Ask a room which is better: money or education. In most cases, you’ll find the room to be fairly divided. Both sides of the argument have valid points about whether money or education is more important.
So is money better than education? Let’s take a look at the arguments for each side’s case.
1. Education Can Help You Make Money
If you get an education, you have opportunities to make money than other people might not have. Most senior level executive jobs these days require some sort of advanced degree, although some people can get there with less education if they have the right connections.
After all, we spend the first significant portion of our lives focused on education. Our education leading into adulthood prepares us for the work force or higher education. While advanced math classes may not help us in every job, the information and socialization that occurs in our primary school years can help us dramatically increase our ability to make money in the workforce.
When I was in high school, my mom didn’t want my sister and I to get jobs. She got a job when she was in her last two years of high school, and her A average turned into a C average. She didn’t want us to hurt our grade point averages and our chances at college by trying to earn a few bucks in our high school years.
Getting a degree can open up possibilities in certain fields, giving you the chance to earn more money. When my uncle got his Master’s degree, his job gave him an automatic raise for completing the program. Many jobs offer incentives for their employees to get more education.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
2. Money is Needed for Basic Expenses
However, you can’t get an education if you don’t have the money to take care of your most basic needs. You need some amount of money to afford the education that will allow you to make more money in the future.
Money is needed to live. If you want to eat, have housing, purchase clothing, and have things like a cell phone and internet access, you’ll need money. Even for students studying at a university level, some amount of income or savings is needed to survive.
Education, especially when completed at private colleges and universities, can be extremely expensive. While student loans don’t need to be paid back until you’ve completed school, the bill comes due eventually. If you aren’t prepared to make loan payments when you complete your degree, you may end up with penalties and massive interest fees.
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
– Robert Orben
3. Education Can’t Be Lost or Taken from You
When I was growing up, my grandma would always say, “You can lose money, but no one can take your education away from you.” She was raised dirt poor and attended a Catholic school because of an academic scholarship. Although she didn’t go on to study in college, she always valued learning and impressed its importance on us kids.
Someone acting as a devil’s advocate might argue that you can lose your education in the case of a brain injury or dementia. Certainly, those things can occur, resulting in loss of memory and mental function. However, barring any catastrophic brain injury, I can’t lose my education.
The things you’ve learned will stay with you no matter what. Even if you lose a great job, your education and job experience will help you to find work in the future. What you know can’t be taken away from you when an economic crisis hits. If you fall into debt because of hard times, you still won’t be stripped of your education.
“Education is one thing no one can take away from you.”
– Elin Nordegren
4. Money is the Reason Many People Get Education
Much of the narrative around the value of going to college and getting a degree is geared toward the idea that you’ll be able to make money more easily if you get a degree. For many people, education is a means to an end and that end is money.
If making money is your only motivation for entering a particular field, you might want to consider trade schools and other certifications that are available to allow a decent income. While people often look down on trade jobs like plumbing and electrical work, plumbers and electricians can often make significantly more than entry level positions right out of college.
Because they aren’t saddled with education debt, these workers can sometimes build wealth more easily than their educated counterparts.
We often hear about people who have managed to make extraordinary incomes, despite having very little education.
My grandpa and my father both made six figure incomes without college degrees. In fact, my father never even finished high school! But their on-the-job training and advancement within their company allowed them to create their own success.
Later, my grandpa and father worked together to run a company. Although their success happened before college degrees were needed for many entry-level jobs, their success is still extraordinary.
Education doesn’t make sense for people who want to work jobs that don’t require a college degree. If you’re able to work a job you love that can finance your lifestyle, there’s no need for you to go forward with more education. You can still focus on learning (through books, seminars, and on-the-job training) without needing further formal education.
“Formal education will make you a living. Self-education will make you a fortune.”
– Jim Rohn
5. Education Can Unlock Job Opportunities
There are some fields that require a lot of education. Even if they’re jobs that don’t pay well, the educational requirement is still worth it to people who feel compelled to fill these jobs.
For example, college professors do not always make a large salary. Although they can make a lot of money at some institutions, they typically take lower pay than peers with similar degrees. Most universities require their faculty professors to have doctorate degrees and their adjunct professors to have Master’s degrees.
If teaching at the university level is your desired job, you’ll need to fulfill the educational requirement. No amount of money or hard work outside of education will help you get this job.
“Education is the key that unlocks the golden door to freedom.”
– George Washington Carver
6. Money Can Provide Stability and Freedom
All of the education in the world won’t help you do certain things if you don’t have the financial means to chase after certain dreams.
If you have a dream to travel the world or build passive income from home, you’ll need the financial means to do so. Although education can help you build this kind of income, education does not always automatically mean you’re able to have stability or freedom.
Most financial advisors suggest that you build income from a variety of streams. For most people, the bulk of their income will be generated from their primary profession. However, income from stock portfolios or royalties from a book you’ve written can add additional streams of income.
When you have a lot of income from things like stocks or book sales, you do not need to put in much work to continue building your wealth. This is what many people call “passive income.”
Passive income provides you with the freedom to spend your time chasing your passions or your pet projects. It allows you the freedom to be a stay-at-home parent or to travel the world. While education can certainly contribute to this, it’s really only money in the bank that gives you this kind of freedom.
“Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace.”
Conclusion: It Depends on What You Want in Life
I wish I could give a clear and neat answer about whether money or education is more important. But the truth is that whether money or education matters more depends on what matters the most to you. If you’re only getting education so you can make more money, it might make sense for you to find a job that doesn’t require extensive education.
There are also jobs that will require a lot of education for little to no pay. I just completed my Master’s degree this past spring, and lots of people have asked if that means I’ll be able to get a pay raise. Because my chosen field is in chaplaincy, jobs are often either low or volunteer pay.
The sense of calling I have for this job is what has driven me to get the education required to do the work. My desire to fulfill this call has outweighed my desire for money at almost every turn.
I admit that I’ve been privileged. I’ve had the money to pay for school. Others without that privilege may desire the same educational opportunities I’ve had but find themselves unable to afford it.
Whether money or education is more important is really up to you. So what’s more important: money or education?