So what alternatives are out there? If you’re wanting to study something for its own sake (instead of needing a qualification for your CV), there are now loads of free online courses out there run by some of the world’s top institutions.
I’ve really got into MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) after a friend recommended them, although I’m having to be careful not to over-commit myself. Some of them are pretty intensive, when you’re fitting them around a nine-to-five. I’ve found that taking one at a time works well, and I also prefer the sort you complete at your own pace rather than ones with deadlines.
The course I’ve finished recently was on personal finance, and it was great. It inspired me to start investing in the stock market, made me reconsider whether to get various types of insurance and drove home the importance of starting early when saving for your retirement.
I wish I’d been taught personal finance at school. Maybe I wouldn’t have got into the mess I did. Being able to manage your money is a key life skill and I was a huge supporter of Martin Lewis’ successful campaign to get financial education taught in all UK high schools.
But it’s never too late to learn, so here are four free courses which will help you brush up your money management skills:
- Personal and Family Financial Planning: University of Florida (via Coursera)
This is the course I took, and I was really impressed by it. Dr Michael Gutter pitched it just right, with accessible videos and just enough technical information to make this a really solid introduction to personal finance. It’s free as long as you don’t opt for the certificate at the end (hint: if you finish it, you’ll get a ‘statement of accomplishment’ anyway).
- Personal Finance Planning: Purdue University (via EdX)
Another one that’s free, as long as you don’t go for the $50 verified certificate.
- You and Your Money: The Open University (via OpenLearn)
- Managing My Money: The Open University (via OpenLearn)
It makes sense to study a course based in your own country, because each country will have different systems for tax, saving, investing and planning for your retirement. Most MOOCs are American, but these are two UK-based courses. Wish I’d seen these before I took the Coursera one.
These free courses will teach you how to live within your means, save some money and make the right decisions about pensions, investments and insurance. This is stuff all grown-ups should learn. You’ve got nothing to lose, so give one a try.