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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money
CoverPhoto CoverYourAssets 2017

If Only I was 25 Years Old Again!

Too often when I talk to people in their 50s about money, I hear "If only I had known or done ____ when I was 25!" There's no doubt that it's hard to change spending and saving behaviors after decades of practicing those not-so-helpful behaviors.

So, what is the most important thing for someone in their 20s or 30s to know about money? That's a challenging question! I like to talk to people about the importance of making savings a habit. Young adults are in a unique position to take advantage of compounding returns on savings, and let that money add up until retirement. We know from research that an effective strategy to build wealth is to start small, save regularly, and (when possible) put saving on automatic. For example, setting up automatic deposits to retirement plans from your paycheck typically leads to higher net worth later in life.

Now is an excellent time to start the habit of saving money. We are celebrating America Saves Week! Pledge your savings goal and access resources to help you stay on track. Remember, small amounts will add up if you start now!

Don't you wish someone had handed you a "everything you need to know about finances" how-to manual when you were younger? One that was readable and maybe even a little fun?

Well, a new online course, Financial Planning for Young Adults, from University of Illinois is an effort to provide that "manual" where young adults look for information: online. (Disclaimer: I'm one of the instructors).

Financial Planning for Young Adults

Financial Planning for Young Adults is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that provides an introduction to basic financial planning concepts. It is open to everyone through Coursera, an education platform that partners with universities worldwide to offer courses free of charge.

The course features videos, interactive discussion forums, and activities so participants can apply the personal finance information to their situation. Within each module, participants view a combination of traditional lecture-style videos, along with video vignettes that introduce financial topics for discussion among the course participants. Each of the videos introduces a real-world scenario where financial decisions must be made and financial planning concepts can be applied.

The course includes eight modules. Topics that are covered include:

  1. Setting Financial Goals and Assessing Your Situation
  2. Budgeting and Cash Flow Management;
  3. Saving Strategies;
  4. The Time Value of Money;
  5. Borrowing and Credit;
  6. Investing;
  7. Risk Management; and
  8. Financial Planning as a Career.

Anyone can participate, although, it is designed for young adults who have not had much experience with personal finances. The course can be taken for free, or, for a $49 fee, participants have full access to every element in the course, including graded assessments and a course certificate with all instructors' signatures. Currently about 50% of the participants are from the U.S. and the rest are worldwide. It's fun to see the comments in the forum discussions from young adults worldwide!

For more information about the course, and to register, visit

Cover Your Assets

Another online opportunity is coming up on Friday, March 3rd at noon. You can join University of Illinois Extension educators for a free, webinar about the basics of insurance. This webinar is also targeted to young adults but open to all.

We need insurance to protect our savings to cover large expenses (for example, medical expenses) as well as to protect our future earnings from costs such as the liability from hurting someone else in a car accident. The webinar will focus on understanding insurance terminology so that informed decisions can be made when purchasing auto, rental and life insurance.

You can join for free from any computer or tablet with internet access. You'll need working speakers or headphones to listen in. Register at and then you'll be sent the information need to participate.

Cover Your Assets is part of the Grow Your Green Stuff webinar series from University of Illinois Extension, University of Illinois USFSCO Student Money Management Center, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

Three great opportunities for 20 and 30 year olds -- and those of us who missed it when we were 25 years old!

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