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32 Places to Find Free Financial Education Online

April 4th, 2017 · No Comments · Financial Literacy

by Kristy Welsh

(Last Updated On: January 16, 2018)

32 Places to Find Financial Education OnlineOne of the most important lessons of any financial education is learning how to save money, not spend it. So, what better way to educate yourself about money than with free online resources? Here are our top picks for getting the job done, including lessons on budgeting, debt management, and building good credit. There’s also a section for kids. Make your way through them all or pick and choose the ones that jump out at you.

Free Online Courses

Smart About Money

This is a program of the National Endowment for Financial Education, a private nonprofit foundation. As stated on the Smart About Money website, “It’s a free, unbiased resource where you can find in-depth personal finance courses, articles, calculators and tips to help you manage your money through life’s ups and downs.”

About the Program

  • Covers the basics of personal finance
  • Courses take approximately 45 minutes to complete
  • “Start With Money Basics” Courses – 1) Spending and Saving, 2) Credit and Debt, 3) Insurance, 4) Investing, 5) Employment
  • Other Courses – 1) My Emergency Fund Plan, 2) My Financial Well-Being Plan, 3) My Housing Plan, 4) My Retirement Plan, 5) My Transportation Plan

Note, the organization of the material is a little confusing. You’re presented with two main options –Choose Your Course, as well as Start With Money Basics, which is also presented in course format. The point is, both options take you to course curriculum.

FDIC’s Money Smart

This is a program of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), an independent government agency that insures depositors up to at least $250,000 per insured bank. Thus, the FDIC’s Money Smart courses are bank-related.

About the Program

  • Covers the basics of borrowing and banking products
  • Courses take approximately 30 minutes to complete
  • Adult Course Modules: 1) Bank on It, 2) Borrowing Basics, 3) Check It Out, 4) Money Matters, 5) Pay Yourself First, 6) Keep It Safe, 7) To Your Credit, 8) Charge It Right, 9) Loan To Own, 10) Your Own Home, 11) Financial Recovery
  • Young Adult Course Modules: 1) Bank On It, 2) Check It Out, 3) Setting Financial Goals, 4) Pay Yourself First, 5) Borrowing Basics, 6) Charge It Right, 7) Paying for College and Cars, 8) A Roof Over Your Head

You’ll have to register for access to the FDIC’s Money Smart courses. They don’t ask for a ton of information, but will want to know your name, email, zip code, whether you’re taking the course as an individual or as part of an organization, and whether you are an adult or young adult (so they know which course to show you).

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is an online financial education website that provides courses on a wide range of subjects, including economics and finance, math, science and engineering, computing, and arts and humanities. Its economics and finance coverage includes microeconomics, macroeconomics, finance and capital markets, and entrepreneurship. If it’s basic personal finance you’re looking for, go with finance and capital markets.

About the Program

  • In-depth YouTube video lessons on finance and capital markets
  • Length of videos varies
  • Simple, user-friendly format
  • Subjects: 1) interest and debt, 2) housing, 3) inflation, 4) taxes, 5) accounting and financial statements, 6) stocks and bonds, 7) investment vehicles, insurance, and retirement, 8) money, banking, and central banks, 9) options, swaps, futures, MBSs, CDOs, and other derivatives, 10) current economics

Of all the courses on this list, Khan Academy feels most like being in a classroom. You can’t see your teacher, but you see what he or she is writing on a black screen that mimics a blackboard. You can also listen to the voiceover or mute it and simply read the transcription at the bottom of the screen.

