Finance expo draws hundreds


POSTED: Sunday, August 16, 2009

With Hawaii's poor economy and the threat of a massive layoff of state workers, hundreds of residents attended the Personal Finance Expo yesterday to seek financial help and advice from professionals.

“;The time is right now. People are hungry for resources and answers,”; said Kristine Castagnaro, executive director of the Hawaii Council on Economic Education. The council hosted the expo at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and hoped to draw in 10,000 residents over the weekend.

“;Now more than ever, people have questions about their finances, and it's important to create an environment that's helpful and friendly to get their questions answered by financial experts,”; Castagnaro said.

More than 80 vendors, including banks, credit unions, government agencies and financial advisers, set up booths for the event to help Hawaii's consumers in the recession. The expo also offered more than 50 seminars that covered all income and knowledge levels.

Thomas Reti, director of corporate development in sales at Stock Trak Group, said he had a great turnout yesterday and signed up 25 people for a “;fantasy stock market game.”;

The free online program gives participants $100,000 in virtual money to learn how to buy and sell stocks without any financial risk, Reti said.

“;If you understand how the world of finance operates, you've got more control over your own destiny,”; he said. “;In good times you need to understand it and in bad times it's even more important to understand how to save your money.”;

Learning about personal planning and college funding was especially important to Carolyn Zukeran, who visited the expo with her three children.

“;I'm a state workers so we're in the brunt of things as far as furloughs or layoffs, so it's kind of scary,”; she said as she walked around the Bank of Hawaii Financial Fitness Challenge.

While her 17-year-old son found a booth offering college assistance, Zukeran's 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter picked up tips and giveaways.

“;They're looking for ways to save their money. We're here getting our piggy banks,”; she said.

Emi Nakamura, 19, and Grant Uchida, 21, also wandered around the BOH money tree, filling out a financial fitness quiz.

“;I think that most young people today, especially those in college, aren't aware of how important it is to plan for the future,”; Nakamura said. “;I recently got started investing in stocks, and that's one of the main reasons why I came here is to learn more about, not just stocks, but other forms of personal finance.”;

Uchida also felt that financial planning is important as he's attempting to be a singing comedian.

“;With that, you can't really have a steady market, so I need to find a backup on what to do ... so I'm starting to look at real estate,”; he said. “;Rather than wait for everything to get better, we decided to not wait around and make it better for us.”;

The expo continues today at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The entry fee is $5 for adults, but a $3 coupon is offered on www.pfehawaii.com. Children under 12 are free.