Is it Better to Get a Job at McDonalds Than go to College?

You can give up or you can stand up. ~ Unknown

For as long as I can remember, working at McDonalds was a running joke as in, “Well, if you cannot get a good job (or you get fired), you can always go to work at McDonalds.” McDonalds, of course, being a metaphor for an entry level job requiring little-to-no education and skills—a job that anybody could get, any time they wanted.

There is no way to answer the question above with complete certainty. And surely the correct answer depends almost entirely on what college and what major. But when all things are considered, it may be a tougher decision than you imagine.

While a full time entry level job at McDonalds only pays about $18,000 per year, after one promotion to manager the stakes rise to $36,000 per year. This comes with a full slate of benefits, including healthcare. If a conscientious person were to start at McDonalds and get promoted after two years, their four year take home would be about $108,000.

Now let’s take a look at college. The average cost of a public four-year in-state tuition is approximately $21,000 per year. It is twice that much for a private school. The total cost for four years is $84,000, meaning the gross difference between going to college and going to McDonalds is $192,000 in the first four years.

Whether the college graduate has the opportunity to make up that amount over time depends on too many factors. And I will not take this opportunity to flood you with unemployment statistics for recent college graduates today, many of whom are ironically “working at McDonalds.” I will not do it because economies change and because there is something else I want you to consider. Something that cannot easily be quantified in the battle between burgers and diplomas, but is very real.

The biggest knock on colleges today is their lack of hands-on experience. You may learn the theory of finance or engineering at college, but rarely will you bring any skills into the workplace. Contrast that to working at McDonalds. Not only will you get real world experience, but you will get something else much more valuable which is lost on all but a few people who actually work there.

Working at McDonalds affords you the opportunity to get an inside look at one of the best run companies in the world. You can learn first hand about customer service, food service, inventory management, process management, human resources, just-in-time delivery. It is an entrepreneur’s dream; getting paid while learning how to run a business. If my goal were to own a restaurant (or any consumer-facing company), working four years at McDonalds would be far more valuable than anything college could offer.

Debt free, cash in the bank, medical coverage, four years of work expense (including possibly management) and a chance to get an unmatched business education. Now how would you answer that question?

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Exposing the Federal Reserve – A Must See

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong. ~ Dr. Thomas Sowell

This video covers a 100+ years of banking history in under 30 minutes. Very well done.  A must see.

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How to Get a Stellar Credit Rating

You will never be as good as you are as when you are broke. ~ Carl Weisman

I recently went to purchase some bedroom furniture from one of the national retail chains. They had a deal that was too good to turn down. The deal was, if I applied for their in-store credit card and put my purchase on that card, I could take up to one year to pay it back, interest free.

I did not need to the put the purchase on credit, I could have paid cash. And I certainly did not need another credit card, but several thousand dollars interest free for a year, I would be crazy not to, so I did. Of course before I could get the credit, I had to give the sales clerk my social security number and she had to run a credit worthiness check on me—you know, the FICO score.

The score came back 845 or some such number. I did not pay particular attention to the number. But I do recall the sales clerk telling my that my credit score put me in the hundred percentile. Basically, I was as good a credit risk as there is.

Now with a score like that you might think I had the wealth of Bill Gates. Regrettably I don’t. Which just goes to show you that it is not you wealth that gets you a high credit score, but your (historically derived) trustworthiness.

What is interesting is not that my credit score is so high. What is interesting is that I “earned” that score during the worst financial period of my life. I had little to no income and owed thousands of dollars to the IRS and a few credit cards. It was how I chose to deal with those debts that created my “trustworthiness.”

At the time of my deep indebtedness, it was during a period, like now, with low interest rates. There were a lot of credit cards that offered twelve month teaser rates on balance transfers. Some offered 1.99%, but others offered 0%. Now there was almost always a transfer fee of $50 or so, but when you owe five or ten thousand dollars on a credit card, paying $50 for 0% interest is a steal. So that is what I did, year after year. Always transferring the balance to a new card just as the old card’s teaser rate was about to expire. And all the time paying whatever I could, usually a couple hundred dollars, month after month. During all those years it took to pay off my debts, the very last thing on my mind was my credit score. I was trying to get out of debt, not take on more. It just so happened that a byproduct of my financial gymnastics displayed to the financial gods my trustworthiness and boosted the heck out of my credit score.

I never expect to be in that financial condition again, but it taught me a lot. If I owed $50,000 to fifty different creditors and all I had in my checking account was $50, I would send each of them a buck toward my debt. It may not save my credit rating, but it would let them know I am alive, I have not forgotten them, I care about what I owe them and that I can be trusted to pay them back, eventually. After all, credit worthiness is not about money, it’s about trust.

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21 Ways Rich People Think Differently

How you go about investing is more important than what stock you buy. ~ Porter Stansberry

21 Ways Rich People Think Different is a terrific article about how rich people think. Some of the items in the list are pretty self evident, but one of them really sticks out, at least in my mind, as being powerfully insightful:

15. Average people would rather be entertained than educated. Rich people would rather be educated than entertained.

Things that count as entertainment including watching TV, watching sports, playing video games, most of the time spent on Facebook, and, sadly, reading fiction.  Things that come under the heading of education include reading (almost anything but fiction), researching something, attending class, watching documentaries and conducting an experiment.

