In my Worth Reading II post on Saturday, I linked to a great post by Mark Cuban titled “How to Be Rich.” It’s a great read and it’s something that anyone who wants to be rich should read. However, there’s one specific part of Cuban’s post I want to comment on. Cuban writes:
The 2nd rule for getting rich is getting smart. Investing your time in yourself and becoming knowledgeable about the business of something you really love to do
It doesn’t matter what it is. Whatever your hobbies, interests, passions are. Find the one you love the best and GET A JOB in the business that supports it.
It could be as a clerk, a salesperson, whatever you can find. You have to start learning the business somewhere. Instead of paying to go to school somewhere, you are getting paid to learn. It may not be the perfect job, but there is no perfect path to getting rich.
This is invaluable advice – and one that most people won’t tell you. Most people will tell you that the path to success lies in the form of a college degree. While it’s true that those with college degrees earn more money than those that don’t, it doesn’t mean that a college degree will make you rich.
A college degree (or any degree for that matter) is valuable but it only goes so far. What’s far more valuable – as Cuban states – is knowledge. A bachelor’s degree simply means you had four years worth of endurance to write enough papers and jumped through enough hoops. It doesn’t mean you know squat about the subject your degree is in or will become a success.
Think about it. How many people with bachelor’s degrees actually work in the field that they graduated in? How many more are underemployed despite having a college degree?
Let’s face it. A bachelor’s degree is quickly becoming equivalent of what a high school diploma was two generations ago – a security blanket that will open doors to a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle. It also makes it more likely you’ll be stuck in a boring 8-5 job for the rest of your life (or until you either save enough money or your 401k grows to the point where you don’t have to live off it).
The devaluation of college degrees is result of our public school system pushing to get more and more people into college – whether or not college is the right career path for them. As a result bachelor’s degrees have less valuable. And it shows. From 2000-2007 the median income for those with bachelor’s degree fell 3%. (So did the median income for people with Master’s degrees and Ph.Ds. Only those with professional degrees – doctors and lawyers – saw an increase.)
It may not be a bad life, but a college degree in and of itself isn’t going to make you rich.
The nature of our country’s business infrastructure is that it is destined to be boom and bust. Booms are when the smart people sell. Busts are when rich people started on their path to wealth.
The current economic climate is creating opportunities for those that are ready. Instead of looking for those opportunities, a lot of people are going back to school. While this choice might make sense for some people, it doesn’t make sense for everyone. Instead a couple of online or certification courses might make more sense and using that as leverage to get hired in an industry that will help you learn what you really need to know to be successful.
Depending on what you want to do with your life, college may or may not be a good first step. But college isn’t going to make you or anyone else rich. Instead working hard and dealing honestly with others is the first step. Then learn everything you can about the industry and field you want to succeed at and figure out how to get your foot in the door is the second. The third, as Cuban writes, is having the patience to wait for the right opportunity.
Then you’ll be rich.