Personal finance is all about properly saving, spending, investing, and protecting your money so you can live your ambition of a good life. But personal finance isn't taught in school and managing your money can be difficult. It's often forced upon us to learn personal finance through trial and error, and it's too easy to make mistakes that can have lifelong consequences. Mastering money management takes knowledge, skills, and the right mindset.
You can find dozens of personal finance books by top-selling authors to learn the fundamental principles of managing your money. But, if you're the type of person who learns best through guided instruction with the opportunity to put what you learn into practice, a personal finance course may be a better option.
The best personal finance courses offer the opportunity to learn from experts who can guide you sequentially through the critical elements of personal finance while testing your knowledge along the way. While many good personal finance courses charge little or nothing at all, it's essential to find the one that is well worth your time. In this roundup, we review the very best personal finance courses in six categories to help you narrow your search.
Best Personal Finance Courses in 2021
- Best Overall: edX's Finances for Everyone: Smart Tools for Decision Making
- Best for Support System: Ramsey Solutions' Ramsey+
- Best Low-Cost Course: The Complete Personal Finance Course: Save, Protect, Make More from Udemy
- Best Free Course: Khan Academy
- Best for Learning Behavioral Finance: Duke University
- Best for Learning Resources: Smart About Money
Investopedia offers its own personal finance class as part of the Investopedia Academy, but to maintain objectivity, we opted to exclude it from this roundup. If you are interested in this course, please visit the Investopedia Academy.
Best Overall : edX's Finances for Everyone : Smart Tools for Decision Making
It's comprehensive, stacked with learning tools and resources, self-paced, university-developed and taught, and it's free. That's why we chose edX's Finances for Everyone: Smart Tools for Decision Making as the best overall personal finance course.
College course structure but self-paced
Discussion groups and community forum
Course perquisites include high school algebra and familiarity with accounting terms
For a free course, edX's Finances for Everyone is as comprehensive a course as there is. But what makes the course stand out is its college course structure, which keeps students moving forward with quality instruction and resources while providing them with a unique learning experience.
edX's course is the creation of the University of Michigan and is taught by Gautam Kaul, Professor of Finance, Ross School of Business at UM. It's a six-week course (five to six hours per week) consisting of weekly learning sequences comprised of short videos embedded with interactive learning exercises, allowing students to practice what they learn. The course also includes tutorial videos similar to on-campus discussion groups. There's an online discussion forum for students to post and review questions and share comments with teaching assistants and other students.
Generally, the course is designed for beginners with an emphasis on improving financial literacy. It starts with an in-depth study of the time value of money as the foundation for understanding and appreciating the many applications of finance to analyze the personal decisions we make. The course provides a framework to help guide decisions in all aspects of money management.
The course is free unless you want to earn a certificate of completion, which costs $49.
Best for Support System : Ramsey Solutions' Ramsey+
Mastering your personal finances is about changing your behavior which can be difficult for some people. Ramsey+ is more than just a top-notch course; it's also a massive community of like-minded people willing to support each other, making it our choice as the best personal finance course for a support system.
Developed and taught by recognized personal finance guru
Community forum for additional support
Includes useful money management apps
14-day free trial
Recurring cost of $129 annually
In addition to offering top-tier educational courses and resources, Ramsey+ is home to a massive community of Dave Ramsey's students who are there to learn and lend their support to other students.
For those who like to learn from legitimate gurus, there's no one more renowned than Ramsey. He has authored several best-selling books on personal finance and is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, reaching millions of listeners. With financial counselors throughout the country, his Financial Peace University has tutored thousands of people wanting to get control of their finances.
Ramsey+ is an expanded version of his Financial Peace University that adds extensive resources in addition to online courses. A membership with Ramsey+ costs $129 a year and includes several useful, mobile-optimized apps.
First is an app that carries all the Financial Peace University courses with on-demand videos. EveryDollar is a highly touted budgeting app (also sold separately for $99), and Baby Steps is based on Dave's well-traveled steps to getting out of debt quickly. While the courses are world-class, the apps are well worth the $129 per year price of admission.
