Okay, so this myth is awfully specific. But let’s go with the general idea – you have a viable alternative to college, and it’s now or never. Either you start the rest of your life right this minute, or you put it off for four years and hope the investment pays off.
This quandary is the same one that plagues some college athletes who are given the chance to leave school early and become a professional in their chosen sport, thereby securing themselves a hefty sum for at least a year or two of pro ball, but minus a degree. Then, a year and a half later when they suffer a career-ending injury and have blown the money they did make on houses and cars they won’t be able to afford, they have to make the even tougher decision to go crawling back to school (we don’t really look at it that way, but they probably do) or to somehow make a living in the workforce with only a high school diploma. Most choose the latter, and while they may certainly find themselves a job that pays the mortgage, it won’t be a mortgage on a house in the Hamptons. A house in Compton, maybe. If you’re unfamiliar with the reference, that’s not a real great neighborhood. Not where you dream of ending up. And certainly more drive-by shootings than in that dream of the white picket fence.
Many high school students have to make a similar decision about a job that comes a-calling at the tail-end of senior year. Most of the time, the right answer is to skip it and go to college.
Not all of the time, but most of the time. The problem with being seduced by the immediate gratification of a job right out of high school is that there is no guarantee it will still be there for you five, ten or fifteen years down the road. The business may fold, you might be fired or laid off… who knows, maybe your factory or office building lies on a fault line and the whole thing gets swallowed up by an earthquake. The benefit of getting yourself a college education is that it supplies you with life skills - the tools you will need to get yourself out of one situation and into another, so that one disaster doesn’t have to mean the end of all financial stability.
One in a million of us may luck into inheriting a hugely successful company from our billionaire dad, but for most of us our earning potential is much greater with a college degree, even if you do keep that job you got right out of high school. Might take you a few (10-15) years to pay off the student loan debt, but when you consider that we’re living 80-90 years these days, it isn’t that much in the grand scheme of things. The difference may really hit you once you reach retirement age – maybe 75-80 if you’ve been plugging away in that small company since you were 18… maybe 50-55 if you went to business school and ran your own successful start-up for 30 years, possibly even younger if you are fortunate enough to make a killing on Wall Street. Of course, by then, it will be too late to do anything about it. And you may be too senile to even have the mental capacity to regret it.
You might have a very tempting carrot dangled in front of your nose straight out of high school, but resist the urge to take a nibble. You’ll be glad you did when you’re 57 and living with your wife and kids on your private beach in Antigua. At that point, you’ll be able to afford all the carrots you could possibly desire.