Clockwise from top left: Kathy Soderholm, Tom Henske, Caroline Barney, and John Lanza

It’s an old adage, that many high school-age students can do advanced trigonometry but not balance a checkbook.

Tom Henske is out to change that.

On Sunday, March 26, Henske, Westport resident and a leader in the financial industry for nearly three decades, will bring his Total Cents program to the Library’s Trefz Forum for a talk, followed by a panel discussion with fellow experts. The goal: to help parents, grandparents, and guardians get comfortable with teaching their kids about money and the importance of finances.

The event, Raising Financially Savvy Kids with Tom Henske, will begin at 2 pm in the Library’s Trefz Forum. The event is free; registration is encouraged.

“It's fitting that The Westport Library jumped at the chance to bring financial literacy to the forefront of parents in our community,” said Henske. “Everyone sees the clear value and importance of developing good financial habits in our children. It's time for parents to take ownership of this part of their child's development, and that effort is going to start on March 26.

“My hope is that Westport becomes the epicenter for teaching parents how to talk to their kids about money, and in doing that, we will change the way our entire country addresses this important topic.”

Joining Henske in conversation will be Caroline Barney, author, inspirational speaker, and parent of two Staples High School students; John Lanza, author of The Art of Allowance and an expert of youth financial literacy; and Kathy Soderholm, former Wilton High School personal finance teacher and founder of The Good Bookkeeper, a full-service bookkeeping company specializing in nonprofit organizations.

[Related: See the Raising Financially Savvy Kids event listing for full bios on all the panelists.]

Henske's efforts with Total Cents include a book, It Makes Total Cents: 12 Conversations to Change Your Child’s Financial Future, published in 2022, and a podcast he developed in collaboration with the Library. Total Cents is also active on TikTok, with videos produced in collaboration with Total Cents interns from Staples High School.

“Tom’s knowledge and expertise is exceeded only by his passion for finance and teaching kids how to be responsible stewards of their own futures,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “Add that up and you have a session that promises to be informative, engaging, and fun. Plus, Tom brings with him an all-star panel well-versed on communicating to parents and with kids from the youngest ages. You won’t want to miss this event.”

Event information:

Raising Financially Savvy Kids with Tom Henske
Sunday, March 26, 2 pm
The Westport Library (20 Jesup Road)
Register here.

L to R: Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer, Nancy Beard, and Westport Book Sale Ventures President Jocelyn Barandiaran during the build-up to the Library's transformation project

The Westport Library has long endeavored to be a place of discovery and education, where patrons of all ages can explore what interests them and grow as leaders and thinkers.

Now, the Library will have the opportunity to do so like never before.

The Nancy J. Beard Foundation has bestowed a landmark pledge to The Westport Library to create the Nancy J. Beard Lifelong Learning and Education Fund. The fund will support educational courses, lectures, special workshops, and hands-on training activities, leveraging the Library’s classroom and laboratory spaces to sustain, educate, and engage the local community.

The gift is the largest in the Library’s history to support operations.

“The Westport Library has a strong historical identity as a center for knowledge and learning, a resource for personal development, and a place to gather for cultural and community engagement,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “This generous gift will allow us to build on the work we’ve done and expand the reach and the scope of our programming. We are incredibly grateful to Nancy and the entire Beard family for their generosity, support, and belief in us and our mission.”

[Related: Westport Library Q&A: Nancy Beard]

A particular focus of the fund will be on expanding Library programing and supporting Library assets. That includes mobile technology and the Verso Studios’ video and TV media suite, as well as the Library’s recording studio and post-production suite.

“The Westport Library is a hub for the community, a gathering place, and a place of learning and conversation,” said Nancy Beard. “We love that the Library is active in the community and that is open and accessible to everyone. We hope this gift allows it to stay that way and to expand its great work so it can be a beacon for the community in the years to come.”

Nancy and her husband, Gene, moved to Westport in 1969 and have been active members of the community. (The couple currently reside in Florida but return to Westport often.) The Beards made their first donation to the Library 26 years ago and have given regularly since that time, notably in supporting the Library’s 2019 transformation project. Prior to that, Nancy was involved with the Cub Scouts — she started her volunteer work in Westport as a den mother — served as a teacher’s aide in the elementary and middle schools, and volunteered with both the Red Cross and Norwalk Hospital.

In addition to its support of the Library, the Nancy J. Beard Foundation has given to the Church of the Assumption, Yale University, Save the Children, the Mercy Learning Center, Norwalk Hospital, and various food pantries. Gene Beard also established the Beard Center for Leadership in Ethics at Duquesne University and was a significant contributor to the Eugene P. Beard Faculty Fellowship in Ethics at the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Center.

“Giving back to the community has always been important to us, which is why we wanted to create this endowment fund for the Library,” Nancy Beard said. “Westport is a special place, as is The Westport Library. We want to do everything we can to grow that sense of community, and we’ve always viewed the Library as central to that role. We’re excited to see this fund make a difference, and we’re thrilled to play even a small role in supporting the Library’s future.”

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