However, the real value of Ramsey+ is the extra motivation you get from community support to stick to your plan. When you join Ramsey+, you join an interactive online community of thousands of people who have completed or are taking the courses and make themselves available to support each other. In addition, you also have access to a money mentor. That's the real value of the cost of membership.
Best Low-Cost Course : The Complete Personal Finance Course : Save, Protect, Make More from Udemy
Even at its regular price of $149, this personal finance course from Udemy would be an excellent value. But it is being offered for $15.99 (as of March 2021), making it our pick as the best low-cost personal finance course.
Global leader in course instruction
Highly rated instructor
No interaction with the instructor or other students
Developed by award-winning business professor and best-selling author Chris Haroun, the Complete Personal Finance Course: Save, Protect, Make More is as comprehensive a course as you will find for just $15.99.
Offered through Udemy, a global leader in education courses, the course is its most popular in the personal finance category, having matriculated nearly 110,000 students. It has received more than 6,200 mostly positive reviews for a rating of 4.6 out of five.
The course includes 122 lectures over 16 hours of online videos, covering five sections based on real-life practical knowledge and experience. There are nearly two dozen lectures on how to save money on everything from taxes to housing to pet-related expenses. There are several "how-to" courses on critical issues such as budgeting, retirement planning, college funding, and teaching your children about saving. Also included is a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet containing 25 exercises that act as a roadmap as you go through the lesson. There are also eight downloadable resources.
As with all Udemy courses, you get lifetime access to the materials that are updated regularly. Students receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course.
Best Free Course : Khan Academy
There are many free personal finance courses available, but the Khan Academy has a sterling reputation for delivering quality online education services which is why we chose it as the best free personal finance course.
Global leader in online instruction
Expert finance instructor
Extensive course offering
No interaction with the instructor or other students
When it comes to any educational course, free is not really free if you're committing your valuable time. With Khan Academy's 15 years of experience developing high-quality courses, you can be sure it will be worth your time.
Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization founded in 2006 by Sal Kahn, who has built it into a global leader in free online education. The personal finance course was developed and taught in large part by Sal, who has a finance background.
The course is built around video lectures, short readings, interactive quizzes, and comment threads. There are nine courses covering the essentials. A typical course is broken down into units containing lessons containing all the materials and resources you'll need.
Sal's courses are unique in that he uses a virtual blackboard upon which he writes out his notes while he talks and thoroughly explains the concepts, just like in a real classroom. The learning site tracks your progress as you work your way through the course, capturing time spent watching videos, reading texts, as well as your quiz scores.
As an additional resource, Khan has partnered with Visa to produce a 20-part YouTube series on personal finance.
Best for Learning Behavioral Finance : Duke University
To master your personal finances, you need to understand how your behavior influences financial decisions. Duke University has put its academic heft behind the development of its Behavioral Finance Course, making it our pick as the best personal finance course for learning behavioral finance.
Focus on behavioral aspects of personal finance
No interaction with instructors or other students
Your behavior, including your biases and attitude about money, influences your financial decisions, which can have lifelong consequences. Duke University offers a Behavioral Finance course that focuses squarely on how to control your biases to make better decisions.
Duke is a world-class university with one of the top personal finance departments. Its Behavioral Finance Course is very popular among its students, but it is also offered for free as an online course through Coursera.org, a learning platform that curates courses taught by university professors throughout the world. While the course is free, you can pay a fee for course certification.
The five-hour course examines typical mistakes people make in their financial decisions and how to avoid them. It helps you to discover your own biases, which could lead to poor decision-making. The course is taught by Economics Associate Chair and Professor Emma Rasiel, who provides detailed instruction through a series of online videos. The course includes supplementary readings and quizzes at the end of each segment.
Best for Learning Resources : Smart About Money
Smart About Money offers a comprehensive course on personal finance, but its real value is in its massive offering of resource materials that can extend your learning as far as you want to take it. That makes Smart About Money our choice as the best personal finance course for learning resources.
Expansive offering of resources and tools
Courses and resources for any life stage or event
Self-directed with guidance
Useful money management tools
Entirely text-based, no videos
Smart About Money's comprehensive personal finance course will teach you the essentials. But, as with any good course, the more you learn, the more questions you have. Through its vast resource library, Smart About Money (SAM) will have the answer you need when you need it.
