Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Your Information Diet

You are what you eat, right?  Well, your choices are based on what you consume also.

Feeding your mind and thinking critically will allow you to know the broader choices available to you.  Kind of important if you're going to spend the equivalent of a mortgage to reach your goal.

The Information Diet is what you feed your mind.  If there are big choices in your future, get data from many sources, starting with those that go against what you think or believe.  Humans will always emphasize data that confirms their already-held beliefs.  You need to expand your information pool to make good choices.

This blog is not about ignoring an education.  What people don't understand is that education is about being able to read a book and learn how to do something.  And it is not supposed to end, especially when our culture and economy is changing as fast as it is.

This blog is about getting an education about you:  what you want, where that is, and how you can get it.

If you are the typical high school student in the United States, the idea of college is drummed into you as the only choice to reach the middle class.  If by "middle class" they mean exposure to new ideas, reading certain books and discussing them, getting to know people from different backgrounds, that is a large part of being middle class in America.  If "middle class" means salary level to you, you don't really know what the middle class is.

The idea of college is also sold as a means to get to a certain level of material comfort and success.

Question that assumption.

Behind the sales pitch for college is the thought that college graduates cannot be replaced by computers.  No longer true.  Lawyers are being replaced by computers. Right now.  Not some far off, fairy land of full-time leisure.  People with mammoth student loan debts, those with teenagers and a mortgage are finding a living is not easy to make in the legal field.

To get past the messages that tell you to incur debt, that college is a must, that there is no choice, take a risk.  Allow yourself to consume, eat, other information sources besides the ones being thrown at you.

Look around you.  Talk to people about what they are doing and what it is like.  Ask them how they got there.

It is a truism that you always learn more from your enemies about yourself than your friends.  Your enemies will question your assumptions and force you to articulate ideas you took for granted.  Do that now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What Do You Want? Does College Give It To You?

When you are making career and education choices, you are usually young.  That means you have spent years being fed what other people think is best for you. 

There is an aspect of career choice that I never hear about: how you spend your day.

Any job choice comes with certain tasks.  A nurse walks around all day.  A salesman interacts with people and tries to talk them into buying goods or services.  A plumber interacts with a distressed public in panic mode.  A lawyer spends many hours sitting still, reading and writing.

What do you want your day to look like?

Do you want to walk around most of the day?

Do you like every day to be a different challenge?

Do you want to sit still and concentrate without interruption?

Do you want to combine working alone with meeting with people several times a week?

Do you get upset if people yell at you and hang up their phone?  Or can you shrug your shoulders and just make another phone call?

These are the most important questions to ask yourself about how to earn a living.  The content of the work day is a rhythm of movement and communications.  And you don't really have a good idea of the answers to the above questions.

You probably know - very well - the answers that the people around you want to have.  And it usually involves something that lands you in the middle class and economic security.  That's OK, if that is what you need to succeed.

But there are so many options for people who don't want to go to college.  Or who don't want the debt.

That is what this book is about:  your choices.  And the first questions to answer are about yourself.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Success Formula: College Reexamined

When you buy something on credit, by either taking out a loan or using a credit card, you will pay interest.  Interest is the cost of using someone else's money.  Hopefully, you will be buying something useful that will in turn earn you money.  When you do that, you need to be making more money than what you paid in interest to borrow the money in the first place.

This is basic business common sense.

However, when it comes to student loans, people throw common sense out of the window. 

You are purchasing something as expensive as a house without looking at its monthly payment, how much income you can expect, what other similar houses would cost nearby, or if there is a resell market for that type of house at all.

But still, there is a huge industry, making huge money, trying to convince you to borrow money to go to college.  And the message doesn't even have room for debate.  There's no critical thinking questions like: should I go to college?  why should I go to college?  what are alternatives?  what are the strengths and weaknesses of getting a college degree?

This blog, and this book, address this essential question:  Why college?

Buying a college degree means different things to different people.  Some think you are only middle class if you have at least a four year degree.  Others think there is no good jobs unless you get a college degree.  Think whatever you want.  It doesn't change the financial analysis you have to go through:  Revenue - Cost = Profit.

Figure out these numbers before you sign for student loans.  I didn't, and regretted it until my mid-Forties, when the last of my student loans were paid off.

Friday, September 25, 2015

You Have a Choice

Traditional American success has ALWAYS been living debt-free, having a family and a business. Successful Americans were honest and humble.  Bragging was viewed as classless and tacky.

It has NEVER been:  getting into debt, having fancy toys, impressing other people. 

Somewhere American values changed.  No coincidence that commercial messages tell you to buy stuff on credit.  A lot of profit is made telling you to borrow money. 

Buying on credit used to be abhorrent to Americans.  That attitude changed when mortgages became affordable as 30 year mortgages around World War II.  And a decided advertising push made credit card debt socially acceptable.

This change in attitude conveyed to education.

That worked fine for a while.  The recent college graduate could rely on a healthy economy to get a job and pay the money back.

I don't know if you've noticed, but those days are done.

My experience with systems engineering, systems testing, as an attorney in the foreclosure crisis and as someone who paid over $1000 a month until her mid-forties allows me to give you the benefit of hindsight.

Please listen.