Personal Financial Help
It can be tricky to manage your finances, make a budget, and find help with common money questions. Here are some resources that can make it easier.
Looking for help with taxes? Visit our tax resources page for free tax assistance options and links to Illinois and federal tax forms.
If you find yourself in a sudden financial emergency, here are some options that could help.
Housing and utilities
- Local Help: The Illinois Housing Development Authority can help if you are having trouble paying your rent, mortgage, are facing eviction or foreclosure, need legal assistance, food, or help with utility bills. The IHDA call center can be reached at 312-883-2720 or toll free at 888-252-1119. Locally, emergency assistance and help with housing issues may be available through the Village of Skokie Human Services Division, or Niles Township Social Services.
- National Help: If you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, you can contact housing counselors approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to discuss options.
- Electric Bills: ComEd will work with customers who are unable to pay their bill on a case-by-case basis. View information about bill payment assistance or call 800-334-7661.
- Energy Bills: Nicor also offers bill payment assistance to eligible customers. Visit their website or call 877-866-4239.
- Stimulus Payments: Economic Impact Payments were automatic for most eligible taxpayers. Use “Get My Payment” to see if your payment was sent and confirm your payment type. View common questions about Economic Impact Payments.
- CARES Act: The CARES Act contains forbearance and credit reporting requirements that may apply to your situation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has advice for obtaining mortgage forbearance, renter and foreclosure protection, and information about mortgage relief under the Federal CARES Act. They also offer an array of resources to help you protect your finances during the coronavirus pandemic. They identify steps you can take if you are having trouble paying your bills, if you have lost income, or are having difficulty paying your rent or mortgage, student, or car loans during the pandemic.
- Banks and Credit Unions: During the pandemic many banks and credit unions are offering payment deferrals; refunds for overdrafts, insufficient funds, or maintenance fees; waivers of penalties for early withdrawal of CDs; and hardship assistance for mortgage and car payments. Contact your local branch or try the American Bankers Association list of banks that may offer assistance. The National Credit Union Administration answered frequently asked questions about credit and loan issues and avoiding scams. Take notes when talking with financial agencies and institutions, and ask for any details agreed upon in writing.
- Retirement: The CARES Act suspended Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) for 2020 and changed restrictions on retirement account withdrawals to make it easier for experiencing financial hardship caused by the coronavirus. The funds must be paid back within a specified time period, to avoid being treated as taxable income.
Unemployment Benefits and Jobs
You can file for Unemployment Benefits online at the Illinois Department of Employment Security. View a list of information you need to file an online Illinois Unemployment Insurance claim. The Illinois Department of Employment Security can also be reached by calling 800-526-0844.
If you or someone you know needs help finding a job, the library can assist you. Visit our Job Seekers page for help with your job search, to get interviewing and resume advice from experienced career counselors, attend our job searching programs, or take advantage of our online training. Call the library at 847-673-7774 to make an appointment or to reserve a computer.
Make sense of credit so that you can build a clean financial history, avoid scams, and take steps to prevent fraud and identity theft.
Credit and Debt
Debt collectors are not allowed to use unfair practices to collect debts. Know your rights and learn best practices to use when contacting creditors and debt collectors to discuss debts and negotiating repayment plans. Find information to help select, screen and contact a reputable credit counselor, if you need help managing debt. The Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education (AFCPE) offers free financial coaching sessions to help people through the financial challenges during the pandemic. Sign up for a virtual meeting with a counselor.
Credit Reports and Credit Scores
Credit reports and credit scores are different. A credit report has information about credit activity, loan history, and credit accounts status. Credit scores are based on information in your credit report. Errors in your credit report can affect your credit score. InCharge Debt Solutions shares the benefits of good credit. There are things you can do to get and keep a good credit score and there are several ways to get your credit score.
Normally, you are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the major consumer reporting companies. For a limited time, everyone is eligible for free weekly online credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends routinely checking credit reports and disputing inaccurate information. Learn more about refuting inaccurate information with a credit reporting agency. If you have trouble correcting inaccurate information, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission has tips to identify, avoid and prevent scammers, fraudsters, and bad actors intent on identity theft and other types of scams. To protect your personal financial information, the FTC provides information about online privacy notices and a guide to recovering from identity theft.
Budgeting can help you manage your financial decisions, avoid excessive debt, and plan for the future. Most budgeting plans consist of two basic steps: knowing your income and understanding what you are spending. There are many tools to aid in budgeting. Learn how to create and stick to a budget, take budgeting and investing classes from the YWCA Evanston/Northshore. You can also check out books to help you manage your financial life.
Consider an online tool for budgeting and expense tracking:
- Free monthly budget template (Google Sheets)
- Microsoft Budget Templates
- AARP Home Budget Analysis
- NerdWallet Budgeting 101
- You Need a Budget (YNAB) software (fee based)
- Practical Money Skills (Visa)
- Household Budget Worksheet (Kiplingler)
Saving and Investing
Learn to spend, borrow, save, and invest wisely. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Savings Fitness A Guide to Your Money and Financial Future contains a good overview of sound financial practices and avoiding common pitfalls. Investor.gov has tools for investors to understand, research, and protect their savings and investments.
Skokie Public Library has free investing and business resources with up-to-date financial data on stocks, mutual and exchange-traded funds, and options. You can use them to find investment ratings, rankings, earnings, and industry and analysts reports, videos and newsletters, and business news articles about companies and industries around the world.
If you want professional guidance, use a resource from FINRA, a not-for-profit organization authorized by Congress to protect investors, to choose an investment professional. Another option is BrokerCheck, which researches the background and experience of financial brokers, advisers, and firms.
Learn more about what's involved in borrowing money for things like school, a home purchase, or a car.
Getting and Repaying Student Loans
The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) helps students find scholarships, select a college, navigate the financial aid process, and more. Visit the ISAC financial aid toolbox. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers information about paying for college. Learn about types of financial aid sources and the financial aid application process.
For current student loan holders, the CARES Act suspended principal and interest payments on federally-held student loans through December 31, 2021. Read more about understanding student loan repayment and tips for managing student loan debt.
Buying a Home
If you are considering buying a home, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has tools and resources for homebuyers to help you navigate the buying process. SmartAsset.com has an online mortgage calculator to estimate monthly payment costs.
Before you take out a loan to pay for your next vehicle, read the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guide to understanding and comparing auto loans. Or read about costly misconceptions about car loans to avoid taking out a loan you may not be able to afford.
Retirement and Estate Planning
Many organizations offer tools to help you plan, save, and invest for retirement. Kiplinger and the AARP have easy-to-use retirement calculators to figure out your retirement, social security benefits, and health care costs. The Social Security Administration’s retirement benefits page also has useful tools and resources. Use FINRA's resource to manage retirement income, or take a retirement plan course from the National Endowment for Financial Education.
Estate planning is considering how your assets will be managed and distributed after you die or become incapacitated. It usually includes making a will or trust, naming an executor and beneficiaries of your assets, and even setting up funeral arrangements. A will is a legal document instructing how your property should be handled after your death. If you have minor children, a will can have instructions for their custody and care. Making a will is important. Not having a will before you die is known as intestate. In these cases, state laws will determine how decisions are made. Find basic guides to understanding estate planning in the Illinois State Bar Association Guide to Estate Planning or with Investopedia.