Let’s get real. Unless you studied finance in college, the most interaction you had with money in an educational sense was probably answering an SAT question about counting spare change.
As adults who need to consider retirement savings, pay taxes, and budget accordingly, it helps to know a little bit more than basic arithmetic. But where does this education come from, you ask? According to the Council for Economic Education, only 17 U.S. states required high school students to take a course in personal finance in 2016. Count the states that require high schools to teach semester-long classes in personal finance, and that number drops to five.
As abysmal as these stats may be, that doesn’t mean you have to stop your economic education with high school. With fall setting in, consider taking yourself back to school with free online courses in everything from accounting basics to entrepreneurial techniques. And whether you have just 15 minutes to spare or whole weekends to devote to your finance education, there’s most certainly a class to suit your specific needs—without making the slightest dent in your bank account. Thanks, internet!
Here are five classes that require little more than a reasonable time commitment and an open mind.
Become Financially Literate
If you’re ready to learn the language of personal finance and, in the process, gain control of your cash and investments, this is the class for you. Also run through an accredited university, the course offers a series of videos and quizzes to get you up to speed on financial basics. In less than four hours, you’ll learn how to set financial goals, build on your investments, and learn about compound interest.
Accounting Basics in 1 Hour or 10
If you’re an accounting newbie, consider signing up for Skillshare’s “Accounting in Only ONE Hour” class to learn the basics in no time at all. Once you’ve brushed up on simple balance sheets, income statements, and t-accounts, head over to “Accounting Basics, a Complete Study” to be a bona fide accounting pro. As with all the classes on Skillshare, you can sign up for free to get a month of unlimited access to its massive database of free online courses.
The “Core Four” Pillars of Personal Finance
Who knew personal finance had pillars? And that there are four? Udemy, the online learning platform designed specifically for professional adults, has a class to explain just that. “At the end of this course, you will know how to get your finances under control, get and stay motivated,” the course description reads. “Later on, if you want to become an expert on personal finance and retire early for example, you will have a strong foundation to understand how to do so.” Nearly 15,000 students have signed up for this class already, so you know there must be something to it.
Finance Planning for You and Your Family
As our life paths and goals change, it’s crucial to know how to adapt our financial plans along the way—especially if you have a growing family. Learn how for free by auditing a course hosted by the University of Florida platform, Coursera. According to the class description, you’ll “learn prudent habits both while in school and throughout your lifetime.” Sign up through Facebook to enroll by the class’s start date, September 25.
Manage Your Cash Flow
Lynda is a crowd favorite when it comes to brushing up on your Photoshop or Excel skills, but few know you can also use it to meet your personal finance goals. A 30-day free trial should give you plenty of time to take a course or two, though you may also be able to access the platform for free through your local library. Lynda’s financial wellness class, “Managing Personal Cash Flow,” is a great place to start once you do.
BONUS: If you've made it this far, and you're still thirsting for more, here are two more classes that can take your financial literacy game to the next level:
Get the 411 on Life Insurance and Retirement Savings
Sure, saving for retirement might be the least sexy aspect of financial planning, but if you want to stop working at some point in your life it’s crucial to start as early as you can. To help you learn the ropes, the online learning platform Alison has a class in retirement and life insurance basics that’ll only take you 2 hours tops to complete. What’s more, you can sign into the platform through your Google or Facebook account, making the learning process all the more seamless.
An Intro to Tax Deductions
There’s a reason Khan Academy has quickly grown to be one of the most popular and practical learning platforms on the internet. It’s free, comprehensive, and insanely easy to navigate. This video on the ins and outs of tax deductions is an excellent place to start for those new to the tax game. For the full roundup of personal tax tutorials, head here.