One of my favorite financial websites is Acorns.com. There you can register your credit and debit cards, so that all of your purchases are automatically rounded up a few cents to the nearest dollar. And when all those little cents reach $5, the money is automatically transferred from your registered checking account into an investment portfolio, featuring five choices that range from conservative to aggressive.
Every little penny adds up, and in the four years since I first wrote about Acorns, the company has grown to more than 2.9 million users — each of whom participated in the current bull market, making investment gains out of money they never missed in their checking account. The five investment portfolios using ETFs were designed by Nobel-prize winning economist Harry Markowitz, giving Acorns investors access the kind of investment advice their penny investments could never afford on their own!
Now Acorns has a new feature: financial education. Along the way to helping pennies grow into investment dollars, Acorns recognized that it was reaching people who desperately needed basic personal finance advice. Thus was born a simple but clever online financial education course: The Acorns Guide to Personal Finance.
It is the answer for every parent who has wondered how to introduce their high school children to money topics. It is the answer for everyone who is afraid to admit they never learned the basics of money management. And it is a must for every spouse who has argued with a partner about spending and saving.
The course has five online modules called “5 Steps to Building Wealth.” They are:
—How to Budget Better
—Pay Debt Off Faster
—Make Your Money Work for You
Each section walks you through a video with simple, user-friendly steps to immediately improve your financial situation. Acorns partnered with Udemy, an online learning platform, to create the course. It helps you learn everything from asking for a raise or negotiating a better job offer to figuring out the smartest way to pay down your debt (from credit cards to student loans).
Included with the modules are downloadable worksheets, so you can put your knowledge to immediate use in your own personal finances. The worksheets help you understand everything from your net worth to your goals to a simple way to create your own budget.
Jennifer Barrett, chief education officer for Acorns, editor of its online magazine, GROW and a former personal finance editor for CNBC digital, is the video personality who takes you by the hand and walks you through the program, step by step. She has made it her personal mission to remedy the lack of formal financial education offered to Americans. Her friendly demeanor is guaranteed to encourage those who have more fear of money than of the dentist!
The course is priced at $11.99 for the month of February at https://www.udemy.com/acorns-guide-to-personal-finance/. (Or just Udemy.com and search Acorns Guide to Personal Finance.)
Yes, there are free resources all over the Internet to help you learn about money.
CNN Money offers a series of modules (http://money.cnn.com/pf/money-essentials-budget/index.html) that cover many of the topics mentioned above. While it offers some online calculators, the program is dense with words that make it seem more like reading a book than an interactive course.
Money Management International (http://www.moneymanagement.org/Financial-Education.aspx), a member organization of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, offers advice on basics of credit and debt, and a section for younger people.
You can search for MOOCs (massively open online courses) to learn all aspects of personal finance. And almost all financial services companies feature educational programs on their websites to help Americans become responsible consumers.
Many of these offerings have been around a long time. But judging by the levels of debt in America, and the lack of adequate retirement savings, there is room for a better approach.
You can find it at Acorns.com. And that’s The Savage Truth.