Robert Farrington wants you to think before you click the button and accept your student loans.
Getting an education is an investment and you should spend some time thinking about what you’re investing in and what kind of return your investment will provide.
For example, you may not even need a degree at all to work somewhere you like and that pays well. You may need a degree to get promotions and more responsibility but that might not be until later and who knows, your employer might even help pay for your schooling.
We have been brainwashed over the years that to get a “good” job you have to spend a lot of money on school, and then eat ramen noodles while living in a tiny apartment and work 12 hour days to repay your loans.
After the interview with Robert I realized that some part of me is still brainwashed, and it actually scared me a little.
Robert worked at Target for over 16 years. He mentioned this right at the beginning of the interview and I totally didn’t hear him say that he only stopped working there 2 years ago.
So I kept asking him questions like “So what was your next job” not fully comprehending that he was always at Target until he decided he was making enough from his side hustles and he wanted to spend more time with his family.
I realized that there’s this part of me that still finds it hard to believe that someone would work in retail for that long and it’s scary to think that I have these notions in my brain somewhere, when I don’t actively believe this is true. But on auto-pilot, the notion that guided me to my next questions were that he must have got a better job. No one works at Target for 16 years. It really sucks but it seems I’ve been brainwashed to think that this is not a good job, without even knowing what it is that Robert even did for 16 years.
Of course there are people who spend their whole lives in retail and are very happy. Robert actually ended up with a lot of responsibility, managing several hundred employees and millions in sales. But he shouldn’t be any less valuable to me as a human being if he simply pushed carts and stocked shelves for 16 years instead. Especially when on the side he was building a web empire that now has millions of visitors per month.
Even more ironic is that I’ve been driving for Uber since last September. And I’m sure there are people that think it’s odd that someone with a university degree and 15 years working in accounting and finance would be an Uber driver. But I actually really like it and it fits with my flexible schedule.
I decided that even though it makes me seem like a classist jerk, I needed to talk about this. Maybe you do this too and you don’t even realize it. Talking about it openly is the only way to shake off these archaic notions about what is good or bad, what is the right path and all the other societal norms that seem to only cause us to spend money we don’t have and take jobs we don’t want.
So as Robert suggests, before we just press a button and fund our future with debt, we need to spend more time thinking about what it is we want. Are you going to be able to pay back this debt? What kind of job will you get after you graduate? If you’re going to take on tens of thousands in debt, shouldn’t you at least have a general answer to these questions? Why is the default: get the loan and figure it out later.
Personally I think we have it all backwards. We should try working in jobs in our areas of interest or curiosity, make some money, and then take whatever training or schooling is necessary to move forward in that area of work, if we enjoy it.
Why is a 4 year degree the thing that everyone cares about? Logically it doesn’t make sense.
Most people hire someone who works well with others and then train them how to do the job.
We’re focusing on the wrong things and it’s creating a society that is trapped by huge amounts of debt.
As Robert wrote in a recent post on his site The College Investor, student loans should be your last option. If you do decide that you want to go to school before you have enough money to pay for it, there are so many options to explore before going straight to student loans. If you or someone in your family is in the process of deciding how to pay for school, I fully recommend going to thecollegeinvestor.com and reading everything.
Robert joined me from his home in Southern California to share his personal finance story.
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