When it comes to money, millennials know that they owe a lot of it — especially when it comes to student loans. More so than any other generation, millennials are feeling the squeeze of student loan debt, with the average borrower in 2016 having nearly $28,000 in loans. In fact, the national student loan debt now stands at $1.4 trillion (up from $260 billion in 2004), and is predicted to continue growing.
Student loan debt can largely be attributed to the ballooning cost of college tuition and fees, which has far outpaced the rate of inflation. But it can also be chalked up to the number of American college students who willingly sign up for substantial debt, seemingly without any real idea of what the loan documents mean or how difficult it will be to repay these loans.
Money makes the world go round, and yet so many Americans know so little about it. Financial literacy appears to be largely unimportant in the United States, with only 17 states requiring students to take a course in personal finance in order to graduate.
This leaves many millennials in the difficult position of learning about how money works after they’re already out in the real world — with a job, bills and student loan payments. If they haven’t been fortunate enough to learn about personal finance from their families or in high school or college, how can they learn about it now?
Luckily, there are some great free options available for millennials who want to learn about personal finance, and they don’t even require you to leave your home. With a laptop and a strong internet connection, you can take advantage of these courses and learning modules to take control of your finances and be on your way to financial security.
Family Finance Course
This course is offered through Utah State University. Over the span of 14 units, students are taught the basics of personal finance, including budgeting, taxes, debt, major purchases, mortgages and even creating a financial file. Each unit takes approximately 100 minutes to complete, and includes an action step at the end to help you work towards the ultimate goal: coming up with a financial plan of your own.
Free Personal Finance Course
The University of Arizona offers a free 15-unit course for all to take. It covers variety of topics through a series of posts, organized in a way that helps you go from more basic concepts of financial literacy to more complex issues. At the end of each lesson is a quiz to test you on what you have learned. With this course, you don’t have to enroll and can move at your own pace, making it ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about personal finance without being tied down to more specific course requirements.
Fundamentals of Personal Finance
The University of California-Irvine offers this course, which is aimed at individuals who want to get their finances in shape but cannot afford a personal financial planner. It has eight general topics: goals, figuring out where you are financially, taxation, keeping bad things from interrupting your goals, investing, funding retirement, college planning and estate planning basics. Each of these eight objectives or goals has between one and six lessons, and you can choose among the different topics. The lessons are all available online, and the entire course will take approximately 25 to 30 hours to complete.
Each of these courses each are geared towards general personal finance issues. There are other specific free online courses on topics such as credit, retirement, buying a home and more. They are typically offered through universities, and are offered free of charge for all learners — including millennials.
Financial literacy is a skill that is valuable at all stages of life, from high school to college and beyond. It can assist you in choosing a college that helps you avoid going into significant student loan debt, in living within your means while in school, and in paying back your loans quickly after you have graduated. Financial literacy is also the key to reaching your other goals after you are out of undergraduate or graduate school, such as saving for retirement, buying a house, or even getting married or having kids. With a wealth of free online courses and other options available, there is no excuse for not learning as much as possible about the world of personal finance — and taking charge of your finances.
About the Author:
Drew Cloud is a journalist who typically writes about student loans, personal finance and education. He always had a knack for reporting throughout high school and college where he picked up his topics of choice. Since his graduation from college, Drew wanted to funnel his creative energy into an independent, authoritative news outlet covering an exclusive and developing industry. Thus, the Student Loan Report was born. You can reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.