Save. Spend. Splurge.

Who needs a college education anyway?

99% of us do, unless you have a crystal ball.

For every SINGLE story we hear about of successful entrepreneurs who became millionaire/billionaires without a college degree from McDonald’s CEO to Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy’s) to the late Steve Jobs of Apple, there are millions of us who will never reach that.

These people who make it without a college degree were in the right place, at the right time, with the right opportunity and worked very, VERY hard for it.



I do NOT care how many inspiring stories I hear about people who made it in life without a college degree — I would never suggest to anyone or to anyone’s child to not consider going to college.

I’m rather sick of people putting these unusual cases as examples for everyone to follow, and saying “hey that’s why we shouldn’t go to college!” — that is just effin’ bad advice.

When we look at the facts of someone with a high school degree versus a college degree, it’s just astounding:

Workers 18 and over sporting bachelors degrees earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915.

But wait, there’s more.

Workers with an advanced degree make an average of $74,602, and those without a high school diploma average $18,734. (Source)

$23,291 = That’s what you’d be missing out on every year on average, without a college degree.

In a lifetime, that’s a total of $931,640 after 40 years (without even taking into account inflation or interest).


The main thing that people forget is this:


Hobbies don’t make money. You do hobbies on the side, for FUN.

Careers make you money for a lifetime and challenge you. That’s the difference.

I like to play the piano, but it isn’t my career.


Don’t pick something that you have a very small chance of making it big in (cooking, fashion, etc); because for every one superstar who goes to Parsons, there are a hundred thousand who have to give up the dream.

The keys to making that degree work for you:

  • Go where no one goes — People tend to avoid math & sciences, and that’s where the money is.
  • Don’t treat college as a hobby — Don’t just sign up and take classes you enjoy as a hobby (I liked history, for instance); get a degree that you can see yourself having a career in.
  • Research the job before you plunge into school for it — Think law sounds sexy? Find out what being a lawyer really feels like or means by talking to other lawyers and talking to pre-law students.
  • Don’t discount unglamourous careers — Trade schools (electricians!) for instance, are in high demand, so keep your eyes peeled.
  • Don’t assume any college degree with get you into any door — An English major applying to an investment banking job, will not get the job; that’s the fact of the job because of the skills required.
  • Take this college and career choice seriously — You can waste a lot of money (quarter of a million) by getting one degree before realizing you hate the career, and going back to get the other degree you really wanted.
  • Avoid debt as much as possible by getting scholarships & saving — I wish I had done the latter (saved more), but I did get a lot of scholarships which helped ease my burden. I still graduated with $60,000 in debt, but that’s another story of me not being frugal AT ALL.
  • Don’t go to college just because you are expected to — Take a year off if you want to and then DECIDE what you want to do. Don’t just go because everyone else is going and your parents are pressuring you so you sign up for an expensive set of student loans, but can’t figure out what you want, so you take bird (easy) courses.


I absolutely never want to ever hear again from anyone that just because Zuckerberg of Facebook dropped out of Harvard and became a billionaire before he even grew facial hair (kidding, kidding!), we should all thumb our noses up at college.

If you DO decide to NOT go to college, that’s your choice and you have a plan to get to where you want to be without that degree (maybe you want to go straight into your dream job of buying houses and flipping them).

Otherwise, college is the answer for the majority of us.

What do you think? College fan or not?


  • Mariel García M

    I get where you’re coming from. People have idealized this vision of the rebel that follows his heart and it’s good to put things in perspective, but I don’t think college necessarily is the answer. The statistics say those who go to college make more money, but it doesn’t say why they do.

    I’m no psychologist, but my gut tells me those who go to universities succeed more because they somehow find/are forced to find/the environment helps them find motivation/”empowerment” to go beyond, work hard in whatever area they pick. But the thousands that get put per capita into that system are a pretty high price to pay for said motivation/vague “empowerment”. It’s not all college comes down to, I know (I’m a philosophy major myself; I spend most of my time learning stuff I’d hardly be able to learn on my own)… But society has made it clear that the main value uni has is as a marketplace, and I think that’s a big luxury most societies around the world just can’t afford.

    I think vocational ed programs in high school should focus on helping people figure out what they’re passionate about and how to succeed in it, rather than on what major people should pick. Motivation needn’t be so expensive, and I think it’s ultimately what allowed people like Zuckerberg to be successful without a diploma under their arm.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I completely agree 🙂 Which is why I have a follow-up post.

