That’s right – I paid $170k to earn my bachelor’s and a master’s degrees. I spent plenty of time feeling sorry for myself after graduating, ashamed of how irresponsible I was by not considering the costs. But that was before I watched Lewis Howes interview Jay Shetty. It was then that I realized paying $170k to attend a top-25 college was the best mistake I ever made.
Being an habitual multi-tasker (it’s a terrible habit), I was doing some work while listening to Lewis’ podcast and Jay Shetty was speaking about his upbringing. He described how growing up in London, he didn’t see Asians in sports, the media, or much of anything really, besides medicine, business, and law.
He summed up his point with one distinctive statement: “you can’t be what you can’t see.”
I don’t care where you stand on nature vs. nurture – they both play a role in how humans develop. Our environment creates the stage we live on; it provides the actors and props that shape our thinking, our goals, our lives.
I’m a middle class guy from New Hampshire. My friends’ parents weren’t CEOs, they didn’t own large businesses, and they didn’t own places in The Hamptons. If you asked me or any of my friends what we wanted to do with our lives, you’d find out pretty quickly we didn’t have a damn clue.
Once I stepped foot on campus at Wake Forest, things changed. My entire perspective of the world got flipped on its head, and looking back, that’s exactly what I needed.
4 Reasons Why Paying $170k for a Fancy College Was the Best Mistake I Ever Made
The students pursued careers I didn’t know existed
News flash: most high school students aren’t aware of how large and diverse the economy truly is. It’s tough to pick a career path when you’re not sure what’s out there!
The students at Wake Forest opened my eyes to a world of new possibilities. As freshmen, my classmates were networking, interviewing, and seeking internships to become investment bankers, auditors, consultants and marketers.
Meanwhile, I was focused on getting good grades.
As Jim Rohn famously said, we’re the average of the five people we spend the most time with. After a while, the habits of the other students started to rub off on me. Unwilling to be left behind, I networked more. I landed more interviews. I pushed myself in ways that I wasn’t yet comfortable with and wasn’t prepared for.
In this experience, I realized that investment banking wasn’t for me. However, I developed a clearer picture of what I wanted my career to look like (I didn’t know it’d go this direction, though).
I know students all over the country are job-seeking all the time. What I also know is that not every student population is competing for the same type of job. You can’t be what you can’t see…
By attending Wake Forest, I started my career with greater awareness, ambition, and expectations. I like that.
I became comfortable around wealth
I believe in the law of attraction. If you want to be wealthy, you first need to welcome the idea of wealth into your mind – you need to be comfortable with it.
Before I went to college, I hadn’t interacted with many wealthy people. In fact, most of what I had heard about money was rather negative. We’ve all heard it before: “money doesn’t buy happiness,” “rich people are jerks,” etc. I always questioned those notions, especially since I never heard anyone get upset about a pay raise.
Being around a more affluent population in college gave me a new perspective on the matter. Wealthy people don’t want to destroy the world, they’re just doing what’s in the best interest of their families like everybody else.
When you’re comfortable with the idea of wealth and understand the dynamic it plays in society, it not only helps you socially – it helps you professionally as well. f you go through life resenting rich people, will you interview well with a wealthy CEO? Will you be a good salesman for well-off customers? Could you thrive on teams with rich people?
The answer is no.
I get it – $170k is a lot to spend on a college education just to learn to like people with money. Personally, I think that’s a lesson worth learning sooner than later.
I needed to urgently pursue a higher income
It’s safe to say that starting my first full-time job with $170k in student loans was a wake up call for my finances.
Like most people, I wanted to build wealth in my 20s while enjoying the freedoms of being a young professional. Instead, I found myself working my ass off and devoting all of my paycheck to loan payments.
For that reason, the 1st and 15th of each month have been as bittersweet as can be. On one hand, I’m excited to get one step closer to being debt free. On the other hand, I’m not keeping any of the money I’m working for! So what have I done to speed up this process?
Work even harder.
The higher my income, the faster I can pay off these damn loans. In my short career, I’ve taken every opportunity to advance my skill set and add more value because I can’t wait for the day when I can invest my paycheck and start letting it work in my favor.
I’m still enjoying myself along the way (sanity: check), but I didn’t have the luxury of being able to start my career cruise control. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I realized how serious the student debt crisis really is
As I was entering college in 2009, the student debt crisis was just gaining notoriety. It might as well have been a fairy tale for all I cared. In my mind, I was attending the best school I could because it’d give me the best chance to have a great career. Loans? I’d be able to pay them back no problem.
Nowadays, I feel like the poster child for the student loan crisis. A 27-year old guy living with his parents. Sweet life, right?
Yes – I made some mistakes that I’m paying for, but as a community, we all need to do better. We owe it to these high school students to put them in a better position to succeed. Since the public schools won’t help, I will. I know what these students need because I’ve lived it.
I can help fix this problem.
High-school students need to learn crucial personal finance concepts. College students need better career skills training. Home at 30 is working hard to provide resources in these areas.
I came up with the name Home at 30 because I want to remind young people of what can happen if they don’t start evaluating everything today. Don’t wait for tomorrow and don’t expect other people to do it for you.
Debt is no joke – take it from the 27 year-old who lives with his parents.
I’m not advocating for students to jump into a bunch of debt with their eyes closed like I did, and no – Wake Forest isn’t the only school that could have taught me these lessons. However, when you like where you’re at in life, it’s tough to question the road that brought you there.
I just hope I can help some students learn the same lessons I did without making a $170k mistake.
You can’t be what you can’t see.
I see that much more clearly now.
All opinions expressed on this blog are solely those of Home at 30 and are in no way affiliated with any other organization or institution. The purpose of this blog is to give general education and information about investing, wealth, careers, and college; It is not intended to be professional advice.
Author: Josh Ramos
After earning an undergraduate degree in Economics and a Master of Arts in Management at Wake Forest University, Josh has paid off over $110k in student loan debt in 4 years. By founding Home at 30, Josh wants to help you make the most of college, build a successful career, and achieve financial independence.