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A free Tucson course wants to make you the master of your money and a pro at personal finance. 

And they're not even trying to sell you anything. 

Last year, my husband and I applied for the TCI Foundation's 3rd Decade Program for 20- and 30-somethings and spent the fall semester learning about investing, insurance, housing, budgeting, debt and all of those other grown-up topics that make a big difference in your life. 

The TCI Foundation is a nonprofit launched by Bob Swift, the founding CEO of TCI Wealth Advisors. Swift established the foundation in 2015 to teach personal finance and investing smarts to people who normally can't afford traditional wealth advising  — in this case, young adults. 

"If you guys let your 20s and 30s pass without a real active financial plan, the amount of money lost due to time, the compounding of returns, it's just way too much," Swift said. 

He describes The 3rd Decade Program as a "two-and-a-half-year graduate program in personal finance and investment management at no cost." 

The program is funded by Bob and Lisa Swift and TCI Wealth Advisors. He plans to recruit donors in the near future, he said. 

You attend 10 hours of instruction spread out over four classes and meet with an advisor to develop a personal financial plan. For the next two years, you have access to the foundation for financial advice. 

If you pass a test and have perfect attendance at the end of the education period, you're eligible to receive a contribution to a Roth IRA, which the program helps you set up. 

My husband and I signed up for the class frustrated by insurance sales pitches masked as personal finance seminars. We wanted to get serious about our finances but felt like we didn't have the right information. 

During The 3rd Decade Program, we got a crash course on money matters. That, combined with our personalized meeting with an advisor, left us both feeling way more confident about financial best practices beyond just having a budget and sticking to it. 

We walked away from that meeting with a personalized to-do list and recommendations for how best to complete each of those tasks. 

The 3rd Decade Program holds classes in Tucson, Tempe and Flagstaff (for now —Swift envisions the program going national). Foundation staff try to limit the classes each semester to two groups of 20 to 25, said executive director Laura Walton. So apply sooner rather than later. 

To be eligible, you must be 21-35 years old, work full time, have a household income between $35,000 and $100,000, rent or own your own home and have a bachelor's, associate or vocational degree. 

Oh, and you have to be serious about tackling debt and creating a financial plan. 

Over and over, our classes emphasized that smart investing and financial security depend on your behavior (ie: sticking to a budget), low fees (on your mutual funds) and time (starting in your 20s, ideally). 

If you don't know about the magic of compound interest, you will two minutes into the first class. 

"I wish I could get everyone at 21," Swift said. "That's ultimately my goal, to catch people earlier and earlier. Once you hear it, it's good data, it's academic, there's no agenda, and you're on it. You're all over it. And the results are incredibly powerful." 

The program is already enrolling for Fall 2018. You can apply and learn more at

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