Jeff Libaire helps people gain financial control as a Money Mentor for Pinellas County Extension.
With the downturn in the economy that has been experienced in the last couple of years, many have found that managing their money and their spending habits can be tough. No one knows this better than Jeff Libaire.
The 62-year-old Palm Harbor resident is a volunteer with Pinellas County Extension’s Money Mentors program. The program, part of the University of Florida’s Florida Master Money Mentors, is a free service that provides one-on-one financial counseling to persons needing financial help.
After serving his country in the U.S. Air Force, Libaire, went back to school to study and then went into veterinary medicine. Having now retired, Libaire said he wanted to stay active and knew he “needed and wanted to volunteer and give back to the community” in some way.”
Libaire said he looked at several different volunteer opportunities but some just didn’t really fit what he wanted to do. Both he and his wife love gardening and were familiar with the Pinellas County Extension’s Master Gardeners program so he initially signed up for that. But there was a waiting list.
One day while at the county’s extension office, Libaire happened to see a brochure about the Money Mentors program. Having always been interested in finances and having done an extensive amount of reading and attending various seminars on the subject, he thought that was something he would like to do. After looking into the program, he took the two and a half day course and is now a Money Mentor.
Libaire said the mentors generally meet once a month and often have guest speakers come in and talk about various financial matters. They also are required to devote 50 hours of mentoring per year to stay current with the program. Libaire noted that the mentors “are not brokers and therefore do not make specific recommendations on a particular financial investment.” Rather they help those in need with such things as figuring out where their money is going to each month, creating a budget plan, improving credit ratings and the like.
In addition to being a money mentor, Libaire also teaches four classes per month, two at Worknet, a public-private partnership that promotes economic growth through workforce development, and two at the Palm Harbor Library. Those classes focus on calendar-based money management and spending plans.
Libaire said that he enjoys volunteering and that when he was retired he didn’t want to play golf every day or just sit at home.
“Volunteering is a very good way to stay engaged and also help share information and help people that might be struggling with something,” he says.
Nan Jensen, University of Florida Extension agent, heads up the Money Mentors program in Pinellas County. She said since the program began in the county in 2010 they have had approximately 35 graduates. She said there are no specific requirements for someone to become a mentor.
“They don’t have to be a financial whiz, although a lot of people that they’ve recruited have had that affinity and interest in the financial area,” she said.
Jensen said Libaire “is one of the best mentors we’ve got,” adding that “he’s a wonderful ambassador for the program; I wish I had multiples of him.”