SAM is a free program offered by the National Endowment for Financial Education, which champions programs to advance financial well-being. It is a collection of courses, tools, and other resources cataloged by live stage, life events, and financial circumstances.
Don't know where to start looking? Take the Financial Well-Being Course to start learning personal finance from the beginning, skipping around based on your needs. Or you can take the Financial Identity quiz, a 12-question test that can lead you to the courses, tools, and resources based on your financial needs and style.
The tools are very useful and include a budget wizard to track your income and spending each month. You also get access to the Basic Steps, similar to Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps for getting you on the path to financial independence.
The only downside, depending on your learning style, is the courses are not video-based. It's written content throughout but nicely formatted for easy learning.
Personal finance is, well, personal. Everyone has individual needs, particular learning styles, and specific things they want to get out of a personal finance course. But at a minimum, look for a course with a comprehensive offering that covers the essential elements of personal finance in a user-friendly format and taught by an expert instructor.
For example, some people need more encouragement and motivation to stick with a plan. That's where Dave Ramsey's Ramsey+ course and membership can help. In addition to a top-caliber course, there's a large community of current and former students to rely on.
If budget is a concern, but you don't want to sacrifice quantity or quality, Udemy's The Complete Personal Finance Course: Save, Protect, Make More is low cost and as comprehensive as you can find with expert instruction. But, if you're looking for a top-notch free course, Kahn Academy has been offering quality instruction for 15 years.
For those who want to delve into the psychology behind personal finance, Duke University's Behavioral Finance helps you deal with the typical biases that lead to poor decision-making.
If you're the kind of person who wants to dig as far and deep as you want to learn personal finance, the Smart About Money resource library is seemingly bottomless.
If you want a course that has it all—comprehensive offering, expert instruction, and helpful money management tools at no cost—then you can't go wrong with edX's Finances for Everyone: Smart Tools for Decision Making.
|Personal Finance Course||Why We Picked It||Pricing|
|EdX’s Finances for Everyone||Best Overall||Free|
|Dave Ramsey’s Ramsey+||Best Support System||$129 per year|
|Khan Academy||Best Free Course||Free|
|Duke University||Best for Behavioral Finance||Free|
|Smart About Money||Best Learning Resources||Free|
Frequently Asked Questions
What Do You Learn in a Personal Finance Course?
A personal finance course teaches you the basic skills to live a healthy, happy, and secure life. From balancing a checkbook to saving for retirement and making the right decisions about your money, you should expect to increase your level of understanding around the fundamentals of budgeting, saving, debt, and investing for better money management outcomes.
Who Should Take a Personal Finance Course?
Anyone who struggles with certain aspects of their financial life could benefit from a personal finance course. You're never too young to learn the principles and applications of personal finance. Financial literacy advocates would like to see personal finance courses as part of high school and college curriculums. And you're never too old to learn, especially if you are facing money troubles, such as debt or lack of savings.
Can I Teach Myself Personal Finance?
There are countless books and guides on personal finance you can study on your own. However, some people need the structure, guidance, and motivation of an instructor-led course to keep them moving forward in the learning process. Whether learning on your own or taking a course, it's essential to put your knowledge into practice while learning. For some people, it takes the guidance of an instructor to ensure they follow through.
How Much do Personal Finance Courses Cost?
You can find many personal finance courses that don't cost a penny. But your time is valuable, so it's essential to find a free course that doesn't sacrifice quality or quantity. The four free courses in this roundup have comprehensive offerings and expert instruction, which is critical for making it worth your time. And the classes here that charge a fee offer something you aren't likely to find in a free course. For instance, the Ramsey+ program offers community support which could be invaluable for some people. The average fee for courses we found is around $50.
How We Chose the Best Personal Finance Courses
While there are many personal finance courses to choose from, on the flip side, there are so many that it makes it challenging to find the one that best fits your needs. We looked at 20 courses that met our criteria of comprehensive offerings, user-friendly format, expert instruction, and any unique value-add features. We then compared them to narrow the list to the best personal finance course in six categories.