      I didn’t mean that everyone NEEDS a college degree in the sense that everyone should go there or be allowed to go.

      It’s a CV necessity for most white collar jobs, but why pursue something you hate and you may not make any money at?

      Why not do something else instead that will make more money and save all that money?

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I completely agree 🙂 Which is why I have a follow-up post.

      I didn’t mean that everyone NEEDS a college degree in the sense that everyone should go there or should be allowed to.

      It’s a necessity for white collar jobs, but they don’t really pay well in the end. Blue collar jobs pay better sometimes.

  • Deena Dollars

    I agree with this post wholeheartedly.

    I have skimmed the comments, and it seems like you are considering doing a follow up post about majors. I support this plan. I want to point out that the combination of major + where you go for college matters. Everyone likes to hate on English majors, but I reckon English majors from Ivy League Schools do fine for themselves at consulting companies, businesses, all kinds of lucrative careers. It’s important to keep in mind that college is not JUST a human capital acquisition tool — it also has tremendous signaling value for applying to jobs when you have very little experience at 22. You’ve had a couple of eight-week internships or something at that point (on average), and your 3.8 GPA from a good school signals a lot more about you than those experiences. Your major matters for some things, but it only matters so much.

    My beef with personal finance posts about college is the one you’ve pointed out here — that it doesn’t always make sense financially to go — and that people want to always point out ways to pay for college without scholarships. I know this varies a lot by country, but why are scholarships crapped on so much? I busted my ass academically, and the sticker value of my scholarships in undergrad + grad school was easily $200,000. (I will add them up to the exact dollar value sometime). I understand that not everyone can achieve academically, but a lot of people don’t try who could certainly pay for more of their education if they were willing to give up some other comforts to do it.

  • MelD

    I just want to point out that not all societies believe that college is the only way. This is a fairly recent trend. Some people simply aren’t the academic type or live in a country where max. 20% of kids are skimmed off for an academic career (like Switzerland) and where very high quality vocational training (including banking…) is offered. It is a huge shame that these people are considered under-qualified just because they didn’t do a lot of theoretical training and get an increasingly valueless degree – in the long run, and in my experience, they often make for a better work environment… and in practice, their skills are often way beyond those who did similar training at a college/university.
    (My son-in-law did an apprenticeship as a physics lab technician and has gone to the UK for a prestigious job at a technological institute of repute that would usually require a physics degree plus experience; they grabbed him when he applied, before he’d even completely finished his 4-year apprenticeship…)

    • Mochi & Macarons

      The problem I guess employers face is HOW to sort through and find the amazing ones.
      Not everyone needs formal training. I knew a guy who was a whiz at computers and started at $100K at a big bank in NYC handling their IT out of high school.
      No college.

  • Mochi & Macarons

    Although what’s sad is that I consider people who study Philosophy to be very rational, well-reasoned folks to work with in any capacity. If you can get through a Philosophy degree, it really changes your working and life habits for the better.
    It is just that employers don’t recognize that.

  • Mochi & Macarons

    I think everyone should do what they’re capable of doing. Tradespeople make a GOOD living and don’t need to pretend to keep up with anyone. It’s honest work in my opinion, unless your electrician cheats you 😉

  • PK

    In a lifetime, that’s a total of $931,640 after 40 years (without even taking into account inflation or interest).

    Hate to be a curmudgeon, but if you took the money going into that education (upwards of $200,000 for four years) and simply invested it in stocks or real estate you’d go a long way towards narrowing the gap with many college level professions. Anyway, let me dissent by saying:

    1) You mention a college education, but I’d be inclined to agree if you said tertiary or post-secondary education. You see, sometimes the pre-professional training you can get at a trade school or a community college is a better option than languishing in Antebellum Feminism 101 (or: pick your class). College has had a tremendous marketing push over the last generation as if it’s the only choice… meanwhile there has been a precipitous decline in the number of tradesmen and tradeswomen.

    2) You make no mention of choice of major. Science, technology, engineering, math? Absolutely. Pharmacy? Sure. Finance, some business? Absolutely. Economics? Swing away! However, if you’re a 6th year English Major at a major private University and you don’t have a scholarship, you’re going to have a bad time. Consider these trends: over the last generation, fewer and fewer students are graduating in four years; students have less homework assigned, grade inflation is becoming a prominent issue, and students are spending more time out of the classroom; wages are stable at best for degree holders, even though the costs of college have soared (note the inflation adjusted numbers in this census link).

