Show of hands: Who here has had a formal education in credit cards? Anyone hold a degree in adjustable-rate mortgages or asset allocation? Discounted cash flows 101? Anyone?

Given the appalling lack of formal financial education in our school systems, it's no surprise that the average Joe and Jane's finances are in shambles. Consider that only three states mandate a full semester of personal finance education in high school; 17 fold money lessons into other subjects like math and social studies; and 30 states teach students nothing.

The No. 1 financial educator in the U.S.
Most people's money education comes courtesy of a single institution: the good ol' School of Hard Knocks.

We get sucked into a debt vortex, beholden to our Visas (NYSE:V) and MasterCards (NYSE:MA), which were handed out like candy our first year at college. We achieve the American dream for a little while, only to get blindsided by exotic loans even Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) didn't fully understand. And we watch in horror as our retirement savings get "rightsized" because we didn't smartly spread our risk smartly around.

And that's just the first semester.

We wish we could offer a do-over to everyone who has gotten burnt by a bad money decision. Alas, we cannot. But we can offer the next best thing – a free course covering the essential tools to help you make smart financial decisions from this day forward.

A free crash course on finances
With an eye toward building your wealth of knowledge and your wealth, we've planned this crash course in financial literacy in honor of Financial Literacy Month. (That said, here in Fooldom, we don't flip off the classroom lights after 31 days. School is in session year-round, 24/7. Consider this series your orientation.)

Throughout the rest of this month, you'll pick up 10 essential money lessons, plus a bonus! We'll school you on key investing metrics, show you how to maximize the money you have -- and add to it -- and even introduce you to folks who are happy to let you cheat off their investing homework. Bookmark this page, and come back every weekday through April 30 for a new financial lesson. (We'll post a running list of links to each at the bottom of this page.)

Fool U is in session!