One of my favorite bloggers is James Altucher. He constantly harps on the lack of value currently presented by higher education. Sadly, many people miss what I believe is his key point: education debt is stupid unless you can pay it back. In our current society there is a mentality that you must have a degree to succeed in life and there are no other alternatives. I do not think this is true. More important, if a degree is sought and debt is incurred there should be a return on investment.
An example of a bad decision is a liberal arts major taking on $100k in debt a private school when the same education could be had at a public institution, in-state, for a fraction of the cost. Similarly, anyone attending a for-profit corporate university should seriously question the process. These schools exist only because the federal government has insured the repayment of their tuition fees and they feed on chuckleheads willing to get a shoddy degree with no understanding of the repayment process. If the schools themselves had to collect debt they would readily go out of business. If the students understood how bad these institutions are they would go out of business.
Considering the above I recently shared a conversation with my friend Hal Rice about college alternatives. We both have a plethora of children who will seek education. I have no plans, and believe no parent should have plans, to fund the education of my children. I am a believer in self-sufficiency and struggle to drive desire and appreciation. In our conversation I said the career advice I would give to my children is as follows (counting down) for the top 10 best jobs.
Before reading there are a few key points worth mentioning:
- Unless you are a Kennedy, no one gives a shit where you went to college when getting a job. They just want to see a degree
- Unless you went to an Ivy League school, again, no one gives a shit where you went to college
- If you are a professional (lawyer, doctor, engineer, etc) and have a license to practice then no one gives a shit where you went to college
- You should never take on any more debt than the one-half average starting salary of one year’s wages. You are a dumbass if you do
- Liberal Arts degrees are useless unless you want to be a teacher. Thus, if you spend more than $15k to get a liberal arts degree you are a chucklehead
- There is nothing wrong with a trade profession: carpentry, auto repair, air conditioning, etc. The key is to learn a skill the COULD be translated to other industries
- Most important, live life and focus on happiness
(10) Military career. As an NCO it is possible to find a job function to ultimately translate to private industry. Electronics training, aircraft repair, or aircraft approach systems come to my mind. After 25 years retirement will supplement a civilian career with benefits for life.
(9) Lawyer. Pick a fourth tier law school and pass the bar. Focus on a district attorney job first to get some experience and then go to work in a small town in a small practice. Connect with local CPAs and financial planners to do Wills and Trusts. Get to know the real estate people and manage property transactions. With some divorce and drunk driving clients and charging a reasonable rate this is a well-respected and affordable career.
(8) Computer Programmer. Tough competition from abroad for this career but high incomes provide an excellent return. Still in demand though but the challenge is to keep up with changing technology. Expertise in a particular industry can provide a career for life.
(7) Aircraft Repair. Tough but doable and not a bad life. Setup shop at the right airport and keep your license current you can have a career. This can be in general aviation or take someone to the airlines. Remember, the airplane does not fly if maintenance is not completed.
(6) Air Conditioning Repair. In the south (Florida, Texas, Arizona) this one is hard to beat. If it’s 100F outside people want their A/C fixed and you have them. A skilled person with some business savvy and customer service attention can build a nice local business.
(5) Pastor. OK, here is a special job and one that won’t make you rich, unless you are a televangelist. Everyone loves you. Generally you have benefits and a decent salary. You won’t be rich and have to work weekends. But, if you can write and like people this is a great career.
(4) Local Insurance Agent. Specifically, State Farm or Farm Bureau. Everyone in town loves this guy and he knows everyone. Join Kiwanis, Rotary, church, and knock on doors. Insurance is the gift that keeps giving and giving. If you sell a life policy there are residuals. Sell property and you get a small piece annually. It is hard to beat this job. No degree needed….
(3) Optometrist. Again, does insurance matter with these guys – no. Have you spent $500 on eye glass frames? If your glasses break are you going to wait until you have money to replace them? No, you have to see. Follow the orthodontist education route below.
(2)Veterinarian. My vet doesn’t take insurance, does yours? I dropped $200 on my “free cat” last week because he is the family pet. Follow the same path to education success for an Orthodontist.
(1) Orthodontist. I am now paying for braces and these guys are brutal. $5000 per mouth, no matter what. There is no negotiation, they are immune from insurance, they setup in any town in America, and appear to be recession proof. A public school will provide the basis to get into dental school and then go off-shore. Get a cheap education, come back for residency and get your license.