Today, I want to talk about financial literacy. It’s an important set of skills every American consumer should learn about. Schools are beginning to teach this body of knowledge, and it’s about time.
For those who are out of the public school system already, that path won’t work. You have to take matters into your own hands. You can read books on the subject, but reading is not the best way to learn for everybody. Some do better working through problems, while others do better through hearing lectures.
For those two groups of people, I want to talk about free online education resources: Open University, MIT OpencourseWare, and the iTunes courses from Stanford and Cal-Berkeley. In this article, I’ll discuss Open University.
The Open University is the premier distance learning college in the United Kingdom. Last week, I discussed the online resources available for adult education using MIT OpenCourseWare.
I’ll probably talk about the free classes on iTunes offered by schools like Stanford and Cal-Berkeley sometime too, but today I want to talk about the Open University.
Since the No-Credit-Needed Blog is about living with debt or ending your bad credit situation, I’m going to focus this discussion mainly on the personal finance courses you can take at the OU Learning Center.
I’ll also point out classwork which helps you institute change in your life, learn to integrate your work with life (the so-called “worklife balance“), developing your thinking skills, and learning to live with the Internet.
The great thing about free distance learning is you can start college-level studies and become a smarter, more skilled, more prepared person for life. The classwork I’m going to link to should help you get started, but you might find better learning possibilities for yourself. Use the Open University as a resource to build a better person that is you. You might be skeptical or think the Open University is some kind of money making scheme, so let’s discuss this for a minute (for Americans in the audience).
About the Open University
The Open University or OU was founded by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom in 1969 as a distance learning and research university. The Open University has an open entry policy (academic achievements don’t matter) for undergraduate courses. The first students enrolled in January of 1971.
Open University has 250,000 students enrolled, including 50,000 overseas. This makes The OU the largest academic institution in the United Kingdom by number. In fact, Open University is the largest academic institution in all of Europe–and one of the largest in the world.
The Open University is one of the only three United Kingdom higher education schools which has accreditation in the United States. All of this is in relation to the paid courses, but the Learning Center online resource includes free coursework. Let me mention that the free courses are not for college credit, but to hone your mind, prepare you for postsecondary studies, and let you learn for the sake of learning.
With all that in mind, let’s move on to the courses I recommend you start with, if you want to change your spending habits, learn about personal finance, and live in the new economy.
You and Your Money: Personal Finance in Context
The course You and Your Money: Personal Finance in Context may be the most important class you’ll ever take.
This isn’t some theoretical course, but a practical class which helps you develop financial skills and improve your understanding of the current economic environment and the financial decisions you make.
Many aspects of personal financial decisions are discussed, including why people borrow money and how you plan for retirement. Improve your financial capability by studying the key personal finance issues in your life and other people’s lives.
Personal Finance: Debt and Borrowing in Its Wider Context
The Personal Finance Course explores debt and borrowing in a wider context, discusses debt structure, loans, and other concepts associated with borrowing. Arm yourself for your financial future. The information contained in this course is about personal debt in the UK, so Americans might find a few discussions a little harder to understand, due to discussion of the British economy. It’s defined for a wider audience, though.
Money and Management
The Money and Management section is 634 pages including 12 study units from the LearningSpace website, including a video discussion of Google’s Matt Brittin on the value of data, Logica CEO Andy Green on Cloud Computing, or a hundred (or more) other subjects, including how to spend your money and retaining faith in capitalism. This is heady stuff in the economic arena from world famous, highly respected CEOs and money men.
Learning to Change
This ambitious 100 hour introductory class is called Learning to Change. If you have considered making a change in your life, this MIT course helps you start to implement those changes. Whether you’re wanting to start a new career or go back to school, this helps you build on what you know, consider the options at your disposal, achieve change using the skill set you have, and even start planning for the future.
Working Life and Learning
Working Life and Learning helps you take in what you’ve learned in your career and learn from the collective body of experiences. Do you want to improve how you learn on the job? Do you feel like you need a review of your skills, or your professional knowledge? This 25 hour course helps you do just that.
Extending and Developing Your Thinking Skills
This course teaching a person how to go about Extending and Developing Their Thinking Skills to help them learn better and analyze better. Most people think learning is all about absorbing information, but it’s more about “critical thinking”–that is, rational analysis of the information you learn. This course teaching you thinking skills through the use of tables, graphs, diagrams, flow charts, time lines, mind-map, sequence diagrams, and the all-important decision trees. This isn’t about study; it’s about high-quality thinking. It is a 6 hour introductory course.
Living with the Internet: Learning Online
Learning on the Internet is a completely different matter than studying in a traditional setting. The explosion of information is difficult for Google, Yahoo, and Bing to sort. How much harder is it for an individual to sort and turn into something useful? Living with the Internet: Learning Online gives tips and know-how for online study, including establishing a comfortable working environment, installing software, and file management (something I feel I still need to master). Living Online is a 4 hour introductory course. Using a Computer for Study is a 6 hour introductory class with a similar goal.
OU Distance Learning for Free
This is probably the last I’ll discuss free Open Courseware or free distance learning for a while. I wanted to have a series on educating yourself using free online courses based on live paid classroom work. I’ll go back to discussing no credit computer purchases and finding bad credit loans and apartments in the coming weeks. I hope these articles have helped a few people help themselves live happier, healthier lives.
5 Phrases That Can Change Your Life
Before I let you go, I want to leave you with some inspiration. This is a talk from Adam Braun, the founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise.
Adam Braun was listed on Wired’s Smart List: 50 People Who Will Change the World. This talk is called “The Five Phrases That Can Change Your Life”. In it, he discusses how his near-death experience on a ship out at sea and taking oneself out of their comfort zone to experience life in news and thought-provoking ways. “Challenge your assumptions, so you can find your truths,” is a phrase he uses often.
His Semester at Sea ship lost all power when a giant wave knocked out all its electronics. Braun speaks of finding a meaning of purpose in his moment of mortal peril, and subsequent survival. He would backpack through 50 countries. In India, he asked a child what he would most want in the world. The child told him, “A pencil”, and that answer changed his life.
That was the origin of his idea about “for-purpose” organizations (his name for a non-profit). His story is amazing, but his message resonates long after the details are forgotten. Adam Braun advocates a concept that is becoming more common (whether they call it that or not) among the millennial generation: Profitable Purpose. That is, you profit for yourself, but you profit the world around you. It’s not an either/or proposition.
Adam Braun’s various travels are amazing tales. Maybe your journey won’t be as dramatic, but your story can be just as inspiring.
By the way, Adam’s five phrases are these:
- Get out of your comfort zone.
- Challenge your assumptions, so that you can find your truths.
- Speak the language of the person you seek to become.
- Make the little decisions with your head, and the big decisions with your heart.
- How can you create the most positive impact on as many lives as possible?
How do I pull all of this together?
First of all, I believe financial literacy is something every single American should learn. We worry about making money all our lives, but we hardly ever concern ourselves with keeping our money. We are consumers, and it’s your choice is you wise to consume. But it’s my contention that you’ll be happy if you learn through financial literacy how better to conserve. Be a consumer, but also be a conserver.
Learning financial literacy is important, and here’s why. My attempt at synthesis is this.
To be able to help others, you have to be secure. Build your security while you build the world around you. Society is symbiotic.
The people you help might be your family, your friends, your neighbors, your community. From a place of security and stability, you are better able to help. So learn financial literacy. Get your finances strong and healthy. When you do, you’ll be in a better position to help yourself and the people around you.