Free Personal Finance Courses To Improve Your Financial Literacy

ELIZABETH S. | August 14, 2023

When it comes to financial literacy, many Americans believe they have a firm grasp on the subject. Surprisingly, approximately 71% of American adults consider themselves to possess a high level of financial literacy. However, the reality paints a different picture, as statistics show that less than 50% of adults in the United States have set aside sufficient emergency funds. Additionally, only 41% have made efforts to determine their retirement savings needs, while a mere 32% have investments outside of retirement accounts.

What is Financial Literacy?

Financial literacy encompasses the knowledge necessary for making informed and prudent financial decisions. It goes beyond basic budgeting skills and encompasses understanding concepts such as investments, savings, and retirement planning. By enhancing their financial literacy, individuals can better equip themselves to navigate both anticipated and unforeseen life events.

Increased financial literacy leads to greater financial resilience, allowing individuals to handle financial challenges with confidence. Learning how to earn, spend, save, and invest wisely contributes not only to one's financial well-being but also to overall stability in life. Recognizing the importance of financial literacy, many organizations and institutions offer free personal finance classes to help individuals strengthen their financial knowledge and skills.

Jar of coins in a classroom for a personal finance course

More High Schools Are Requiring Personal Finance Courses

Though the statistics about Americans and their levels of financial literacy are promising, there is still a large percentage of the U.S. population without the skills necessary to master their finances. For this reason, more and more high schools are offering finance courses as an elective. In fact, approximately 30 states across the country have implemented mandates requiring schools to offer personal finance education at the high school level

However, it is important to note that not all of these states enforce the inclusion of personal finance courses as a graduation requirement. Only 17 states have made these courses a requirement to earn that diploma. While the recognition of financial literacy's significance is commendable, the absence of a mandatory course undermines the potential impact of these initiatives.

The Financial Skills That All Americans Need to Know 

Whether you have taken a personal finance course or have learned some important tips along the way, one thing is for certain—personal finance skills are a must. At the very least, acquiring the following skills can pay off in dividends, literally and figuratively, over the years:

  • Basic Budgeting—Understanding and implementing a budget, helps families or individuals track their income and expenses, ensuring they know where their money is coming from and where it's going.
  • Bank Account 101—In today's digital era where paper checks and manual check registries are rare, it is crucial for everyone to grasp essential banking fundamentals, including comprehension of minimum balance requirements, the implications of being overdrawn, knowledge of overdraft and service fees, and the ability to access and manage all relevant account information.
  • Wants vs. Needs—Understanding the distinction between financial needs and wants is crucial, particularly for young individuals who are venturing out on their own for the first time. Typically, needs encompass the essential elements required to sustain our daily lives, while everything else falls into the category of wants, regardless of our perception of their necessity. When financial resources are limited, prioritizing needs becomes imperative.
  • Saving & Investing—While it may be unrealistic to expect a newly independent adult to immediately have a fully funded emergency savings account, it is crucial for them to grasp the importance of saving and investing, specifically for genuine emergencies such as job loss, significant car repairs, or unexpected medical expenses, and begin allocating funds accordingly.
  • Credit ScoresUnderstanding your credit score is vital because it plays a significant role in determining your eligibility for loans, credit cards, and favorable interest rates. A good credit score can open doors to better financial opportunities, while a poor credit score can limit your access to credit and result in higher borrowing costs.
  • Financial Terms—Possessing a basic financial vocabulary is essential as it equips you with the knowledge to navigate and make informed decisions about personal finance matters. Understanding terms such as budget, interest, loans, equity, and more, empowers you to confidently develop and implement your own effective financial strategy tailored to your goals.
  • When to Seek Help—Nonprofit credit counseling agencies provide financial guidance, often with free assistance regardless of your financial circumstances, making them a valuable resource to consider when facing challenges such as job loss and budgeting difficulties or when exploring debt repayment options. Whether seeking local or remote assistance, these agencies offer a range of services, including general personal finance advice, homeownership counseling, and more, to address various financial needs.

Improving Your Financial Literacy with Free Personal Finances Classes

Americans can pave the way for a brighter financial future by taking charge of their financial knowledge and understanding both the fundamental and intricate concepts that underpin personal finance. From budgeting and saving to investing and retirement planning, gaining proficiency in these areas is crucial for making informed financial decisions. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to go back to high school to gain these imperative life skills. There are numerous free personal finance classes available that cater to individuals at various stages of their financial journey. Whether you are starting from scratch or looking to enhance your existing knowledge, these classes offer a valuable opportunity to expand your financial literacy and empower yourself to take control of your economic well being. 

