Is anything in life priceless? Should we spend millions of dollars searching for a lost hiker? If not, at what cost do we suspend the search? Is there a limit to what we should spend on medical services to help a sick loved one? If so, what’s the spending limit? And more to the point of this article, is a college education worth any price? As important as I view an education, I’m starting to question its financial value. Here’s why–
In 1979 I had $70,000 in the bank. I was in the 8th grade. How I got the money (though I’m sure you’re curious) is not important. Let’s just say I lost something that money can’t replace. Anyway, the money went into CDs, and I dutifully spent it on my education a few years later. The other day I got to wondering what that $70k would be worth today if instead of buying an education, I bought shares of an S&P 500 index fund. Assuming a 12% annual rate of return, my $70k would be worth today a whopping $1.67 million ($1,671,870.65 to be exact). Now while my portfolio is coming along just fine, it has yet to reach such lofty heights. So the question is, would I have been better off passing on an education and investing my $70k instead? I think probably not, and here’s why.
First, knowing who I am, I think it unlikely that I would have had the discipline to keep the $70K invested all those years. Particularly in my younger years, I likely would have frittered it away. Second, I do believe there is value in an education that is difficult to measure in dollars. That’s not to say its priceless, but we have only one life to live, and for me, a college education has made my life more meaningful. This, of course, won’t be true for everybody. But the real question comes down to this–would I exchange my career and education for $1.67 million today if I could. It’s easy to say yes and that might be my answer. But somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I wonder if I wouldn’t ultimately regret such a decision.
What about you? Has the cost of your education been worth the price?
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a group of guys, five to be exact, who chose business over an education. I guess they took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.