Back when I was in college, I never came across a single personal finance course, or a basic financial literacy program that I could enroll in. That was some time ago, but luckily nowadays there are several free online financial classes you can take.
These courses provide a foundation in budgeting, borrowing, investing and overall financial awareness. We run into these topics in our everyday lives, but according to the National Financial Educators Council, we don’t completely master them: participants on average score a 65% in their financial literacy test.
But if you look for free online finance courses for beginners, what you’ll often find can be hit-or-miss. For example, do trained instructors teach the courses? And can you take the class at your own pace or do you need to follow a schedule?
In this article, we provide an overview of our favorite personal finance courses. The list has something for everyone: from budgeting and debt management to investing. We present the list in no particular order.
1. Making sense of your personal finances (Udemy)
This free course teaches you how to set S.M.A.R.T. financial goals and work out how much you need to achieve those goals. It’a as short class lasting one hour and 22 minutes and uses on-demand video.
This course reveals basic money skills you should learn and shows you how to:
- Understand and set financial goals
- Prepare a budget
- Save effectively
- Manage your debt
This basic money management class is conducted by the Institute for Financial Literacy of Singapore. They provide free and unbiased financial education programs to various organizations.
2. Financial literacy (Alison)
Master how to manage your money effectively by learning to budget and save with this free personal finance course.
The course will guide you through personal finance essentials, including the main methods for managing money, budgeting, saving and staying out of debt. It’s not an overly long course, lasting an expected 6 to 10 hours, depending on your pace.
To obtain an Alison Graduate certificate of completion, you’ll need to score 80% or higher in each course assessment. Worth it? It’s a nice way to motivate yourself and show your improvement.
3. Learn and master the basics of finance (Udemy)
This Finance 101 course is meant for beginners and intermediate level students of finance who would like to get a better understanding of financial concepts.
For example, if you’d like to get a better grip on the financial section of The Wall Street Journal, this course is for you.
It’s over 3 hours long and will teach you a range of topics: from basic banking concepts to more complex derivative products. The course keeps things simple and builds gradually to learn the more complex financial subjects.
4. Personal finance management (edX)
This course is taught by Sugato Chakravarty, a professor from Purdue University (PurdueX). You’ll learn about investment, credit, insurance and retirement topics. And it teaches you how to manage your money more effectively.
This class requires a bit of commitment as it’s 5 weeks long, requires 3 to 4 hours per week, and follows a course schedule. Topics covered in this program include: how to make better financial decisions; the time value of money; the basics of stock markets and investments, and the proper role of credit and how to use it judiciously.
The course also covers how insurance works; the interplay between investments, credit and insurance, and the importance of saving for retirement sooner rather than later.
5. Personal finance co-pilot: Achieve your financial goals (Skillshare)
With this course, you’ll learn how to set up a budget and a personal financial plan to help you achieve your goals. The course walks you through the steps you need to take for that financial plan (your co-pilot) to help you save, pay down credit cards or meet unplanned expenses.
The class instructor suggests the use of a personal financial tool to track day-to-day transactions and help you meet the course goals.
While free, the course requires you to sign up for a free trial.
6. Finance for everyone: Smart tools for decision-making (edX)
This free course from the University of Michigan offers an introduction to finance and teaches you how to apply concepts and tools for understanding and making everyday financial decisions.
This self-paced class will show you how to value the impact of your financial decisions: from renting vs buying, refinancing a student loan, evaluating personal loans, or simply learning how the financial world works.
The course is taught by finance professor Gautam Kaul, at the Ross School of Business (RSB), University of Michigan. It’ll take you six weeks to complete and will require a time commitment of about 5 to 6 hours per week.
7. Personal & family financial planning (Coursera)
This course has a little of everything: it’ll show you how to manage your finances using budgets, cover credit basics and debt management, plus discuss insurance and investment fundamentals.
Unlike other online courses in this list, this one mixes things up a bit. In addition to instructional videos, you’ll be using reading materials and completing practice exercises in each of its modules.
Michael S. Gutter, a professor at the University of Florida teaches it. This online course has flexible deadlines and will take about 15 hours to complete.
8. Investment vehicles, insurance, and retirement (Khan Academy)
As you start thinking about investing for retirement, you’ll run into acronyms such as ETFs, IRAs and 401(k)’s. If you want to learn more about those investment vehicles or are curious to know the differences between hedge funds, private equity or venture capital, then this personal finance course is right for you.
The lessons are taught by Mr. Khan himself and grouped into five units. All videos are self-paced and do not require you to sign up.
9. Introduction to simple and compound interest (Alison)
If you have a checking account, credit card, or loan, you’ve come across aspects of simple and compound interest. This brief course will teach you the distinction between the two.
Interest is the cost of borrowing money and the way it’s calculated is crucial in helping you make better financial decisions. You’ll become proficient at calculating it and will learn the differences between simple and compound interest.
10. Personal finance essentials (McGill)
This free online class is provided by McGill University, a top school in Canada. The course covers the basics of budgeting, borrowing, real estate and investor behavior.
It’s open to all individuals who wish to improve their financial literacy. However, the course content is based on the Canadian financial system, so any details related to taxation or retirement savings products may not apply in the US.
The course is taught by professors from McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management and is taught in eight modules. Registration is open four times a year.
11. Introduction to managing your personal finance debts (Alison)
If you want to become debt free, this online course in managing personal financial debts will show you the way. It’ll teach you solid financial management practices and useful tips for dealing with your debts.
Sometimes the unexpected happens, which can lead to financial problems. Folks often have no other choice and get into debt, which can become unmanageable quickly. This free online course will show you how to reduce your personal debt and eventually become debt-free.
12. Shed debt faster (Walletero)
This downloadable free guide by Walletero isn’t technically a course, but it’ll help you get out of debt faster. It provides easy-to-follow tips and action steps to:
- Review your finances
- Get organized
- Take action to reduce your debt
- Improve your credit
- Adopt healthy credit habits and
- Live debt free
You’ll find plenty of tips and insights to get a better grip on your financial situation, get organized quickly, and start lowering your debt.