If you are interested in learning about finance and how to manage your money, there has never been a better time to do so. Personal finance courses, bootcamps, seminars, and online resources are widely available for in-person and online learning. However, with a wide variety of free and paid options to choose from, you may wonder, are personal finance boot camps and courses are worth it?
Financial Literacy is an Underutilized Life Skill
After the 2008 recession, there was a renewed interest in financial literacy. Yet, despite this appetite for knowledge, a large percentage of Americans remain uninformed. According to a Global Finance Literacy Excellence Center survey, 63% of Americans are financially illiterate.
Financial literacy is an important life skill, yet it’s one that most Americans have yet to master. The reality is that personal finance is rarely taught in schools. Instead, financial literacy is often inherited. Unfortunately, for many, that means passing on limited information or bad habits. Studies show that poverty or prosperity in childhood can affect your income and education in adulthood.
To bridge the gap, people turn to personal finance gurus and experts to teach them the skills they need to achieve their goals. With so many resources available online for free, it seems reasonable to question if it’s actually worth it to pay for a course you might be able to get for free elsewhere.
Should You Pay for a Personal Finance Course?
The most logical answer seems to be: no, don’t pay for something you can find online for free. But this response doesn’t factor in the value and accountability you might get from a pay-to-learn option.
Consider fitness programs as an example. There are countless free workout resources available online, but people still pay for gym memberships, trainers, and access to online fitness videos and communities. Why? Because access to exclusive spaces holds us accountable for the changes we want to make.
If you struggle with the discipline and motivation necessary to make lasting changes to your habits, the financial investment of a course or bootcamp can be worth it. If you are easily self-motivated and have a strong history of following through with things without external guidance, a Free DIY approach might be a better option for you.
So, should you pay for a course or use a free option? We asked people to weigh in on their experiences, and here is what they had to say.
Not Worth It 👎
“Avoid Spending Money on Bootcamps and Courses”
Caleb Chen of The Van Life Coach believes spending money on financial bootcamps and courses is antithetical to your personal finance goals.
“At the end of the day, the path to personal finance involves stoicism, and that includes not spending money on unnecessary items like boot camps. Personal finance bootcamps, courses, and seminars that you need to pay for are absolutely not worth it. It’d be much better to take that $20-$200 and start saving with it. Free boot camps, courses, and seminars are worth it to get your feet wet, but you have to avoid the inevitable upsell at the end of the session. All the information and even advice that you need is available online for free. Paying for this kind of thing is counterintuitive when you really think about it.”
Maybe Worth It ✋
“There is a lot of good stuff, but watch out for scams.”
Daniel Penzing of Maze of Our Lives notes the importance of doing your due diligence.
“Honestly, there’s a lot of good stuff and a lot of scams. Do your due diligence, and then it’s up to you what you make out of it. It’s all about what makes your mindset shift, and bootcamps, courses, and seminars are a good bet. Whatever form of teaching speaks to you.”
Rather than taking a course, Daniel opted to read online articles on sites like Marketwatch. For him, that was enough to shift his mindset and create lasting change.
Worth It 👍👍👍👍
“It is worth investing time and money in this course.”
Rohan Kadam of Vitalfeedz took a paid personal finance course by Ramit Sethi called How to Win The Game of Advanced Personal Finance. Ramit Sethi is the author of the popular personal finance book “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” published in 2009. Since then, Sethi has curated a library of online resources, including free and paid content.
Whereas Ramit’s free course is an introduction, this course is a pricey deep dive. For $997, you get lifetime access to the content.
“I was first introduced to Ramit Sathi through his book called I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Using recommendations from Ramit’s book and the coursework, I was able to max out my 401K account. I also opened good investment accounts like an interest-bearing checking account and a Roth IRA, which I have now maxed out. Now, I feel very confident about my retirement plan, and I am sure all of this would not have been possible had I not invested in the personal finance course from Rami.”
For Rohan, the sizable investment and networking opportunities provided by the course were worth it to help him take his retirement and investment savings to the next level.
