:  And it is a scary thing for people, which is one reason why I think many of us avoid it, perhaps.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yes, I agree.

Lauren Martino:  It sounds like a really - sorry.

Mark Santoro:  So, if you wanted to pay off your debt early this will tell you how much extra you have to put in a month?

Angelica Rengifo:  Uh-huh, yes.  It will tell you how much, if you enter by months, it will tell you how much will be - should be your monthly payment and how much you will save on the interest rate.

Lauren Martino:  It sounds like a really powerful app.  I remember like scribbling all over pieces of paper when we were buying a house trying to figure out -

David Payne:  Things that keep changing, yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Yeah.  And know I now when I enter the numbers and then it's right there.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  That's awesome.

Angelica Rengifo:  Yeah.

David Payne:  So, we normally close our episodes by asking our guests to tell us what they're currently reading or a book they recently enjoyed, Angelica?

Angelica Rengifo:  So, I recently finished reading Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste and I have no idea how to pronounce her last name.

Angelica Rengifo:  It's Ng.  And I just found out that Hulu got the rights to make into a miniseries.  So, I'm really looking forward.  I'm not promoting Hulu, just in parenthesis, but I'm just looking forward to definitely seeing what they do with the book.

David Payne:  Thank you.  And Mark?

Mark Santoro:  So, I just started this book.  It's a short - it's a science fiction short story collection.  And you may have heard about Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

David Payne:  Uh-huh.

Mark Santoro:  It's a play off that.  This one is A People's Future of the United States.  So it's a bunch of short stories set in the future.  And this is - each one is kind of distinct and separate, but this is what the U.S. might look like in 20 years, or 50 years, or whatever.  So, just started it.  The first story that I read had - California had broken away from the United States, and they were separate countries.  But there was this one town there was a bookstore that sat on the border, and there are literally two entrances to this book store.  And you could come in and browse the books, and it was one of those places that, in theory, the people of California and the people of United States could come together.  But of course there's still kind of some tension there.

Lauren Martino:  Ooh.

Mark Santoro:  And then one of the things the countries are fighting over is water rights.  And so a conflict -

Lauren Martino:  California, yeah.

Mark Santoro:  A conflict, an armed conflict breaks out over this and it kind of talks about the experiences of the people in this bookstore at the time.  So, it's an interesting kind of way of exploring how the tensions that are going on, the cultural wars in America now or how does this play out 20 years from now, 50 years from now.

Lauren Martino:  And do you think that's based on the library that's on the border of United States and Canada they talked about - there was a podcast, like This American Life, where they kind of - there is a library on the border, and like all these immigration issues because they'd have people like - there were like big signs everywhere saying, "No reunions."  But you get people that like couldn't leave the United States because they were like waiting for their Green Card or whatever, and they'd end up reuniting with family that couldn't enter the United States and this library.

Mark Santoro:  Oh, that's interesting.  I hadn't heard about that, but perhaps the idea of the bookstore on the border came from that.

Lauren Martino:  That's fascinating, yeah, because there's so many cultural things that can happen in such a place.

Mark Santoro:  Yeah.

Lauren Martino:  Now or in the future.  Thank you so much Angelica and Mark.  I know I'm going away with a lot of new information and new motivation to deal with my own finances, and I hope our listeners are doing the same.

Please keep the conversation going by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast on the Apple Podcast App or Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.  Also, please review and rate us on Apple Podcasts.  We are very interested to know what you think.  Thanks for listening to our conversation today and we'll see you next time.

Mar 26, 2019

Summary: In celebration of Money Smart Week (March 30 - April 6, 2019) and National Financial Literacy Month (April), personal finance enthusiasts Angelica Rengifo and Mark Santoro talk about MCPL's books, online resources, and upcoming events related to personal finance. 

Recording Date: March 6, 2019


Angelica Rengifo is a Library Associate on the MCPL's Outreach team. Mark Santoro is a librarian on the Digital Strategies team. 

Hosts: Lauren Martino and David Payne

What Our Hosts Are Reading

Angelica Rengifo: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Mark Santoro: A People's Future of the United States, edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams

Mentioned During the Episode:


Debtor Debt Pay Off Calculator  

Mint - A personal finance app for budgeting, investment tracking, and more. 

Books & Authors

Beating the Paycheck to Paycheck Blues by John Ventura - This book's a bit old, from 1996, which is probably why MCPL doesn't own it anymore. 

Every Landlord's Guide to Managing Property by Michael Boyer

Dave Ramsey

100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask by Ilyce R. Glink

Personal Finance for Dummies by Eric Tyson

The Spender's Guide to Debt-Free Living by Anna Newell Jones

MCPL Online Resources

Gale Courses 

Kiplinger's Personal Finance 

Morningstar Investment Research Center 

Safari Books Online

Standard and Poor's NetAdvantage

Value Line


Decluttering episode of Library Matters 

Money for the Rest of Us - Personal finance podcast David Stein  

This American Life - A weekly public radio program and podcast


Haskell Free Library & Opera House - The library on the US/Canadian border, located in Vermont and Quebec. 


Read the transcript