Outline for financial literacy course

Here is the outline I came up with on 2016-02-10 for my online course in development, Introduction to American Personal Financial Literacy.

NOTE: On 2016-10-29, Richard Thripp decided he will not be completing this course.

The course will allow “just-in-time” education by permitting learners to access modules in any order, thereby allowing them to create their own “teachable moments” where they can acquire specific strategies and information to address their current situations (Carlin & Robinson, 2012; Fernandes, Lynch, & Netemeyer, 2014).

The course will consist of a mix of lecture videos, text and picture-based modules, narrated presentations, and some external videos. Assessments will include quizzes and self-assessments, such as writing Twitter summaries (Bailey, Hendricks, & Applewhite, 2015) or evaluating one’s budget or net worth spreadsheet against a rubric. Assessments will primarily be unit based. Some modules will have exercises. This outline does not yet include assessments, exercises, instructional modalities, or citations to support the information presented in each module. I will be adding these items while developing the course.

Tentatively, the course will include 8 units containing 35 modules. Many of the standards of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy’s “National Standards in K–12 Personal Financial Education” (2015) will be met; these standards are widely used in financial literacy curricula and academic research. Although these standards lack outcome-based empirical support, this is unfortunately a pervasive problem in the entire field of financial literacy education (Fernandes et al., 2014). Other modules will focus on topics that academic authors have identified as problem areas. While not comprehensive, this course will address an impressive array of issues.

Unit 1: Why be financially literate?

Module 1.1: The disastrous consequences of financial illiteracy
Learn about the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and consequences of making mistakes such as paying high interest rates or having bad credit, both short-term and long-term.

Module 1.2: Adopting the growth mindset
Do you believe that math skills are something you are “born with”? Perhaps you believe the same for personal finance skills? See the research that says these skills are like a muscle that can grow with diligent effort (Dweck, 2006).

Module 1.3: Avoiding payday loans and other schemes
Payday loans, rent-to-own stores, and pawn shops may help you make ends meet, but they do are incredibly disempowering in the long run (Karger, 2015). Learn about alternatives here.

Unit 2: Spending and Saving

Module 2.1: Crash course on banking, fees, and ChexSystems
Learn how checking and savings accounts work, how to avoid bank fees, and how a bad ChexSystems report can prevent you from opening new accounts or even prompt banks to close your existing accounts.

Module 2.2: Budgeting: Do you really need it?
Learn how to set up a budget, including your regular monthly expenses, surprise expenses and less-than-monthly expenses. Also: An alternative to budgeting—make every purchase a wise purchase.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Spending and Saving: “Standard 1. Develop a plan for spending and saving” (p. 12).

Module 2.3: Calculating your net worth
This module will teach you how to calculate your net worth. Let Microsoft Excel or Google Docs do the math for you. You will learn to realistically appraise your fixed assets, tally your liquid assets, and deduct your debts and liabilities.

Module 2.4: Consumer protection and payment methods
Learn about cash, debit cards, credit cards, Bitcoin, gift cards, coupons, return policies, and warranties. Learn that cash may be “king,” but it definitely does not offer the best consumer protections!
Competencies: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Spending and Saving: “Standard 3. Describe how to use different payment methods” (p. 11); Credit and Debt, “Standard 4. Summarize major consumer credit laws” (p. 18).

Module 2.5: Goal-oriented saving
Learn how goal-oriented saving can motivate you and reduce your tax burden, including Health Savings Accounts and 529 qualified tuition plans.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Spending and Saving: “Standard 1. Develop a plan for spending and saving” (p. 12).

Module 2.6: Comparison shopping
Are you getting the best deal? Comparison shopping can be done from home, but there can be an overwhelming number of websites and similar products. Learn how to analyze anecdotal evidence (customer reviews) to determine if a product is right for you.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Spending and Saving: “Standard 4. Apply consumer skills to spending and saving decisions” (p. 12).

Unit 3: Credit and Debt

Module 3.1: The psychological toll of debt
Examine the psychological research on how being in debt may cause anxiety and dread. Explore several ways to motivate yourself to get out of debt.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Credit and Debt: “Standard 3. Apply strategies to avoid or correct debt management problems” (p. 17).

Module 3.2: All about credit cards and charge cards
Learn the technicalities of credit cards including interest rates, grace periods, late fees, penalty APRs, cashback and rewards, and cardholder benefits.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Credit and Debt: “Standard 1. Analyze the costs and benefits of various types of credit” (p. 15).

Module 3.3: The mystery of credit scores
Learn about the three credit bureaus, FICO vs. “FAKO” scores, how credit scores are calculated, the effects of credit inquiries, and a step-by-step plan to improve your credit score.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Credit and Debt: “Standard 2. Summarize a borrower’s rights and responsibilities related to credit reports” (p. 16).

Module 3.4: Student loans and alternatives
Learn about federal subsidized, federal unsubsidized, and private student loans, interest rates and deferments, and methods to reduce your loan burden such as grants, scholarships, and attending a less costly school.

Module 3.5: Mortgages
Learn about mortgages, tax benefits, how to get the best deal, and how to refinance an existing mortgage at a lower rate.

Module 3.6: Your car: A depreciating asset
Learn why your car is not a good investment, a better way to get a car loan, and how to negotiate the lowest price for a new or used car.

