Blog | Personal development

The Truth and Value of a REAL Education

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When I was young, my poor dad said, "You need to go to a good college to get a good education and get a good job."

My rich dad said, "You rarely get a good education at a 'good' college." He also said, "It's much better to create good jobs as an entrepreneur than to get a good job and be an employee."

I applied for college like my poor dad wanted, and was accepted into the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Port, New York. The academy is a highly selective school, accepting only 275 students per academic year and requiring a letter of recommendation from a U.S. Senator or Representative. At the time, first-year graduates from the Academy were making $70,000 or more per year—that was a lot of money in the 1970s.

Though my poor dad was the Head of Education for the State of Hawaii, I was a poor student with subpar grades. I'm not sure how I got into the US Merchant Marine Academy, but I did.

I don't regret my time at the Academy. The academics were rigorous. I had great professors. And because the Academy was a military school, I learned much needed leadership skills and developed a strong sense of pride and discipline that I didn't have as a teenager. Those skills have served me well throughout life.

Though I enjoyed my time at the Academy, one thing was painfully clear once I graduated and began working—my education was only beginning. The academics were tough and challenging, but I didn't learn the most essential things to help me succeed in life. For instance, I had no idea how money worked, and I had no ability to sell. I had no financial education, the most important type of education. Thankfully, I had my rich dad, who continued to keep in contact with me. He not only taught me about money, he also encouraged me to take a sales job at Xerox to learn to sell rather than to take a high-paying job as a merchant marine. That was the best decision of my life, and one that has paid dividends for decades since.

Different Decade, Same Advice

Today, the old rules of money—go to a good school, get a good job, save your money, buy a house, and invest in a diverse portfolio of stocks and mutual funds—are still followed even though they're completely obsolete. And one of the most sacred old rules is the advice to go to a good school.

This advice makes less sense today than it did when I was young. According to More magazine, the average cost of an education at some of the nations most elite schools is now $250,000 for four years. In a recent interview in More magazine, Claudia Dreifus, the author of Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—And What We Can Do About It, says, "Most families cannot afford that, incurring indebtedness that shackles their future…[the costs] would make an antitrust lawyer salivate."

The reality is that the costs of education have skyrocketed, but the benefits of education have plummeted. We're raising a generation of young men and women who are so burdened by college debt—which is bad debt—that they will have a very hard time getting ahead in life.

And what you get for these higher costs according to Dreifus is the classic definition of diminishing returns: "Over 70 percent of college teachers—even at top schools like Yale, Harvard, and Stanford—are graduate students or adjuncts or visiting professors. That's up from 43 percent in 1975." In other words families are paying more for less.

Change the Rules You Play By

If you're a young person on your way to university or a parent with teenagers getting ready for college, I suggest you think long and hard about what you expect to get from your education and why you want it.

I'm not saying that higher education is all bad. There are certain things that can't be done without it. For instance, I'd never visit a doctor who didn't attend medical school. But the old rule of money that said everyone should go to a good school is an obsolete rule—and one that shackles families with bad debt.

In order to thrive in the new economy, you need to understand the value of a good education—and that a good education is one that includes comprehensive financial education. Unfortunately, you can't get a good financial education in school, nor will you be able to for a long time. So, a 'good' education at a 'good' school is really an incomplete—and expensive—education.

That is why I created the Rich Dad Company. I had the benefit of a rich dad who taught me about money and business, lessons that have helped me more in life than anything I learned at the US Merchant Marine Academy. I wanted to give that same opportunity to others.

I encourage you to increase your financial education. One way to do that is to take advantage of our Rich Dad products. We have a host of books, seminars, coaching, and mentoring options available to help you increase your financial IQ and thrive.

Original publish date: June 22, 2010

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