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In addition to personal finance books and blogs, online classes can be a great way to increase your financial literacy. Thanks to the emergence of massive open online courses (moocs), there are multiple sources that offer free personal finance classes that you can take from the comfort of your own home. These cover very basic issues such as budgeting and inflation as well as more complex ones such as taxes, risk and investing options. Below I’ve provided a round up of the best free personal finance classes currently available online.
Note: some courses require that you create an account before you can access them. Some offer both free and paid options for the same course; the free version generally allows you to audit the course whereas the paid version generally gives you access to a certificate of completion and/or access to grading, instructor and peer interaction and feedback.
edX is an incredible resource that offers a wide variety of courses, from computer science to leadership and more. It was founded by Harvard and MIT and is considered one of the leading platforms for free education and learning. There is no rating system for courses, however, as of this posting edX has an overall score of 8.9/10 on Trustpilot which is indicative of the class quality you can expect.
This is an introductory course available from the University of Michigan that will teach you “how to think clearly about important financial decisions and improve your financial literacy.” You’ll learn tools that you can apply to help you understand your finances and to make better financial decisions in your everyday life. The class will help you better see the value and financial impact of various choices you make. This includes decisions such as renting or buying, how to evaluate a car purchase, and deciding whether to go to college.
PurdueX: Personal Finance
This Purdue course offering promises to teach you about investment, credit, insurance and retirement issues in order to help you better manage your money.
What you’ll learn:
- How to manage your finances and make better financial decisions
- The time value of money
- Basics of stock markets and investments
- The proper role of credit and how to use it judiciously
- How insurance works
- The interplay between investments, credit and insurance
- The importance of saving for retirement sooner rather than later
This course teaches the basics of personal finance and focuses on how to maximize your money. Topics include: how to balance spending and saving, which debts to pay first, what insurance you need how to lower its costs, how to improve your credit, how invest for retirement and other long-term goals, and more.
You’ll also get to do some “real-world” homework assignments such as looking up mutual fund fees and requesting a free credit report.
WellesleyX: Personal Finance, Part 1: Investing in Yourself
This course will help you take control of your finances and be a more savvy financial consumer. In it you’ll learn how to:
- Apply basic economic and financial principles to personal financial decisions
- Model personal financial decisions using spreadsheets
- Critically evaluate financial information for bias
- Analyze the costs and benefits of various life decisions
Coursera was founded in 2012 by two Stanford professors and now partners with various universities and educational institutions worldwide to offer more than 2,700 courses online. Courses are taught by highly-qualified instructors and generally last 4–6 weeks.
This course is taught through the University of Florida. It addresses multiple personal financial management topics that will help you learn how to manage your finances more prudently throughout your lifetime.
Included in the syllabus:
- Understanding Personal Finance
- Financial Statements, Tools, and Budgets
- Managing Income Taxes
- Building and Maintaining Good Credit
- Managing Risk
- Investment Fundamentals
- Investing Through Mutual Funds
- Personal Plan of Action
- IRS Bonus Module: Steps to be a VITA Volunteer
Khan Academy is a not-for-profit online learning platform whose mission is “to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.” Kahn academy makes it especially easy to learn, with no requirement to sign-up or sign-in before getting started. One of the benefits to creating a free account, however, is that you’ll have the ability to save your progress. Courses are provided through videos of varying length that allow comments and questions – although most responses come from the community rather than the instructor, the interaction does help facilitate greater understanding. Note that there is no rating system for courses.
For this course, you can choose from any of the topics directly or you can scroll down and hit the “Start Learning” button. Choosing the second option will take you through the course in order and in its entirety.
What you’ll learn:
- Saving and budgeting
- Interest and debt
- Investments and retirement
- Income and benefits
- Car expenses
- Paying for college
- Keeping your information safe
This is a fairly comprehensive course that covers a wide range of personal finance topics as well as broader topics such as the 2008 bank bailout and corporate taxation. Like the previous course, it’s easy to skip to or skip over topics that you’re most or least interested in.
What you’ll learn:
- Interest and debt
- Accounting and financial statements
- Stocks and bonds
- Investment vehicles, insurance, and retirement
- Money, banking and central banks
- Options, swaps, futures, MBSs, CDOs, and other derivatives
- Current economics
Alison is an online learning platform that was founded in 2007 by Mike Feerick. It offers more than 900 free courses that can all be completed in 3 hours or less, covering a large variety of topics. Each free course is an Alison Certificate course that provides streamlined training and a certificate of completion.
This course covers 42 topics within 6 modules. It focuses on how to increase your income; mortgages and wills; investments; debt; and increasing your net worth. According to the instructor, you’ll learn how to:
- Set up an emergency account
- Identify methods for increasing income
- Understand how a mortgage is paid
- Understand why it’s important to have a will
- Identify the appropriate time to make investments
- Differentiate between financial, retirement, and educational investments
- List the 7 steps for getting out of debt
- Discuss how to make the most of unemployment
- Calculate your net worth and cash flow
Udemy offers over 100,000 total courses online on a wide variety of topics. Many classes are free, however, there are plenty of paid options as well. If you have your heart set on a paid course, be sure to watch for their frequent $10 flash sales.
This is a 1.5 hour long course that includes 27 lectures covering financial goals, budgeting, and debt management. It will show you how to set S.M.A.R.T. financial goals and determine how much you need to save in order to reach your goals. It covers essential money management skills such as how to set up a budget, pay yourself first, assess your expenses, stretch your dollar and how to manage your debt. Importantly, it also discusses the power of compounding interest and how to manage your exposure to unexpected events such as sudden illness or disability.
This is another brief course, comprised of 7 lectures and approximately an hour long. As the title implies, the class is all about debt: how debt works, “good” vs “bad” debt, how to get out of bad debt fast, and how to stay out of debt. It includes worksheets to help you drill down and prioritize your own debts, as well as bonus material on credit cards and bankruptcy.