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Not Worth It

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When I was young, my poor dad wanted me to go to a good college and get a good job. To him, that was the path to security. To him, that was being rich.

I ended up going to the Merchant Marine Academy, one of the top schools in the nation, which at the time afforded some of the highest paying jobs after graduation.

I learned some valuable lessons such as discipline and leadership at the academy. But I didn’t learn how money worked or how to run a business. I learned those things later in life thanks to my rich dad and by finding jobs where I could work to learn rather than work to earn, such as my sales job with Xerox.

College prepared me to be a good employee, not a good entrepreneur or investor.

Thankfully, when I went to university, it was relatively affordable. I didn’t have to take out big loans, and I didn’t have the debt of my education hanging over my head. Also, at the time, you really could get a high-paying job if you wanted one, along with the high taxes that came with it.

I feel for today’s graduates because that’s not the case. Today’s graduates are paying obscene amounts of money for tuition, taking on crippling debt, and finding a job market that doesn’t justify the costs.

This week, I came across an article on, “My Degree Isn’t Worth the Debt!”, that should be a warning for all the young people thinking about starting university this fall.

The article features testimonials from six recent graduates on why they took on too much debt for the return their education afforded. Combined, the debt load of the six students is $701,800, most of which will take most of their adult life to pay off.

Here are a few quotes from the testimonials in the article:

“I have had a good life, but now at age 37, the weariness of carrying this financial burden frustrates me to no end. My son is nine years old now and will want to attend college when he graduates high school. But what will I tell him? First I have to decide if the college degree is worth the debt. I hope by the time he is making his decision, I will have figured it out.”

“I once believed that part of the American Dream was to earn a college education and this would ensure a great career and financial freedom. Unfortunately I am losing hope. I'm a mother of three, and my husband and I have been turned down from purchasing a home due to our income-to-debt ratio.”

“As social workers, we both love what we do, and we come home with a smile. But I will give you one small example of how desperate our lives are: when my wife graduated in 2007, she owed approximately $41,000 in her private alternative loans.

Three years after we started paying the minimum payments on this loan, you would think it would go down. Instead, we now owe $48,000 because of the interest!”

“My debt is a life-swallowing, all-consuming, hole in my life. No college degree is worth that.”

“I wanted to be a journalist, but I've resigned myself to the fact that I won't be able to support myself on an entry-level salary in that field. Instead, I took a temporary job providing customer service to a cell phone company”

“My life revolves around work. I'm barely able to afford rent, I'm cutting back on bills and I'm barely able to feed myself. Why? Because almost half my monthly income goes to Sallie Mae.”

Those are the words of people who believed the lie of the old rules of money and who now are paying for those lies that were sold to them. And they are the words of victims of a system that is both corrupt and criminal.

Many people say I’m anti-education, but nothing is further from the truth. I’m anti-corruption, and I’m anti-conspiracy. The student-loan racket in this country does not serve our students, it serves the rich.

I’m pro-education. I believe that complete education—education that includes comprehensive financial education—is the most important factor in determining whether you will be wealthy or not.

So, if you are considering college this fall—or if your child is getting ready for college—I ask you to educate yourself on the cost of that education…and the expected return.

The last thing I want is for you to add your words to the ones quoted above.

The last thing I want is for you to learn the hard way that it wasn’t worth it.

I encourage you to count the cost, and I also encourage you to explore other forms of education that may prepare you for what you want to do in life and that will provide you a good return—not what the rich want you to do and will provide them a good return.

Original publish date: June 28, 2011

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