I recently played “The Game of Life” for the first time in decades with my two older sons.
We were sitting around the board at the dining room table, and it hit me how realistic this game can be. Players have to make big “life” decisions that ultimately help determine whether you win or lose.
For this game, players have to make the same tough choices that many of us have to make in the real world – should we take less money now in hopes of eventually making more money down the road? Or should we start accumulating cash immediately, but know we may not be able to make as much money later on?
Making the wrong choice in a board game may only cost you a little pride… but making the wrong choice in the real world could cost you millions of very real dollars.
Even with the student loan crisis hanging over this country, I continue to see study after study showing that people who attend college out earn those who don’t.
In fact, last year according to the Labor Department Statistics by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, the pay gap between those with a four-year degree and those without reached a record high. Those with college degrees were making an average of 98 percent more an hour in 2013 than those without a degree.
While it seems clear to me that a college degree will help set you on the path to winning at the real game of life, I’m not recommending students pick up unnecessary student loan debt.
On Sunday after my radio show, I was talking with one of my WSB colleagues about how his daughter was deciding on colleges right now. She was apparently debating between attending the University of North Carolina (my alma mater!) and Duke. Both excellent schools, and not just because I’m biased. UNC is named the number one best value for a public college education by Kiplinger while Duke is ranked as number five for private universities.
While these are both good schools, their prices are very different. Out of state costs for UNC are about $33,600 per year just for tuition and fees. Duke, on the other hand, costs around $47,500 for tuition and fees each year. Duke’s yearly cost is actually 41 percent higher than UNC’s! The less expensive route would be my recommendation, and should serve as an example for other similar choices that you may face in choosing schools.
For those of you who are at a similar place in life as my friend’s daughter, Wallethub has just released their 2015 Entry-Level Jobs Report, looking at the best and worst positions available now based on money, quality and potential. It’s interesting to note that five out of the top 10 jobs are in technology and programming. They also helpfully point out which careers in the coming years are more likely to continue to see growth.
This is a great resource when discussing and deciding on what you want to study in college. The money you spend on your school should be looked at as an investment. Paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a degree should make substantial economic sense.
There are no cut and dry rules on how to win at the actual game of life, and “getting your money back” from your education isn’t the only thing to consider. However, I believe that a solid education that makes financial sense for you and your family will set you on a path for a brighter financial future.
Certified financial planner Wes Moss offers financial and accessible investment advice to Atlanta Bargain Hunter readers.