Most of us went through some form of formal education, more or less.

I’ve gone through 6 years of primary school, 6 years of secondary school, 4 years of university and finally graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering. 

 

Malaysians are Blessed. 

I am blessed to have grown up in Malaysia, a country that provides either free or almost free primary and secondary education. The schools that I have enrolled into have lended me textbooks and thus, saving me and my family hundreds of Ringgit every year. 

I have spent the most in education when I was pursuing my engineering degree in UTM. The fees amounted to about RM 3,000 a year. I was lucky as it was hard to be enrolled into UTM. 

I have friends who were fortunate as their parents spent more than RM 100,000 on their overseas education. They had the luxury to study in the U.K., U.S, and Australia. 

Also, I have friends who couldn’t obtain an offer letter from a local university. But, no worries for they were offered Form 6 which is equivalent to pre-university courses such as A’ Levels and Matriculation programmes. Form 6 is tough. But, its rewards for persevering can be sweet. A passing grade would almost guarantee you a spot in a local university. 

Also, I have friends who opted for entrepreneurship. Some went straight into business. Some dropped out from college. A handful of them made a fortune. 

How about you? How much did you spend on formal education?

Back to the question: Is formal education a Must or a Ripoff?

Well, let’s look at the return we got from spending on education. Is it worth it? Or is it a ripoff?

Some argue that formal academic education produces highly skilled workers to work for big corporations. They work like robots, clock-in and clock-out each day to make their bosses richer and wealthier. They would include the real owners of these corporations such as shareholders, investors, tycoons and moguls. After these employees have ‘slaved’ half of their daily lives to their bosses, the local government imposes the highest amount of taxes to these employees while offering a load of tax incentives to investors and business owners who are … real owners of these big corporations. 

As a result, the rich get richer and pay fewer taxes. Meanwhile, the middle-class trade their time for money, pay massive amount of taxes and pray not to be laid off during crises.

Does it sound like formal education is a ripoff?

I wouldn’t say that it is a scam because there are two sides to a coin.

I learn my linguistic and mathematical skills in school for free. I am grateful for that. Academic achievement is crucial. But, it is not the golden key to financial success. To succeed in life, you will need more than the 16 years of formal schooling.

 

The Real Returns of Education

Let me share my experiences and understanding of education with you. Hopefully, you will do the same by sharing it in the comment below.

Besides the formal study, I have learnt other skills during the period. For instance, music. I believe my parents spent as much as RM 10+k to fund my Grade 8 piano lessons. I am forever grateful to them. It is a lifelong skill and it has proven to be very useful. I love soothing music and I felt a sense of calmness after a couple of minutes of ‘Maestro Moments’ on my favourite piano. I played piano as a accompaniment to my son when he was taking his violin examination

Also, I made money. I gave music lessons and funded my living expenses for many years, including my four years in UTM as an engineering student. I was a full-time musician after graduating from UTM. 

Years later, I made a career switch to become a full-time financial planner. I was new back then, eager to learn. Hence, I attended a series of courses every month. Some are physical seminars which cost less than RM 50. Some are professional qualification modules which cost five figures to complete. As I increased in knowledge, my income grew. 

Then, I founded KCLau.com. It started as a part-time passion. Soon, I decided to convert it into a full-time business. But, I didn’t know how to run an online business successfully. Thus, I paid lots of money and enrolled myself into countless of technical courses online. They include skills to build webpages, plug-ins integration, webinar hostings, building mailing lists, video content creations, copywriting … etc. I kept on learning. They have been and still are the best investments I’ve ever made in my life. My income grew dramatically. 

The best course I had ever invested into is a course on copywriting. It cost RM 4,000. After a few weeks of attending the programme, I rewrote my sales pages, emails, and video scripts. As a result, I doubled my revenues, which have paid for the enrollment fee many times over. 

Today, I’m privileged and honoured to have a chance to serve thousands from all walks of life and empower them with a handful of tools and skill sets to thrive financially. I’m proud to know that most of my students who had signed up for my courses: Premium Webinar Membership, Bursa Method, Property Method, … etc had reaped multiple folds in return and have moved closer towards their financial dreams. 

They include slashing insurance premiums by 50+% while getting substantially higher insurance coverage and having higher confidence in building a stock portfolio that produces a double-digit return for many years. It is satisfying to also have known that my students are learning and mastering the art of ‘fishing on their own’ and are less sceptical to fall for money scam or schemes that promise unrealistic investment returns. 

 

You need Education, and MORE….

I do agree that continuous education is what ensures continuous success in life. But, that doesn’t mean that the formal training we have gone through is a ripoff. Schools are great platform to develop social skills and the necessary survival skills to be highly adaptable in today’s rapidly changing world. Formal education is just the foundation. We have to build on it. We can learn almost anything if we know how to read, speak, write, and calculate. 

Today, I don’t need a degree to do what I am doing now. But, I’m still thankful for my time spent in UTM. It prepared me. I was trained to think independently, solve problems, lead people, and speak in front of a crowd. They have sparked the spirit of enterprise in me. I think it is wrong to think that spending money on a college degree is a ripoff. But, having said that, it is also naive to believe that money can be earned easily after graduation. 

I believe you will agree with me that constant learning is the key towards sustainable success. The billionaires and CEOs of today are avid learners who are learning something new each and every single day. Education is in their blood. 

Most skills that I have acquired made me money, n one form or another, directly or indirectly. It has proven, without a shadow of doubt, that investing to upgrade yourself pays the best dividends. May I encourage you to strive to be better? Learn something in your spare time. Allocate a budget to invest in yourself. It can be as little as putting aside 1 hour per day for learning. Or, it can be spending up to 5% of your income on courses, books, seminars and maybe … my webinars stated above. 

This, I promise you:

Never stop learning and put what you learn into action. Then money will never stop coming!


KCLau
KCLau

Personal finance author and trainer

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