Education has become a personal finance issue of late, with countless Millennials deep in student loan debt. But thanks to massively open online courses (MOOCs), you can learn—whether about money or music or marketing—for free.
Sometimes there is a fee for graded coursework, but you can still access all course materials at no cost. Thus, MOOCs can help build financial literacy and stability without loans. Here are five classes to consider.
The Freakonomics book, documentary and podcast helped push behavioral economics — which studies how humans make decisions — into the mainstream. But a deeper dive is warranted for full financial literacy. Understanding human bias and perception is important to understanding how investors bid a stock up or down, oftentimes irrationally, but also how you as an individual can make better day-to-day spending and saving decisions. Duke University’s “Behavioral Finance” course is a great place to start.
In Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack’s book The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated, there is a chapter dedicated to the advice: “Buy inexpensive, well-diversified indexed mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.” While it’s great to know how to read a company’s earnings report, it’s arguably more important to know that individual stock picking isn’t the best path towards financial stability. To that end, University of Geneva’s class “Securing Investment Returns in the Long Run,” explains the difference between the former (passive investing) and the latter (active investing). This class is part of a five-course series.
Albert Einstein supposedly once called compound interest the most powerful force in the universe. But don’t take Einstein’s word for it. Get a smorgasbord of money fundamentals with Macquarie University’s “Financial Literacy” class, which covers compound interest, plus basics about investing, debt, financial scams and more.
Brush up on your basic math skills with “Financial Accounting: Foundations” from University of Illinois-Champaign. These accounting basics will help you think about your personal finances with a business lens—assets, revenue, expenses and so on—and will also get your quantitative wheels spinning again.
While a lot of personal finance advice insists the path to financial stability begins with simply cutting out your daily cup of jo, the best way to save more money is actually to make more money. One of the quickest ways to up your salary is to up your negotiation skills. “The Art of Negotiation” from University of California, Irvine can help—and may be useful in other parts of your life as well.
Course catalog at a glance
Behavioral Finance—Duke University
Study common decision-making errors and understand how they impact your financial choices.
Securing Investment Returns in the Long Run—University of Geneva
Understand the difference between active and passive investing, and the returns you can expect from each.
Financial Accounting: Foundations—University of Illinois, Champaign
Learn accounting basics so you can treat your personal finances like a business.
The Art of Negotiation—University of California, Irvine
More income means more savings. Learn how to negotiate the best salary possible.
Financial Literacy—Macquarie University
Master the basics, from managing debt and savings to avoiding investment scams.