My Biggest Financial Mistake was Graduating from College

Why following the conventional path isn’t always the safest bet.


Adam J. Cheshier

3 years ago | 3 min read

I shouldn’t have gone to college. There, I’ll say it.

One of the most important choices a young adult makes on their financial journey is whether or not to go to university. Especially in the United States where it’s so easy to fall into years of student debt for nothing.

My biggest advice; have a clear motive for university and make sure it is advantageous to your plan.

I regret that I spent $40k on four years of university. Luckily, I was working during those years and was able to graduate debt-free.

To this day, five years later, I’ve still never spoken about my education with a potential client. They don’t ask about it!

If I would have known I’d move straight into content writing after graduation, I don’t think I would consider a degree as crucial to my success. Thus, I would have saved a lot of money I could’ve invested.

One of my recent favorite past-times is to play with compound interest calculators. I love to tinker with the numbers and play with possibilities. All to decrease my time to financial independence.

In this case, I could have pocketed the $40k I had earned from working. Instead of giving it to a university in exchange for a piece of paper I never used. If I would have, it could have yielded substantial gains in the past five years.

Here, look:

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At an 8% annual gain, over a five-year span, an initial investment compounded yearly would be over $58k now. That sounds like a sweet down-payment on a house!


I try not to regret it. Hindsight is always 20/20. Anyway, I learned a valuable lesson that I didn’t realize until years later. That is this:

Never follow the conventional route before you decide if it makes sense for your own journey.

It’s that simple.

If I would have contemplated where a degree could get me, maybe I would have realized it is not needed for my aspirations.

But that leads me to another point:

We need to normalize the idea of success without a college education.

I was scared shitless to not go to school. I knew if I didn’t go to college and failed, no matter the reason for my failure, people would blame my educational background.

We don’t jump to conclusions on other aspects of life. Why is college the end-all-be-all factor for success?

I’ve succeeded without my college degree, despite having one. Why can’t everyone?

Sure, there are certain occupations that require it. College makes sense for some people. Perhaps, even most people. But not everyone.

I wish somebody told me that when I turned 18. How was I supposed to know doing the ‘good thing’ would cost me exponential stacks of cash in my future?

As far as I am concerned, I thought I was putting myself ahead in life. Now, I’m a bitter post-graduate who made a regrettable decision to follow the crowd.

Just for shits and giggles, let’s plug more numbers into a calculator. Let’s see where that $40k would get me if I would have let it sit in the market until retirement.

From age 21, it’s reasonable to assume 45 years until retirement. An 8% return each year is a high but fair estimate. Let’s see. . .

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I would have over $1.2 million dollars in my portfolio by then. That’s a full retirement I could have by the time I turned 21-years-old. All if I had only considered the idea of not attending university.

This is pointless hindsight, but it’s interesting to look at regardless.

What’s the most important financial lesson you’ve learned from your mistakes?

Originally published here.


Created by

Adam J. Cheshier







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