By taking advantage of these resources, you can develop the skills and expertise necessary to navigate the complex world of personal finance with confidence and pave the way toward a more prosperous future.

  • Finance for Everyone: Smart Tools for Decision Making—An online course offered on edX that provides learners with practical tools and knowledge to make informed financial decisions in areas such as budgeting, investing, and risk management.
  • McGill Personal Finance Essentials—A comprehensive range of courses designed to enhance individuals' financial literacy and decision-making skills. With topics covering budgeting, investing, debt management, and retirement planning, these courses provide practical knowledge and strategies to empower learners in achieving their financial goals.
  • Brigham Young University's personal finance courses—These courses provide students with a solid foundation in financial management, covering topics such as budgeting, saving, investing, and managing debt. These courses aim to equip learners with essential skills and knowledge to make informed financial decisions and achieve long-term financial success.
  • Udemy.com's Personal Finance 101—This course provides a comprehensive understanding of personal finance fundamentals, including budgeting, saving, investing, and managing debt. By completing this course, students gain practical skills and knowledge to take control of their financial lives, make informed decisions, and work towards achieving their financial goals.
  • Purdue University's Planning for a Secure Retirement—The primary goal of this course is to assist individuals in their retirement planning journey. Through ten comprehensive modules, the course offers valuable insights, addressing crucial questions and providing actionable information to help individuals make informed decisions. Each module incorporates specific goals, interactive activities, and additional resources to further support learners in their quest for a well-prepared retirement.
  • Duke University's Behavioral Finance Course—This class explores the intersection of psychology and finance, providing an in-depth understanding of how human behavior influences financial decision making. Learners will delve into topics such as cognitive biases, investment behavior, market efficiency, and the impact of emotions on financial choices, gaining valuable insights into the psychological factors that shape financial outcomes.
  • The University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign's Financial Planning for Young Adults—Here you will learn essential topics related to creating comprehensive financial plans. Learners will explore areas such as goal setting, budgeting, tax planning, investment strategies, retirement planning, and risk management, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to develop effective financial plans that align with their long-term objectives.
  • Alison.com's Introduction to Managing Your Personal Finance Debts—In this complimentary online course focused on personal debt management, you will gain valuable insights into effective debt management practices and receive practical tips for alleviating and controlling your personal financial debts. As life presents unexpected financial challenges, individuals frequently resort to taking out loans, which can accumulate and eventually become overwhelming.
  • Marginal Revolution University's Money Skills—This free course provides participants with the opportunity to learn essential financial skills and concepts, including budgeting, saving, investing, understanding credit, and making informed financial decisions to achieve greater financial well-being.
  • Khan Academy's personal finance classes—Participants can expect to gain a comprehensive understanding of personal finance topics and acquire practical skills to make informed financial decisions through the courses offered on Khan Academy. These courses cover a wide range of areas such as budgeting, saving, investing, taxes, and insurance, providing learners with the knowledge and confidence to navigate their personal finances effectively and achieve long-term financial success.
  • NAFSA's Financial Literacy Program—The free finance courses offered on NAFSA’s website provide learners with valuable financial knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about money management, budgeting, credit, and investing.
  • Planning for Risk, Retirement and Investment—Participants can expect to gain valuable insights and practical strategies for planning their risk management and retirement, equipping them with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions for a secure financial future.
  • Work Smarter, Not Harder: Time Management for Personal & Professional Productivity—This course provides valuable insights and practical techniques to enhance productivity and efficiency in the workplace. By exploring concepts such as time management, prioritization, delegation, and effective communication, participants can expect to develop strategies that optimize their work habits and achieve better results with less effort.

Father and daughter with a piggy bank

Gaining Financial Literacy With Free Courses Can Help You Manage Your Personal Finances

In today's complex financial landscape, acquiring financial literacy has never been more crucial. Understanding the fundamentals of personal finance empowers individuals to make informed decisions, take control of their financial well-being, and work towards achieving their goals. 

By enrolling in these courses, readers can equip themselves with the necessary tools and insights to navigate budgeting, debt management, investing, retirement planning, and other key aspects of personal finance. Taking the initiative to educate oneself through these free resources can lead to better financial outcomes and improved overall financial health. 

Don't hesitate to embark on your journey towards financial literacy by exploring these free courses and gaining valuable tips for managing your personal finances. Your financial future awaits your proactive engagement and empowerment.

*The content on this page provides general consumer information or tips. It is not financial advice or guidance. Each person’s circumstances are unique. The Cash Store may update this information periodically. This information may also include links or references to third-party resources or content. We do not endorse the third-party or guarantee the accuracy of this third-party information. There may be other resources that also serve your needs. 

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