Online investing courses are popping up in a variety of formats, mediums, locations, and prices. In fact, I would say we’ve entered a golden age of online investment education.
Need incredible detail? You can find a paid course on any money topic on a dedicated course website.
Need a quick bit of reference information? You can Google a finance blog offering definitions and insights into a particular question.
Want a comprehensive beginner’s guide to investing in the stock market? Why not take your pick from the range of free investing courses offered by blogs, personal finance websites, and education portals.
Need something more academic? Try out one of several online courses offered by higher education institutions such as the Open University.
It seems like the market now caters for information requirements at every level of detail, and every budget. This is great to see – surely one of the natural consequences of so many of us being on the web, with tools that allow us to share knowledge with ease.
Have online courses changed how we learn?
The question is whether the availability of all this investing information will change how we financially educate our children, ourselves, and each other.
After all, financial education has been a subject often overlooked by the government and other formal education providers. It is just assumed that we will ‘pick-up’ knowledge about borrowing, investing, and saving. This is of course a very shaky assumption, a policy that looks more questionable by the day as we hear about people making poor financial decisions with consumer debt and investing.
Consider the impact of the deficiency of financial education on people across the UK:
- Students rack up bank debts fuelled by discretionary spending because they aren’t able to calculate the long term impact of spending with a loan with a commercial interest rate. If they were able to compound a loan balance, they could quantify quite accurately how much those clothes or meals out would ultimately cost them.
- Adults who don’t contribute towards their workplace pension scheme, on the basis that they’d ‘rather not think about’ their retirement and have decided to put off, rather than solve the doomsday problems that their generation may suffer once outside of full-time work.
The obvious question is – how can we raise the bar of general financial knowledge across our society, and do online courses offer a solution? Is there a way that we can tap into the online education portal and course providers, and distribute this knowledge widely across the populace?
The cost of education
The major barrier to any nationwide education effort is primarily cost. The Department for Education in the UK has a relatively large sum to spend, but this is already allocated to financially-stretched schools, and the opening of any new curricula will meet with resistance because this will necessarily involve de-funding other useful areas.
Perhaps we should, therefore, move our gaze away from the local education authorities and look at what we can do personally to improve our own game, and the game of other people in our life, such as our spouses, children, family members, and so on.
After all, it’s not unknown for even casual gatherings like dinner parties and birthday parties to include conversations about financial matters such as house prices, saving, and other spending tricks. The problem is that nobody is asking for you to launch into a 15 minute ‘class’ on budgeting and saving during a buffet.
This is where the ‘free’ aspect of many online education options comes into play. One thing we can personally do is find great online courses that we personally found useful, and share them with friends and family. This method has several advantages:
- It’s free, so your friends and family won’t feel like you’re ‘pushing’ them into buying something
- It’s completed at their own pace, so they can fit it around their lifestyle
- You can present it as something you’ve personally completed and found helpful, so it’s not preachy – you’re simply wanting them to get as much out of it as you.
In this way, online investing courses can be shared between our personal networks, and for those proactive at least, this will give a sensible way for people to increase their financial savvy and prepare themselves for an increasingly busy and confusing financial world!
Will online investing courses change the way we learn about money? Well it doesn’t feel like formal education will be inserting a ‘money class’ for children any time soon, so I don’t think we have a choice. Through our own experiences of courses, together with personal recommendations to friends and family, we can amplify the reach of effective online tutorials and courses to spread the knowledge around the nation.
This will allow us to solve some problems relating to debt, under-saving, or over-spending, which currently places stress on household budgets and entire families as a result.