Even though schools, colleges and universities are closed throughout the world, there’s never been a better time for education. Why? Because of a heady combination of extensive downtime, pressing necessity, and a spectacular abundance of informational resources. Now that we’re all stuck at home with no clear notion of when that will change, we should learn what we can.
There are as many viable topics as there are stars in the sky, yes, but I suggest concentrating on financial matters. Even if you’re fortunate enough to still be gainfully employed, there’s no telling how long that will last, and taking action in the coming months to safeguard your financial situation could make your living situation massively easier down the line.
Making it even easier, you don’t actually need to spend anything to learn (beyond what you pay for your internet access and whatever you paid for your computer). The internet is packed with free resources that run the gamut from basic to complex. Here’s how they can help you.
They Can Provide Basic Financial Literacy
Many people learn the core elements of financial management during their adolescence, but it doesn’t happen for everyone. Even now it’s entirely possible for someone to reach adulthood without really understanding how bank lending works, and any gap in knowledge can cause problems at critical junctures like buying property or starting a family.
The internet is full of courses that run through all the building blocks of financial literacy, allowing anyone interested to catch up and start getting their spending and saving under control. Even better, many of the courses are available completely free of charge.
Alison, for instance, has a free core financial literacy course that features an assessment and a resulting certification, and Coursera has a free course that’s offered by the University of Florida—it’s called Personal & Family Financial Planning—that runs through personal and family financing as well as how to approach investment.
They Can Clearly Define Vital Terms
The world of finance is full of insider terms that most people would understand partially or not at all: terms that get explained to those who take finance courses or get internships in the field. Well, those terms aren’t closely guarded secrets available only to the elites. They’re out there on the internet in countless glossaries and introductory guides.
Take something really fundamental, like cash flow. If you don’t know what that means, you don’t need to hire a financial advisor or get a degree in financial management. You just need to look it up, and you’ll also find various accompanying materials explaining everything from how you can measure it to how you can improve it.
As for trickier stuff, that isn’t a problem either. A roundup guide of various terms (like this guide to confusing financial terms) can give you a great primer. From there, you can do more research to get more in-depth explanations.
They Can Give Historical and Legal Context
It’s often interesting to know how certain financial arrangements came about. You might wonder about credit derivatives: how they were first used, how they got out of control, and how they factored into the 2008 financial crash. All of that information is out there online with varying degrees of complexity, letting you choose your pace.
Though you should never use them as definitive sources, you can get some good leads from wikis. Wikipedia has inspired many research projects, though it has become rather censorious over the years: if you’re looking into anything with any controversy, check out a fork such as Everipedia instead (the same articles but minus the over-egged removals). Either way, you’re looking for the citations, as they’ll lead you to the real information.
Alternatively, you can look for interesting roundups from sites like The Economist, and dig around for niche sites covering different aspects of the finance world. Sites like this one will obviously help. Beyond that, you can start moving toward free courses, as there are more of those around than ever before due to this crisis (courses of all kinds). Just searching for “free finance courses” will give you plenty of results to consider.
They Can Empower You to Take Action
It’s difficult to really understand a lot of financial issues until you actually deal with them in real-world scenarios. Take something like debt, for instance. You can learn all about how to deal with debt, but until you actually experience it you won’t know what it’s really like. Of course, not all possible scenarios are negative. What about starting your own business?
Running a side business is a fantastic way to get to grips with financial matters, and free online resources can really help with that—not only by introducing you to the basics and growing your confidence, but also by linking you to convenient tools to do things like get you a free credit report or help you calculate your outgoings.
You should also consider how many online communities there are to support you when you need it. Reddit in particular is full of relevant subreddits (like r/personalfinance) that will answer any questions you have: no charge, no expectation of any value returned.
Free online resources can do everything from introducing you to foundational financial concepts to helping you put them into practice as you start your own business. Now that you have free time during the lockdown, why not see what you can discover?
About the Author
Rodney Laws is an ecommerce consultant with EcommercePlatforms.io. He has more than a decade of experience providing marketing advice to online entrepreneurs and businesses. He’s set up and marketed his own businesses and consulted on crafting campaigns for established companies.