Financial literacy isn’t discussed much in school, and that’s because there’s no requirement for students to take personal finance classes or for schools to offer them.
But when you graduate from high school or college and enter the real world, understanding how to manage money well is one of the most important skills you can learn.
“[A lack of] financial literacy is the number one reason why so many people are stuck in their current situations,” says Adrian Bybee, a financial advisor and owner of The Bybee Agency. “With financial literacy, anyone, especially in America, will be able to increase their living standard.”
The good news is that you don’t have to seek out a financial advisor to learn the basics. Fortunately, there are free personal finance courses out there that can help you get started on improving your money management skills and financial literacy.
The trick is knowing where to look. Here are three places where you can start.
1. Continuing education websites
There are several websites out there that offer courses, both free and for a price, to help students — no matter your stage in life — learn different skills. For example, some courses can be a stepping stone to a promotion at work. In other cases, the courses can be a way to learn a skill that they can turn into a business.
For you, it can simply be a way to learn more about the basics of personal finance and how to deal with money. Here are a few websites where you can do a course search for money management or personal finance courses:
- Khan Academy
Be sure to “shop around” and compare the different course offerings from each website to find one that fits exactly what you’re looking for. There’s no one way to do personal finance, so you’ll likely find different approaches depending on who created the course.
While you may not have learned about personal finance while you were in college, you might be able to go back without actually going back. Several major universities offer online personal finance courses that can help you learn the fundamentals.
These courses are typically self-paced, and some universities even offer basic, intermediate, and advanced lessons. Here are some options to consider:
- Utah State University, Family Finance
- Brigham Young University, Personal Finance
- UC-Irvine, Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning
- Purdue University, Planning for a Secure Retirement
- University of Arizona, Free Personal Finance Course
Keep in mind that you don’t have to enroll at the university to take these courses and you don’t get any college credit. In most cases, there’s not even any kind of contact between you and the professors who created the courses.
Because church-based personal finance courses typically come with a religious spin, this might not be a good option if you have a negative relationship with religion.
That said, people who are religious can find a lot of value in seeing money management from the perspective of faith. For example, some churches offer Financial Peace University classes, which is the flagship course for Dave Ramsey. Other churches have created a personal finance course of their own to help their congregations.
Here are some other churches, both local and national, that offer some form of personal finance course:
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Personal Finances for Self-Reliance
- Saddleback Church, Financial Freedom Workshop
- Christ’s Church of the Valley, Rock Solid Finances
How to choose the right personal finance course
There’s no one best free personal finance course out there. Each one offers different perspectives and emphasizes different principles and recommendations.
As a result, you might need to review several courses to find the best one for you. This can take time, especially because some of the courses don’t offer all the information upfront, so you have to spend some time taking parts of the course.
“Finding the right course takes time and effort, but there are many good ones out there,” says Bybee. As you take the time to do your due diligence, you’ll find something that works for you.
What do personal finance courses involve?
Keep in mind that, while these courses don’t require a monetary investment, they do require an investment of your time to learn. “One drawback is that you are, most of the time, left to do it on your own,” says Bybee.
But if you take the course and apply the lessons you learn, you’ll be on track to improving your financial well-being in ways that you never thought possible.
In other words, the more time you spend learning through free personal finance courses, the easier it will be to manage all aspects of your money.
Ben Luthi is a personal finance writer and a credit cards expert who loves helping consumers and business owners make better financial decisions. His work has been featured in Time, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance, U.S. News & World Report, CNBC, Success Magazine, USA Today, The Huffington Post and many more.