The more you know about personal finance and investing the better for your long term wealth. Online learning is a great way to get up to speed with classes available in everything from stock picking to derivatives trading online.
You'll never get such choice through evening classes available here in New Zealand. Even in the main centres you may get an introduction to share investing or writing your own financial plan, you're not going to get a course on Bear market investing – which you can, for example from Incademy investor training online.
A couple of online learning sites I particular like are Morningstar's classroom and the Trump University. Many more such courses can be found via Worldwidelearn.com or Google searches.
When you're looking for a course try to choose one with quizzes or tests at the end are the best. The interactive experience helps you learn.
Discussion boards are a great source of interactive learning. I personally love the Motley Fool's boards. If you have a question about a financial topic you don't understand, there is bound to be someone who can reply – and they're usually pretty knowledgeable. A good board for property investors is Propertytalk.com.
A few hours a week of following postings on the Fool will help educate you pretty quickly. But remember, not everything that is posted should be taken as gospel.
We don't have many really great investment programmes on New Zealand TV. But you will find better quality programming online. About.com came up with some good picks for radio. You can also watch the likes of Reuters and Bloomberg Television online or track down some of the US and other countries top personal finance guru show's such as Dave Ramsey on Fox.
Likewise, podcasts are a great source of information. Marketing guru Debbie Mayo-Smith once told me that she listens to educational podcasts downloaded from the Internet whilst watching her children play sport. The Get Rich Slowly blog recommends these 12 podcasts.
There's no better way to learn than "on the job". That can mean taking a very small punt to get started – such as spending a few hundred dollars on an investment and following its progress.
A lower stakes approach is "fantasy investing". This is where you take virtual money and invest it in a virtual share portfolio. Websites such as Stockguru.co.nz and Bullbearings.co.uk offer fantasy share trading. There are similar sites for derivatives and foreign exchange trading. Best to lose virtual money the first time than the real stuff.
Finally, a word of warning. There are an awful lot of websites offering "training" – especially in the real estate field that are really just fronts for companies selling seminars or products – and often poor value ones at that. For example, I found the "Optionetics Education Centre" online, but Optionetics doesn't get a lot of good press. You're better off to find something independent, such as the National Futures Association introduction to futures. However, if you want to take ‘real' action, a good place to start is to look for reputable reviews from sites like Trading Systems Rated.
There used to be many more financial "universities" online such as Bloomberg University and the Schwab University. But I can only assume that the credit crunch resulted in them disappearing.
Having said that, if you're hungry to learn, you can cover an awful lot online in a very short period of time at some of those "flat" learning sites such as Investopedia University. It's quicker to log onto a course than wait for an obscure financial investment book to arrive from Amazon.com.