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Where to Get a Free Crash Course in Investing

October 2, 2015
Where to Get a Free Crash Course in Investing

Online broker E-Trade recently released the results of its quarterly pulse check on experienced investors. The report found that nearly a quarter had made early withdrawals from a retirement account — and of those, roughly half under age 55 regret it.

The reason might be because they’re uneducated when it comes to investing basics.

About half of those surveyed said they wished they’d taken a course in saving for retirement or understanding the markets when they were younger, indicating that even seasoned investors could benefit from more training. But this sort of information is out there, often for free.

If you’re looking for a crash course, here’s how to find it:

Check out online broker education centers

Online brokers have increasingly beefed up their educational offerings, and many host complete content libraries that include articles, video courses and live seminars. E-Trade’s content library includes articles from Morningstar and Pro Market Advisors, broken down by level and topic.

TD Ameritrade has a collection of short clips that introduce beginner topics and break down complex areas like options trading and commodity investing. If you learn best in person, Scottrade and Fidelity regularly offer events through their large branch networks.

» MORE: How to Buy Stocks

Enroll in a few courses

Many of the video courses on this platform charge an enrollment fee, but there is a small collection of free options, including Investment Basics, taught by a chartered financial analyst, and Basic Investing Concepts, led by a certified financial planner. Both courses offer over an hour of content that will help novice investors get off the ground.

Read through Morningstar’s investing classroom

Morningstar offers a wealth of information about investing — so much, in fact, that it can be intimidating to new investors. But its online classroom, which is free to access, speaks a beginner’s language and offers four different tracks dedicated to stocks, bonds, funds and portfolio building. The course is text-based (read: a little dry), but it covers virtually everything you could ever want to know about investing, with a total of 172 different courses.

People who register for free can take short quizzes and earn credits to put toward a 60-day subscription to Morningstar’s premium site features.

Take a college course

Several universities have moved to put some of their curriculum online for free. Stanford has a self-study course available on stocks and bonds, which users can view at their own pace. MIT’s OpenCourseWare program has lecture notes available from an investment course as well. It was originally taught in 2003, but the bones are still sound. And Open Yale has a course available on the financial markets that dives beyonds the basics of investing, but students can skip around to cover the topics most interesting to them. Note that you won’t receive college credit for taking these courses online.

Get personalized help

All of these options will provide a basis that can make you feel more comfortable reaching investing decisions, but the best investing decision is often to sit tight and ride out market waves. You shouldn’t be making any radical changes to your portfolio based on something you read or viewed in an online course like this; the goal is to get more comfortable with the markets in general.

If you feel like you need some more handholding, there are several options available, including working with a financial advisor or utilizing a robo-advisor. Both of these options will charge a fee, but the peace of mind can be worth it.

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Arielle O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @arioshea.

Image via iStock.