You and your money
This innovative module sets personal finance against its wider social, economic and political background. You'll be provided with a gentle introduction to aspects of economics, while also gaining practical tools and ideas on how to manage your own money effectively. The module is structured around four themes: the changing economic, political and social context; individuals, households and other relationships; economics and the real world; and the life course and financial planning. You'll study income, expenditure, debt, savings and investments, housing, insurance, pensions and caring, critically appraising the balance between personal and social responsibility for financial well-being.
What you will study
This module has three primary aims:
- to give you the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to manage your own money well
- to provide an introduction to the social sciences, especially economics, relating them to the real world in which we live
- to gently build and practise your study skills and employability skills as a strong foundation for your further studies at the OU and life beyond.
The study weeks are arranged in pairs with each pair devoted to a different topic. In the first week of each pair, you’ll read a chapter in the module textbook. This textbook has been specially written for this module and includes lots of activities to help reflect on the material, test your understanding and apply the ideas to your own finances. In the second week, you’ll consolidate your learning through a rich mixture of video, audio clips, slideshows, activities and interactive tools.
You can use the interactive tools to understand your own finances. For example, how tax affects your earnings, how much you’d need to save to reach a goal, what the repayments would be on a loan or mortgage, and your options for building up enough pension savings.
Throughout the module, you’ll share in the lives of 12 households, two each from the UK, USA, Germany, Sweden, Brazil and India, so you can compare financial experiences from across the globe and the factors that influence them.
Here is a taste of what you’ll study in each pair of weeks:
- Setting the context: an introduction to the module themes. This includes some major world trends, such as ageing populations and the march of technology which are changing the demands on our money. You’ll look at the behavioural traits we all have that influence the way we interact with our finances, firms and each other.
- Income. What influences pay, including worker power and gender issues. How the tax and benefits system affects your income and can be used to relieve poverty and reduce inequality. The way income flows between the different sectors of the economy.
- Expenditure. Why we spend on what we do from rational choices about meeting our needs to the social factors and marketing influences that work on our more subtle desires for belonging or displaying our worth. In small teams with your fellow students, you’ll explore the world of symbolic advertising. Using cash-flow and budgeting to control your household’s spending.
- Debt. Understanding the good as well as dark side of debt. How to identify the best ways to borrow and be aware of hidden costs. Using a household balance sheet to check whether you are vulnerable to debt problems. How household debt contributes to economic growth but perversely can bring down economies.
- Savings and investments. Why low-risk products promising amazing returns simply don’t exist. Choosing the right products for different types of goals. Navigating the risk-return trade-off, with strategies for managing stock-market risk. Why saving matters to the economy.
- Housing. How, in many countries, homes are more than just a place to live and may be driving a wedge between younger and older generations. Using the economic model of supply and demand, you’ll explore what influences house prices and analyse different solutions to making homes affordable.
- Insurance. The role of insurance in building your financial resilience – your ability to withstand and recover from shocks and life events. The principle of risk-sharing and how it is being undermined by Big Data and other technological changes.
- Pensions. The implications for you personally and society as a whole of saving for a pension and the ageing population. How saving for the long-term means battling our behavioural traits. The way different pensions work and what that means for the choices you make and the risks you run.
- Caring and sharing. The short-term and long-term consequences of decisions about having a family and the social norms that surround unpaid work. The choices households and society face about caring for the elderly.
- Personal finance in context. In the light of the previous weeks, what does it mean to be ‘financially capable’? What are the options for society if all individuals and households are to enjoy at least a minimum level of well-being?
There are no prior requirements for studying this module. You will need to use some basic mathematics (decimals, percentages, fractions, reading simple tables and charts). Week 1 of the module provides a self-test and additional materials to help you refresh or develop these skills before you start your studies proper. A few further simple numerical techniques (such as averages) are fully taught in subsequent weeks. The module includes a suite of interactive tools that enable you to solve financial problems without having to use or understand the maths involved.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.
The module is delivered through a textbook written especially for the module and the module website. The website accounts for approximately 50% of the study. The module includes a suite of 10 interactive tools that are used in your studies but can also help you manage your own money.
You will need
You will need the use of a basic calculator.
The interactive tools run in Excel. Once the module has started and your registration is complete, you will be provided with Office 365 which includes Excel. However, you can also run the tools on your own copy of Excel if you have it.
A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.
Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.
A desktop or laptop computer with either:
- Windows 7 or higher
- Mac OS X 10.7 or higher
The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.
To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).
Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.