How to Win in Business

This self-made millionaire says you don't have to go to college to get rich

Self-made millionaire James Altucher: Don't go to college
Self-made millionaire James Altucher: Don't go to college

James Altucher is an entrepreneur many times over as well as an investor, author, podcaster and self-made millionaire. Although he attended the Ivy League's Cornell University, his advice to young people looking to become wealthy is to skip college altogether.

"If you're eighteen years old and you want to think about, 'Well, how am I going to have millions of dollars later on?', the first thing I'll tell you to do is don't spend two hundred thousand dollars on a college degree and waste four years of your life," says Altucher, 49.

"Maybe that was good for your parents' generation, which means my generation. Maybe that was good ten years ago," he says. "It is no longer relevant right now."

James Altucher is a self-empowerment writer of books including "Choose Yourself" and "The Power of No."

Altucher says he ended up taking on "massive" debt to go to Cornell, where he majored in computer science. He then attended graduate school, though he dropped out before finishing the degree. He says he still didn't have the skills needed to enter the workforce.

"When I finally got a job, I was so bad at computer programming they had to send me to remedial classes for two months so I could be good enough to do the minimum required at my job," he explains. "So I'm not sure what I went to college for."

"Instead of going to college, young people can learn skills online, or by going to the library and reading books," says Altucher.

While going to college is still largely the cultural norm for those looking to enter the professional workforce, he says those expectations are starting to shift. "More and more companies are even saying you don't need a degree," he explains. "You need skills. So spend those four years learning skills."

This ultimate life hack fits inside your pocket
This ultimate life hack fits inside your pocket

Indeed, Adam Braun, the founder of the international school building organization Pencils of Promise, just launched his next entrepreneurial venture, MissionU. The goal of the one-year college alternative program is to get young people into high paying jobs debt free. Students receive skills training specifically designed to place them into the workforce.

MissionU corporate partners including Lyft, Warby Parker, Casper, Bonobos, Spotify and Harry's help establish the curriculum so that graduates have the skills employers need. Almost all of the brands have agreed to consider the program's graduates for jobs. In return, they will get first pick of its top talent.

While Altucher and Braun propose alternatives to college, earning a degree typically secures a more stable professional path. In the United States, adults who have one make more money and face lower unemployment rates than those who don't, according to federal government Labor Department data.

Why this millionaire threw out all of his belongings and lives in Airbnbs
Why this millionaire threw out all of his belongings and lives in Airbnbs

When it comes to his own 18 year old daughter, however, Altucher says he is going to try to convince her not to go to college. She knows how he feels about it. In fact, he's even published a book, "40 Alternatives to College," and an article, "Living Life is better than Dying in College."

Altucher also has a strategy to keep her from attending. "When she gets accepted to a college, I have a plan to maybe make her an alternative kind of Thiel Fellowship for my own children which, hopefully, she will go for," he says. "If she gets into college, I am going to offer her the Altucher Fellowship." (The Thiel Fellowship, funded by the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, offers students $100,000 to skip or drop out of college and pursue their entrepreneurial venture.)

The self-made millionaire says his daughter is an exceptional writer, therefore, he will pay her an advance to write a book of essays. He'll even help her self-publish the book on Amazon and market it after.

"Yes, that costs a little bit of money, but not as much money as college," Altucher says, "and it won't waste her time because I know she will be focused on something she already is good at."

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