The Money Smart Week course Improve Your Credit Score and Get Ready for Home Buying will be offered April 12 at the Chicago Public Library Roden Branch in Norwood Park. Photo by: danxoneil via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Money Smart Week Chicago Offers Free Financial Courses April 5-12

It’s that time of year—time to brush up on your financial smarts. And lucky for you, Money Smart Week—a national campaign that was created in Chicago by the Federal Reserve Bank—kicks off April 5-12 with a slew of free, educational seminars.

What: Chicago Money Smart Week

Where: Classes offered at locations across the city

More info: Check out the Money Smart Week event listings for classes near you

Across the country, events cover topics including budgeting, purchasing a home, planning for retirement and more. The sessions are all taught by experts from local businesses, financial institutions, schools, libraries, not-for-profits and government agencies. We tracked down some of the standout seminars in Cook County.

Financial Bootcamp

This three-hour interactive crash course, sponsored by the Chicago Urban League, a Chicago non-profit, covers the basics on learning to budget better, save more and improve your credit score. “The main goal of the boot camp is to change your behavior about spending and saving,” says Margaret Wooten, senior director of Chicago Urban League’s Financial Empowerment Center. “It’s all the little things—eating out every day and over-spending on leisure activities—that can keep us under water financially.”

The seminar is open to anyone and will include some handouts–Wooten’s goal is to keep the course lively. “That means no Powerpoint presentations to put you to sleep,” she says. There will also be plenty of time for questions and discussions throughout, she says. About mid-way through the course, a healthy, budget-friendly lunch will be served, so you’ll be energized and ready for the second half. If you enjoy Financial Boot Camp, you can follow it up with a free, six-month course offered at the Financial Empowerment Center that holistically covers financial smarts.

Where: Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Michigan Ave.
When: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 5
Contact: Margaret Wooten (

Improve Your Credit Score and Get Ready for Home Buying

If you’re dreaming of owning a home, you’ll need to take a good look at your credit report, which can at times be very confusing. Dennis O’Donoghue, an Illinois-licensed senior loan officer, gives you the ins and outs of understanding and improving your credit score and helps work through many frequently asked credit questions. “I address everything you can do to improve your credit score prior to buying a house so that you can qualify for better terms,” O’Donoghue says.

He’ll coach you on the right approach to buying a new home—whether you should pay off credit cards before signing a mortgage, and how to improve your credit score so that you can qualify for a higher loan. There may be a few math problems, but unlike high school pre-calculus, these are equations you’ll use again. The seminar will also cover specifics on rehab loans, including FHA and Homestyle—all loan options for people with less-than-perfect credit.

Where: Chicago Public Library Roden Branch, 6083 N. Northwest Highway, Norwood Park
When: 10:30 a.m.- noon Saturday, April 12
Contact: Dennis O’Donoghue (


Here are a few other Cook County courses that caught our eye:

Identity Theft: How to Protect Yourself

Get to this course if you want to learn to spot identity theft, and take action to prevent it from happening to you. This hourlong informative presentation will cover identity theft and financial fraud—all while you sip on a strong cup of joe.
Where: Lutz Bakery, 2458 W. Montrose Ave., Ravenswood
When: 10-11 a.m. Saturday, April 5
Contact: Jeffrey Johnson (

Taking the Mystery Out of Retirement Planning

If you plan on retiring in about 10-15 years, this seminar is geared toward you. This workshop covers the best ways to start saving for those years. A guest speaker from the Social Security Administration will be in attendance to offer additional insight.
Where: U.S. Department of Labor, 230 South Dearborn St., Suite 2160
When: 9:30-11:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 9
Contact: Ann-Marie Hartline (

Women and Money

This seminar will cover core topics women (of all career stages and income levels) should know in order to grow their income, including career tactics, budgeting, saving and retirement planning.
Where: Logan Square Chicago Public Library, 3030 W. Fullerton Ave., Logan Square
When: 10-11:30 a.m., Saturday, April 5
Contact: Khloe Karova (

Check out the wide array of other courses offered for free all week on the Money Smart Week Illinois schedule, and narrow down the county in the toolbar on the right side of the page.  There’s something to learn for every day of the week. Start saving now by saving these dates.

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