“A budgeting bootcamp helped my business through the pandemic.”
Mike James of Coffeeble decided to invest in an in-person Budget Bootcamp shortly before the pandemic happened. The camp was designed to help businesses manage their money more efficiently, which became very necessary during the pandemic.
“With the pandemic coming shortly after (I attended the course), we had to tighten our bootstraps, as they say, so all the guidance they used for smaller issues could be translated to the bigger problems of the pandemic. It cost $250 to be there, and it was in an events hall close to the city where we are based. It was a really worthwhile experience, and without it, I think we would have struggled more (during the pandemic.)”
“I found the perfect course for me on Instagram.”
Natalie Breen found her personal finance inspiration on Instagram and took the Her Personal Finance live 10-week course by Eryn Schultz. The online course was geared towards female-identifying high-income earners in their 20s and 30s and cost $600.
“One of my goals for 2021 was to empower myself around my finances. In true Millennial fashion (I’m 28), I found the perfect course for me on Instagram when I started following @her.personal.finance and getting value from her stories and posts. The investment recoups itself quickly if you follow the modules and make informed decisions. I have upped my retirement contribution to 15%, opened an HYSA, and started to take a hard look at my budget. Eryn is so accessible.’
For Natalie, the investment was worth it, and she appreciated that the course was tailored to female identifying earners.
“A personal finance camp for like-minded individuals.”
Todd Miller of Tightwad Todd is a personal finance veteran. After working in mortgage banking for 11 years, and now works as a freelance personal finance coach and blogger.
“I attended the personal finance conference Camp FI. I really enjoyed the conference because they had some great speakers and it wasn’t too big of an event. All the campers were able to get to know each other, and everyone has openly discussed their finances. I found this group very willing to share things that were working well for them and areas they struggled in. All in all, it was a great event, and I felt a strong connection to this group of like-minded people.”
4 Free Personal Finance Courses
When looking for free Personal Finance, it’s easy to be sidelined by the fear that “you get what you pay for.” We think, “if it’s free, it must not be valuable.” Yet, that’s not always the case. Sometimes people do give away great things for free!
Personal finance experts often offer free starter courses to introduce you to their methods. If you like the free course, you may decide to pay for a more advanced course or buy their book to continue your education.
Keep in mind that free programs can vary widely in quality and may not always have up-to-date or accurate information if they are pre-recorded. If you conduct your own research, be sure to look for programs that are current and have recent reviews. It’s also a good idea to research the organizations or individuals leading the course to check their background and credentials.
Even though we spoke with more people who were fans of paid courses, many others aren’t ready to spend big bucks when there is so much free content available. We made a list of four free options that are well-reviewed and have strong online reputations.
This free course includes 3-hours of video and introduces you to a wide range of personal finance topics. The course can help you navigate all sorts of financial challenges and scenarios like estate planning, investing, marriage, children, divorce and more. Udemy also offers a wide variety of paid courses if you want to expand on what you learned.
The Finances For Everyone: Smart Tools For Decision Making course includes the longest and most comprehensive programming on all the courses we researched. It includes 5 to 6 hours of content for six weeks. After taking it, you should understand how money works and have a framework to manage it on your own.
The Inspired Budget Free Budgeting Basics course includes six days of email instruction. When you enroll in the course, you also sign up to be on the email list for the blog, which has tons of personal finance content. The course also includes money management worksheets and materials you can print at home.
Ramit Sethi’s Ultimate Guide to Personal Finance is a free online course that includes six modules that walk you through all the money management basics. It takes about two hours to complete and is a great way to prepare yourself for a deeper dive, like reading Sethi’s book or accessing his paid content.
Take What Works and Leave What Doesn’t
No matter what path you take in your journey toward financial freedom, remember that your needs are unique to you. Anything you learn needs to be applied within the context of your circumstances, which means taking away what works for you and leaving the rest. If you’re unsure about the best money moves for your situation, consider reaching out to a financial advisor who can help you make a personalized plan.