    So no… I’m not saying drop out and try to find Microsoft. Last I checked, most white-collar companies check for a completed degree on resumes, and some are even more blatant and use the Cravath System to screen applicants based on the prestige of that institution. However, if you can swing a wrench you can make a ton of money doing that as a career (and likely more than your friends majoring in Journalism).

    • Mochi & Macarons

      You’ve preempted my follow up post. I pretty much agree with everything.
      Majors are the most important thing people forget, and as I wrote up there, your job shouldn’t be your hobby.
      My point was more that society demands that EVERYONE has a college degree to be considered, rather than sitting back and wondering if it is the right way to find someone to do the work.
      It is what a high school education was, 50 years ago.

      I also found stats saying that 45% of 19-24 year olds go to college which I find alarmingly high, as in any given company you’d never find 45% of employees in ‘good jobs’ that make use of their degrees.
      Any way, more on that once I polish the post!

  • tomatoketchup

    Here’s my problem with this: if 99% of us absolutely must go to college in order to provide ourselves the basic needs and live at a modest level, then I believe college should be fully funded by the federal or state government and simply be an extension of high school.

    It used to be that a person could live a decent middle class life with a high school diploma, and that is not the case anymore. Because anyone with the mental capacity to sign for a loan can be accepted into some college somewhere, the economic value of a college degree has plummeted. It’s the new high school, and it’s so sad that people are going into debt for something that is now considered a basic level of education. Of course, we can’t really go back now. We’re unfortunately stuck in the system we created.

    One personal beef I have with college is that it is truly an economic and time pit for certain people. I knew exactly what I wanted to do since age 5, yet I had no choice but to put up with college for 3 years and jump through a bunch of hoops for the Man in order to merely qualify to apply to professional school and do what I really wanted to do. What a horrible use of time, especially for someone in their early 20’s which are arguably the best years of your life. Several countries other than the U.S. don’t do this, and it’s a shame we have to tolerate it here. I know this applies to only a small minority of young people, but it would be great if there were some way to cut through all the bull and make education a more efficient process for those who are committed to a certain career path.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      You’re pre-empting my next post! 🙂

      I did note although not as strongly, that not everyone should be encouraged to go to college if it’s not their thing. 🙂

  • Heather Buen

    Love this post. I firmly believe that post high school education is a MUST. Here are other ways to save money:

    1) Go to community college for your basics. Take your basic courses at a community college, close to home and get a job or do work study.

    2) Get an education in a trade first, get a job and work experience and have your company pay for your tuition if they have that benefit. Electricians, plumbers and even associate degree nurses can gain great work experience by working and then having their companies pay for their tuition if that company has a tuition reimbursement program. Nurses especially that want to get into specialized fields need practical experience to even be accepted into certain medical programs.

    3) Never borrow for your living expenses – that’s the mistake I made when I was in college. If you have to get a student loan, make sure it covers your tuition and books and find a way to live frugally. Get a part time job, rent a room, and don’t spend your loan proceeds after tuition is paid on partying, booze, drugs and trips to Cancun.

    4) If you can’t work, start your own business or website. You can start your own online business and earn money or at least free things that way. Whether it’s eBay, affiliate marketing, blogging, whatever – market yourself, your talents and your abilities. Do many things if you have to? I have tutored, walked dogs, been a waitress, worked in a retail store, and sold insurance when I was in college. At one time I held 2 to 3 jobs at once.

    5) Buy property. This is not for the squeamish. Some kids may have college savings to afford a down payment on a home. Either alone or with the help of their parents, they can put money down on a house or condo and rent out the rooms to offset the monthly mortgage payment. Bam! Just solved the housing cost issue. They graduate with property and something that brings in income if they move somewhere else after graduating.

  • addvodka

    Thank you for writing this. I’m so sick of hearing that people don’t need a degree because there are a few people in the world that made it that didn’t go to college. And I’m growing fatigued of hearing the constant drone of “do what you love” “find a way to make what you love into a career”.

    I couldn’t agree with you more that hobbies aren’t careers.

  • Pauline

    I think college is important for most of us, but many of my friends were pushed to study law or business, only to realize that they wanted to do something hands on, like masseuse or carpenter. Trades shouldn’t be frowned upon when you are in high school, too many people make the wrong career choice for fear that it is not prestigious enough.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      And it is a darn waste of time and money to brainwash kids into thinking trade schools are not just as valuable.
      I have a new post germinating in my mind on this topic!!!

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