Is college a good investment? 3 alternate-path success stories
For this post I want to ask openly if college is still a good investment? To prime the pump for this discussion, I would like to tell the stories of a few of my friends who have done well for themselves without going to college, or at least not working in their degree, and later I will try to think up stories of friends of mine who are working in their degrees. I live in a normal part of the midwest and have, I think, a normal array of friends. I'm not even going to talk about entrepreneurs like myself, because that is an entirely different thing, an entirely different animal, its own ball of pain, sacrifice, and opportunity.
I am a college dropout, and you should consider that when reading this as it may cause me bias. My longtime biz partner is also a dropout... being a dropout it could be that my group of friends is more drop-out-ish than a typical group of friends, but... here goes, excepting myself and my biz partner, the most successful people around 30ish that I know of include:
-Big Billy. Big Billy was one of my college-age buddies, when I first got old enough to go to the bars, I probably went with Billy 10x more than anybody else. He knew everybody and was a cool guy. At the time he was already a college dropout, and had 2 jobs, one as a manager/salesguy at an appliance store where he made like $35k and one as a pizza delivery guy. He made like $30k net of gas doing that, as he had a $500 Ford Festiva or some such that got 11,000 miles to the gallon. He was always thrifty with money and always trying to save money, and always trying to make more money in ways like buying a car and trying to sell it for more. He got, about a year before I went into business and descended into a decade of not having friends, a job as a car salesman at a local dealership. He did well and got promoted to a sales manager (the slimy idiot you talk to about a loan if you need one and who tries to sell you overpriced extended warranties and such). From there, after doing well, he got promoted to sales manager and, after doing well, transferred to another dealership where he now makes $150k.
I know of no college grad working in their degree who makes as much, save perhaps a few friends who were doctors and maybe an attorney or 3. But the best-earning attorneys anywhere near this age have their own practice, so they really aren't just college grads anymore, they are entrepreneurs.
How did Big Billy wind up doing well? Found something he was good at and worked very hard at it.
-Happy Hudson. Hudson did go to college, and may have graduated, but has never worked in his field. As a college kid he got a job in the mall at a jewelry store and became the best jewelry salesperson in the history of a 6 store chain within 6 months (for sales/month, per day, etc.). He quit and got a job selling insurance or something for a year or 2, and... the wners of the 6 stores asked him to come back and manage all their salespeople and expand them into 4 more locations. He makes six figures with profit sharing and he still gets $20k a year in residuals from his insurance days. Overall Hudson probably makes $150-200k and he's 28, he may well be offered the jewelry chain one day when the current owners retire.
How did Hudson wind up doin so well? Found something he was good at and worked at it.
-Checklists old squeeze Maya. When I met Maya she was just a kid of 20, from a terrible home, struggling to adjust to being hot after being a loser in high school (due to terrible family). She was painfully shy, almost. She never even had a chance of getting to college, but wound up getting a job at a Bath and Body Works in a mall somewhere. I ran into here a couple of years ago when she was quitting to become a stay at home mom, and I couldn't believe what I saw. That painfully shy girl smiled and talked and was so charming to the customers in the store... I asked her what she'd been up to and here was her story: she got a job one holiday season at B&BW and wasn't late or whatever, so she got offered to stay. In working on the job she apparently got over her shyness and became one of the best employees, and wound up getting offered a job managing a Buckle in the same mall because someone from the Buckle was so impressed with her. B&BW then came back and offered her significantly more money to come back and manage that store as she was missed. She managed the store, did well, and when she quit to become a full time mom she was apparently told that if she ever wanted a job managing a limited brands store anywhere just show up and let them know and it was hers.
So how much do you make for that? Probably not a hundred grand, but in any case a girl from the worst home ever who never even had a chance at college has a lifetime offer for a pretty darn good job. Better, probably, than the job you could get with 80% of degrees.
How did Maya wind up in this excellent situation? Found something she was good at and worked at it.
-Merry Marvin. Marvin is a physics major who had a job paying like $25k a year and decided to become a financial advisor. 15 years later he has the biggest book of business in his office in a very big city by A DECENT MULTIPLE, and frequently tries to get clients to go to other advisors to free up his load. He makes HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars a year and will die a multi, multi millionaire. He is very smart, works very hard, does the best he can to help and guide his clients and apparently they all love him.
How did ol Marvin wind up a millionaire at a young age without ever starting a business or inherting a dime? Found something he was good at and worked his fanny off at it.
-Tall Tom. Tom dropped out of college and got a job driving trains. So he's in the railroad union. The hours are bizzare and I wouldn't like it, but he can retire at 55 i think with full pay and makes like 80 grand.
How did Tom do so well? Jumped onto the biggest, slimiest, easy money wagon in the country: union work. I'm not knocking it, I love the man, but lets face it the easiest way to get a grossly overpaying job that doesn't call for alot of skill or hard work is to join a union.
I do not know of anybody who is a college grad working in their degree who is better off, age for age, than Marvin, Hudson, or Billy. These three gained little for going to college if anything. They do have natural talents. Billy is exceedingly interested in money and morally passive enough to be ok with the intrinsic slime of the car business. Hudson is one of those fantastic natural salespeople that could pick up any girl, strike any conversation, etc. Maya is very pretty, and I must say now that she's over the shy thing, very charming, which lends itself well to her job. Marvin is extremely intelligent.
Throw in some other examples. Hudsons wife works in a high end female clothing store and is the best selling salesperson in her region for the chain and makes alot of money, maybe high 5 figures? Didn't go to college for that. Etc, Etc, Etc. Throw in entrepreurs and the top 10 or 20 most successful people I am aware of anywhere near my age don't do anything related to their college degrees, and I know a few doctors.
And here is what I am getting at: is the much-marketed standard routine of A) go to college then B) getting a job in your field really good sense? Or would trying to find something you like and are good at and working very hard at it wind up a better path for most people?
I am a parent, you know. My son will be able to go to college, and I've also set aside cash for all his half-siblings and all my neices and nephews and so forth, they will all be able to go. And smoking weed and making friends and getting drunk and chasing boys/girls is alot of fun, but aside from the investment in life experience, I do seriously ask thee...
Is college actually a good investment?