Other Educational Sites

CNN Money Essentials

If learning about personal finance feels intimidating at all to you, CNN Money Essentials is a good place to start your financial education:

  • Visually-appealing category icons
  • Covers the basics of personal finance
  • Subjects: 1) getting started, 2) getting a job, 3) buying a car, 4) starting to invest, 5) buying a home, 6) starting a family, 7) retirement planning

Note, when you click on a category icon, you can easily move through the sub-topics using the list on the right side of the screen. But once you complete that category, it doesn’t automatically move you on to the next category. You’ll have to scroll down to the bottom of the page and select the next category you want to cover.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

The CFPB is a government agency that protects consumers in the financial products and services space. In addition to regulation, the CFPB provides consumers with financial education and tools to make smart financial decisions. Here are some of those tools, arranged by category:

  • Complaint submission – Online form to submit a complaint about a financial product or service
  • Auto loans – Auto loan worksheet, and resources on shopping for auto loans, loan choices, negotiating, and closing the deal
  • College – Financial aid shopping sheet, college scorecard, comparing college costs and financial aid offers, and resources on student loans and repaying student debt
  • Owning a homeHome loan toolkit, Loan Estimate explainer (with sample), closing checklist, Closing Disclosure explainer (with sample), guide to closing forms, guide to finding an HUD-approved housing counselor, and other resources
  • Retirement planning – Estimated benefits calculator based on the age you plan to take Social Security
  • Ask CFPB – Searchable answers to hundreds of financial questions; also organized by category – auto loans, bank accounts and services, credit cards, credit reports and scores, debt collection, families and money, money transfers, mortgages, payday loans, prepaid cards, student loans

Lean more about the CFPB.

Investopedia

According to Investopedia, it is the largest financial education website in the world. So, if you’re looking to learn about investing, this is a good place to jump in with both feet:

  • Market news
  • Personal finance tutorials on a wide range of topics
  • Easily-searchable financial dictionary covering more than 13,000 terms
  • Stock simulator to “put your trading skills to the test”

The main website can feel a little overwhelming; there’s a lot going on there. But the tutorials and dictionary are super-streamlined so starting there is a good way to ease into the site.

Phroogal

Thanks to its smiley-face logo, Phroogal makes you feel good about personal finance right off the bat. But more importantly, Phroogal delivers on its “smile lifestyle” through its fun, accessible presentation of some really great resources:

  • Interactive ask-and-answer platform
  • Resource centers on a wide variety of topics, including a financial literacy center featuring a curated list of free educational resources (kind of like this one)
  • Seminars – Intro to Personal Finance, Intro to Behavioral Finance, The Psychology of Spending, Your Money Mindset, Banking Basics and Saving Money, Budgeting and Creating a Spending Plan, All About Credit Unions, Everything You Need to Know About Credit Reports and Scores
  • Online financial education games

What is the smile lifestyle? 1) valuing time more than money, 2) creating memories with family and friends, 3) building wealth with money, 4) spending consciously no penny-pinching, 5) living your dream lifestyle.

Free Online Courses: FinanceFree Tools

Credit Reports and Scores

Two pieces of financial knowledge cannot be found in any course or article – your credit reports and credit scores. Yet, no financial education is complete without them, especially if the lesson you need most is how to fix your credit for free. Credit reports and scores are always changing, which is why ongoing credit monitoring is so important.

Here is the ultimate combination of ways to see your credit reports and scores for free all year long.

AnnualCreditReport.com

  • Free copies of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax
  • Available every 12 months
  • Access all three at once or stagger every 4 months

Credit Karma

  • Free subscription service to monitor TransUnion and Equifax credit reports and VantageScores
  • Updates every 7 days

Credit.com*

  • Free subscription service to monitor Experian VantageScore and limited credit report info
  • Updates every 2 weeks

Experian CreditWorks Basic

  • Free subscription service to monitor full Experian credit report
  • Updates every 30 days

Discover Credit Scorecard*

  • Free subscription to monitor FICO Score
  • Updates every 30 days

*UPDATE: Credit.com and Discover Credit Scorecard will not work when you have credit freezes on your credit reports, a recommended safeguard in the wake of the Equifax hack.

Rate comparisons and calculators

Simply qualifying for a loan should never be your end goal. Yes, it’s something to celebrate if it’s your first credit line or you’re recovering from bad credit that prevented you from getting credit at all. But in any case, the goal should be getting a loan with the best possible terms. That means the lowest rates you can find and payments you can afford. Rate comparisons and calculators are invaluable tools to that end. There are many places to find them, but two of the best are Bankrate and Nerdwallet.

