Grades Do Not Guarantee Success With Money

Stress Over College Options

This past weekend, we were at the park for a photo shoot. Daughter_02 was recently diagnosed with a neurological disorder (for more info, check out What is AS?). She is being featured in a local article which will promote awareness for kids with disabilities.

As the session ended and we were getting packed up, the photographer and coordinator entered into a very familiar discussion. Their teenagers were graduating highschool, so it was time to compare grades, college choices, etc. There was some serious stress being communicated about grades and strengths and weaknesses of various colleges.

It got me thinking.

Consider the Outcomes

Excellent grades, college choice, degree – insert any educational buzz term – do not guarantee success.

If that were true, then the people who go to the best schools and make the best grades would be the most successful in life, right? And we know that just isn’t true.

There are plenty of hard working people who completely skipped the coursework, hit the grindstone, and made a successful living. Similarly, there are plenty of straight-A students who can’t find and keep a good job to save their lives. The same goes for those who under-perform at work on a daily basis. I work with many of them…so do you.

A Little About Me

I graduated highschool with a 2.9 GPA. I didn’t take the SAT or the ACT. I didn’t go to a big college in my first year. I went to a technical college, spent a year there, got a B average and qualified for a basic state scholarship that paid a few thousand dollars per semester, and then transferred to the big university of my state.

Three years later, I dropped out of that school to take my first real job. I took F’s for four classes because I didn’t think to withdraw with a ‘W’. Years later, I decided to go back to school while working to finish my degree. I went back on academic probation with a 1.9 GPA.

Fast forward 10 years from the day I dropped out, and I am completely debt-free with an Associates, Bachelors, and even an MBA. My first job paid for my AS, and my current job paid for my MBA. I cashflowed my Bachelors degree while working and paying off debt. At 31 years old, my net worth should crack $500K this year, and I share this with you only because I want you to understand where I think success happens.

Success Starts and Ends With YOU.

Regardless of your educational pedigree, at the end of the day, if you can’t deliver, you will not be successful.

This statement can be applied to both paying off debt and finding success in generating income, whether it’s working a 9-5 or owning your own business. Sure, there is some luck involved, but ultimately the school your kids choose (or you choose, if you are a student) will matter little if they do not know how to work hard and think for themselves.

Trade Schools and Highly Skilled Professions

This is not to say that choosing a school which offers the right education for a specific field is a bad thing. Obtaining a good education on a trade skill is a perfect way to prepare someone to go out and APPLY that knowledge and be compensated for it.

There are plenty of professions which require specific training, and those professions can be some of the highest paying professions around. However, good luck being successful with any degree without being able to think, work hard, and add value in your job.

So What? Implications

Let’s call it what it is: education; and what it is not: job success. Education is a tool to be wielded. If I could suggest a few key areas of education you could invest time, where I think the school system does a poor job: Personal Finance and Budgeting, Time Management, Real Estate(basics), and hey I’ll throw in an elective: Long Distance Relationships Don’t Work.

From a financial perspective, try to get education done as economically as you can. Consider spending two years at a technical school and then transferring to a four-year school. Stay off-campus, at home, or get a few roommates in an apartment. Consider getting a job where tuition is reimbursed. Once you have 3-4 years of work experience, your education becomes less valuable anyway.

What is your success story? Was it because of high school grades, college choice, hard work, all the above?

9 Replies to “Grades Do Not Guarantee Success With Money”

  1. Great story! Congrats on your success. All about that hard work and some luck along the way! I have a degree, but I damn sure was a C student, I got it debt free at a local community college. Currently studying for my Masters — also getting debt free.

    Here’s a fun one. My hubs is an executive at a university and has NO DEGREE at all. Just a HS diploma. And no he’s not 60 years old and worked his way from the bottom. Just a smart hard working guy in his 30s. People think I’m crazy when I say I’m not pushing my kids into college. I just don’t think it’s needed unless you need a specific trade (like my degree is in nursing).

    1. Hey Audrey, yeah I have seen some articles lately suggesting that degrees will continue to be less influential as time continues, and I happen to agree. Obviously, it depends a lot on the field, but there are always exceptions to those rules as well, like your husband. Even if you think the degree is a “checkbox”, heck, save as much money as possible while getting it… stay in state, live at home, or find a way to room with multiple students.

  2. I always thought grades were only important if you wanted to go to grad school. Good grade show you’re really good at succeeding under a set of defined parameters. But otherwise, it’s not like anyone ever asks you for your GPA on your resume unless you’re in finance, etc. so I feel like you can get a couple F’s on your transcript and emerge unscathed.

    Curious–do you think your grades affected your MBA school choice?

    In terms of what defined my success, I think it was being self-reliant from an early age. My parents left us kids home alone as early as 4 years old (thank god no one called Child Protective Services). Not everything was a walk in the park, but we learned how to be curious, to try things and not be afraid to fail, and how to adapt. I think the soft skills is where it’s at in terms of success today.

    And I don’t think school is for everybody. I think this is especially true for creative people. I did fine in school, but my sister dropped out of high school. She started working low-paying jobs at flower shops and now she’s a successful floral designer.

    1. Hey Luxe Strategist, I definitely agree that grades only matter in very few professions, or if you are attempting to get into a second school (MBA, med school, PHD, other).

      I went back to school with something like a 1.8, and straight A’s got me up to a 3.0, on the dot. It came down to the final class. I’m not sure where I could have potentially gone for my MBA, but since I live in South Carolina, it was definitely going to be Univ. of South Carolina’s MBA program, which is pretty solid. Honestly, I didn’t even consider other schools! USC required a certain GRE score, some references, and an essay (if I recall correctly).

      I agree that completing a degree simply shows that you can fit well into a system and follow instructions. I think it also shows that you can start and finish something. Like yourself, I know so many people who are successful without having the same level of education I have. Great thoughts, thanks for sharing! Talk to you soon.

  3. Woo! Nice job cracking 500K! That is e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t!

    I had really great grades all throughout school. I was nerdy and overachieving and I made $40K when I got out of university (that included modeling part time.) Pretty disappointing. I was depressed. Then I met my hubby who made great money and I “semi-retired.” I would say he liked me for my smarts but it’s probably because I wasn’t ogre looking.

    That’s just 100% my opinion, it’s not encouraged or a great feel good story but I don’t hate my life and I didn’t get here because I had a high GPA.

    1. Glad you met someone who was successful! What about your husband’s education and background? Your individual story is testament to the fact that spending a ton of time worrying about what school you go to is just not effective.

  4. While I agree with you that, in general, grades do not guarantee job or financial success, there are certain careers where grades are very important and they should not be downplayed.

    If you want to attend a top graduate school, your grades will be a huge determining factor. Graduating from a top school is no predictor of your personal finances however. That has more to do with your personal choices.

    If you want to attend a medical school in the US, for instance, it is extremely competitive. Not everyone will want to become a doctor, of course, but anyone who does better understand that grades matter.

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