Unit 4: Employment Income

Module 4.1: Job interviews and promotions
Learn approaches that are supported by cognitive psychology for doing well in job interviews and successfully asking for a raise or promotion. Also, learn how to ace the psychological questionnaires that many job applications require—answer wrong and a human may never look at your application.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Employment and Income: “Standard 1. Explore job and career options” (p. 21).

Module 4.2: Understanding your rights as a worker
Learn about equal opportunity laws, OSHA regulations, overtime pay, whistleblower protections, and how to compel an employer to relinquish your last paycheck.

Module 4.3: Understanding payroll deductions and income taxes
Learn how Social Security deductions, Medicare deductions, workers’ compensation insurance, and income tax work, including tax brackets and standard deductions. Figure out how to calculate your net hourly pay. Also: Learn how to increase your number of “allowances” to prevent giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan out of your paychecks.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Employment and Income: “Standard 3. Analyze factors that affect net income” (p. 23).

Module 4.4: Self-employment
Learn basic information about self-employment as a sole proprietor, including your increased tax burden, licensing, commercial auto insurance, deductions, legal liability, and how to figure out if your homeowners’ association prohibits home-based business activity, and whether such terms will be enforced.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Employment and Income: “Standard 2. Compare sources of personal income and compensation” (p. 22).

Unit 5: Investing

Module 5.1: Defining your investment goals and risk tolerance
Learn how to assess a sensible level of risk tolerance based on your current age and desired retirement age. Learn about safe investments like bonds and certificates of deposits, as well as riskier investments that may yield big payoffs or might lose everything.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Investing: “Standard 2. Evaluate investment alternatives” (p. 26).

Module 5.2: Why picking stocks hardly ever works
Learn about index funds, diversification, and why actively-managed funds almost always under-perform index funds.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Investing: “Standard 3. Demonstrate how to buy and sell investments” (p. 27).

Module 5.3: Pros and cons of home ownership
Learn why renting or leasing might be better than buying, including information on property taxes and homeowners’ associations. Also: Lessons from the past on how to tell when real estate prices are in a “bubble.”

Module 5.4: How to retire in style
Learn to understand compound interest rates, retirement plans, 401(k) and Roth IRAs, employer matching, and the benefits of tax deferment. Learn how your Social Security benefits are calculated, and how to determine the best age to begin receiving them.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Investing: “Standard 1. Explain how investing may build wealth and help meet financial goals” (p. 25).

Unit 6: Risk and Insurance

Module 6.1: Understanding and avoiding identity theft
Learn the risks for identity theft and the methods thieves use. Learn how to proactively monitor your credit reports for free. Bonus: How to keep track of your account passwords without reusing the same password over and over.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Financial Decision Making: “Standard 7. Control personal information” (p. 41).

Module 6.2: When is insurance a good idea?
Learn about the fundamental purpose of insurance, and use this knowledge as a lens to judge the types of insurance that are must-haves and the types that are frivolous.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Risk Management and Insurance, “Standard 1. Identify common types of risks and basic risk management methods” (p. 31).

Module 6.3: How to lower your car insurance premiums
Learn how car insurance companies offer wildly different quotes through different channels. Learn how to make sure you are getting the discounts you deserve, and how making a “lump sum” semiannual payment can save you hundreds over monthly payments. Also: Learn about your Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report, how to request it for free from LexisNexis, and why even talking to an insurance agent about a potential claim can raise your rates.

Module 6.4: Navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace
Learn the fundamental differences between bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans offered through Healthcare.gov, how Advance Premium Tax Credits are administered and calculated, when the penalty for not having health insurance is enforced, and when paying the penalty may be a cheaper option.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Risk Management and Insurance: “Standard 3. Justify reasons to use health, disability, long-term care and life insurance” (p. 33).

Unit 7: Financial Decision Making

Module 7.1: Every decision has financial consequences
If time is money, even the decision to watch TV costs you money! Learn to consider the financial consequences of day-to-day decisions; empower yourself financially and you will be able to focus on what is important to you in life.
Competencies: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Financial Decision Making: “Standard 1. Recognize the responsibilities associated with personal financial decisions” (p. 35); Financial Decision Making: “Standard 4. Make criterion-based financial decisions by systematically considering alternatives and consequences” (p. 38).

Module 7.2: When college is not worth it
Learn about the opportunity cost and intangible benefits of a college education, how to avoid predatory for-profit institutions, and how to figure out if college education will improve your salability.

Module 7.3: Dealing with the financially reckless significant other
Learn strategies for reining in a financially reckless spouse or partner, and how to spot the warning signs early on.
Competency: Jump$tart Coalition (2015), Financial Decision Making: “Standard 5. Applying communication strategies when discussing financial issues” (p. 39).

Module 7.4: Having and raising children
Did you know that having your baby in December could save you thousands on your tax bill? Having children is the most costly and most rewarding decision many couples and individuals make—here, we will explore some of the financial ramifications, both common and obscure.

Module 7.5: Tax avoidance
Learn the differences between tax avoidance and tax evasion, why donations become more important at higher income levels, and when to itemize deductions.

Unit 8: Paying it Forward

Module 8.1: Charity and philanthropy
Learn how to give back to causes you love—often, without spending a dime.

Module 8.2: Be an agent for financial literacy
Learn to determine if others want your financial advice and how to provide it in a manner that minimizes your legal liability. (Only free advice-giving will be covered—not consulting or fee-based advice.)

Module 8.3: Reflection
Synthesize what you have learned in this course by writing a personal reflection.



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