Bankrate

Rate Comparisons

  • Banking – checking accounts, savings accounts
  • Credit cards – balance transfer, 0% APR, cash back, airline, rewards, business
  • Mortgages – mortgage rates, refinance rates, home equity loan rates
  • Other loans – auto, personal, student loans, home improvement loans
  • Investing – money market accounts, CDs

Financial Calculators

  • Banking calculators – savings, CD, CD ladder, compound savings
  • Credit card calculators – payoff, debt-to-income ratio, balance transfer, debt consolidation
  • Mortgage calculators – how much house you can afford, payments, refinancing, amortization, cost of living, payoff
  • Other loan calculators – auto loans, student loans, personal loans
  • Investing calculators – return on investment, annuity, retirement plan, 401(k), Roth IRA

Nerdwallet

Rate Comparisons

  • Banking – checking accounts, savings accounts, money transfers
  • Credit cards – rewards, cash back, travel, balance transfer, 0% APR, student, secured, business
  • Mortgages – 30-year, 15-year, 5/1 ARM, refinancing
  • Other loans – personal, student, auto, small business, payday loan alternatives
  • Insurance – auto, life, health
  • Investing – money market accounts, CDs

Financial Calculators

  • Banking calculators – compound interest
  • Mortgage calculators – how much house you can afford, payments, refinancing, cost of living, down payment
  • Other loan calculators – auto loans, student loans, personal loans
  • Investing calculators – retirement, Roth IRA, 401(k)

If you use free credit monitoring services – like Credit Karma and Credit.com – expect to see credit offers tailored to your credit. While they may be great deals, they might not be the best, so take the time to shop around.

Once you’re armed with financial education, it’s time to put it to work. Make it easy to follow through with apps for that:

  • Banking app – look for it on your bank’s website; if you don’t see it, call and ask
  • Budgeting app – Mint, LearnVest, Level, Wally, Dollarbird
  • Credit monitoring apps – Credit Karma, Credit.com, WalletHub

For more details (and links), check out our comprehensive article, Best Personal Finance Apps to Build Better Credit.

News

Reinforce all of the concepts you’re learning with real-world situations. Follow the financial news in your favorite news source and check out other financial news outlets, like:

All of these aren’t for everyone. You’ll like the content, format, and tone of some of these sources more than others. Take the time to find what works for you so that financial news becomes something you can enjoy following on a regular basis.

Free Financial Education For Kids

The Centsables

The Centsables is an interactive website for kids to learn about personal finance through fun cartoon characters and storylines. There’s a 13-episode TV series, comic books, games, puzzles, exercises, and an A to Z glossary of financial terms. The Centsables also has a section for parents.

Money As You Grow

This is a program of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), covering the building blocks of financial literacy:

  • Developing executive function
  • Building money habits and values
  • Practicing money skills and decision-making

Money As You Grow features activities and conversation starters (by age group), guides to financial development (by age group), and a book club for ages 4 to 10.

FamZoo

This is an online “virtual family bank” that gives your kids hands-on experience managing money.

As stated on their website, “Our private family ‘banking’ system is designed to help you teach your kids to earn, save, spend, and give money wisely in a safe, friendly environment. You’re the ‘banker,’ and your kids are the ‘customers.’”

FamZoo features include prepaid card accounts, IOU accounts, charts and checklists, weekly account reports, and mobile apps.

Where to Start

Nobody knows better than you what you need (or want) to be included in your financial education. But this list of resources can be intimidating. If you need a jumpstart, we recommend Smart About Money or CNN Money Essentials first. They will give you a basic overview that won’t feel overwhelming. Combine that with the ultimate combo of free credit monitoring tools – AnnualCreditReport.com, Credit Karma, Credit.com, Experian CreditWorks Basic, and Discover Scorecard – and you’ll be off to a great start.

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