So now that you know how rich people think, how do you intend to spend most of your free time?


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How to Instantly Increase Your Self Reliance

Creation is a better form of self expression than consumption. ~ Unknown

Need less stuff.

I never gave it much thought before now, but an insightful post by Louis René Beres writing on the Oxford University Press blog makes a good point: a dramatic contributor to our economic woes and inability as a society to achieve true self reliance is our insatiable appetite to consume. At the simplest level, it must make sense to everyone: it is easier to rely on yourself for the things you need if you “need” less things.

Needing things has long ceased being about survival for most of us. Needing things, today, is ultimately about self image. “We Americans are presumed to be what we buy,” according Mr. Beres. And for most of us, he is right. I have been as guilty as anyone else.

As I age I do have a strong desire to stop the “embarrassing foolishness of linking feelings of self-worth to ownership of shiny good.” Not just because it can increase my self reliance, but because I also now understand the fundamental nature of diminishing returns of those shiny goods. They make you less and less happy as time goes by. The first iPhone is exciting; the fifth one is just a phone.

Do you know what is exciting? That new car smell. Do you what is more exciting? Not having to make a car payment of several hundred dollars for the next five years. I drive a six year old SUV that is paid in full. It still looks fine and drives okay. I am not sure what my neighbors think of me, but I can tell you I sleep good at night. No matter what unforeseen financial calamity happens to me, I own that vehicle. And it will provide transportation for me for the next ten years if need be. That as an internal feeling of contentment that no outward validation of worth can overcome.

The day you stop caring about what others think about what you own is the day you take the first step on the path of self reliance. As is aptly pointed out in the blog post, “Until we can finally get a handle on the insatiable public need for “stuff” as validation, our economic and political problems will not go away.”

I could not have said it better myself. Now go out and don’t buy anything.

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Self-Reliance vs. The Entitlement Society – Topix

Thanks Raconteur at Topix for the entertaining and enlightening Disney cartoon.

In 1934, Walt Disney produced this animated version of an old Aesop Fable,“The Grasshopper and the Ants.” The Walt Disney version has a happy ending, with those of the work ethic, represented by the ants, being forgiving, compassionate and benevolent toward the entitlement society, as epitomized by the deadbeat grasshopper.

However, in the ancient and original version by Aesop, the ephemeral, carefree grasshopper perishes, which, in true life, is exactly what happens to the grasshoppers each winter. This famous cartoon used to be shown in theatres for several decades—about up until the election of the first entitlement president, LBJ, when the medium seemed to become politically incorrect.

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Why Are You Here?

The surest way to self reliance is to make money doing what you love. ~ Carl Weisman

Why are you here? Not, why are you here visiting this blog, although thank you for doing so. Why are you here? On planet Earth? At this moment in time? Have you ever thought about that? Most people haven’t, which is too bad.

Some people know why they are here and they have always known. I have often thought that the greatest gift you can ever been given is to know your life’s purpose at a young age. The problem is that only a precious few receive that gift. You know them: Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Yo-Yo Ma. They never question how they spend their days. For the rest of  us, it is a—sometimes lifelong—journey, if we choose to embark on it at all: what is our life’s purpose?

How important you think the answer to that question is depends almost entirely on your age. In your twenties? Who cares, pass the beer. In your fifties? Can’t sleep at night not knowing the answer. Time is running out.

If you are like most people, myself included, the way you spend your days is one giant amalgamation of random events. Maybe it was the major you casually chose in college, or some part time job you took one summer or some charity at which you volunteered. Whatever the circumstance, most of us are in a place we did not thoughtfully or consciously choose. Life chose for us, and we dare not change because we are too busy trying to make ends meet.

When you are trying to make ends meet, it is difficult to ponder the question, “Why am I here?” But if you are struggling to make ends meet, either financially or emotionally, have you ever considered that not knowing the answer to that question maybe the reason why?

Half the people I speak with over the age of fifty cannot wait until the day they retire. Do you know why? They hate the way they spend their days. They want to do something else. They are  not living their life’s purpose.

I have spent the better part of the last five years searching for my life’s purpose (as if it were some treasure, just waiting to be dug up). Am I living it today? I am not sure. I can tell you what I have done in the last five years. I have acknowledged my strengths, identified my passions, narrowed down my genius and I now spend my free time doing what I love: writing. And one more thing: I will never stop looking. The answer is just too important.

I would like to think that sharing what I have learned on this journey is my life’s purpose, along the way inspiring others to discover theirs. Maybe, maybe not. In the mean time, I am pretty happy doing what I am doing and I have a vision for so much more. All the result of the continuous search for meaning. Maybe that’s the key: identifying your passion isn’t a destination but a journey. And there is one thing I am sure of: they key to your happiness and fulfillment depends on your being true to your journey and not anybody else’s. Are you ready to take that ride?

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