No College Degree Equates To Poverty And A Life Of Debt?

I got a little annoyed last week, when it was suggested that for someone with only a high school diploma, they were limited to working at the checkout at Walmart. (This argument was used to explain why debt was needed by low income families to get by.) Believing this is ridiculous, and spreading it around for someone without a degree to hear, is irresponsible!  This is America!! Imagine someone with only a high school diploma, hearing someone say this and believing it.

Dreams can be crushed before they ever have a chance to germinate.  This is why I am such a strong believer in teaching people that they can do whatever they want, if they are willing to do what it takes to achieve it.  If you do nothing, you will be nothing! (Sounds harsh right?  But how can you be something, if you have done nothing to get there?)

Yeah, there might be some folks out there that do not aspire to be anything more, and that is okay for them, but the rest need encouragement! Here are some things you need to know that will keep you from accepting and keeping a cashier position, because someone else says that’s all you can be!!  For the record, I am not belittling anyone who might be a cashier.  I am simply responding to the idea that if you have only a high school diploma, that’s all you can be, leaving you forced to accept debt as your only means of survival.


  • Wherever you are, even if it is at the bottom, doesn’t mean you have to stay there! This may come as a surprise to many, but minimum wage is not intended to support a family.  It is intended to give someone a starting point in the work force.  It allows you to build some confidence in yourself, as well as prove to others that you are reliable, trustworthy, and hard working, just to name a few.  It provides you with some references to use at the next stage in your working life.  If you make minimum wage and are sick of it, go look for something that pays more.  Thinking that the employer should support a family, by paying someone with minimum wage skills more money, just because those wages do not provide adequately for them, in my opinion, is wrong!
  • Education does not come from a degree, it comes from knowledge! College does make things easier, but have you ever known an unemployed grad student?  It’s not the end all be all, and it certainly isn’t the only way to success.  There are tons of jobs that you can do that can pay very well, but it’s up to you to make it happen.

“You don’t need fancy highbrow traditions or money to really learn.  You just need people with the desire to better themselves.” – Adam Cooper and Bill Collage

  • Knowledge is found for free at your local library…GO READ! The average millionaire reads a non-fiction book a month.  A great place to start is by reading No More Mondays & 48 Days To The Work You Love written by Dan Miller.  Dan Miller is a personal and business coach that teaches people that the traditional methods of employment are becoming obsolete.  He pushes the idea that if people did what they were passionate about, then not only would they be happier, but the work they do would not feel like work at all.  What are your strengths and how can you offer a legitimate service to others using those strengths?  Check out his website at

“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” – Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

  • Expand your limitations by getting online, which is also available at your local library. The internet has changed the way people do business, and made it easier for anyone to become successful if they choose to.  Darren over at Problogger wrote, Secrets For Blogging Your Way To A Six-Figure Income, to help others learn how to make additional income, or start a new career by blogging.  You can blog, and even become successful at it, without a college degree.  There are lots of non-traditional jobs like this where you can earn money for your talents.
  • There are tons of FREE resources! University of the People is a tuition free, online, open source university.  Here are the Top 10 Universities that offer free courses.  Don’t limit yourself by thinking that the information you need is not available!  Go look for it!
  • Stay away from negative people! There are people out there that always look at the glass as half empty.  (<~~ I used to be that guy) They have nothing positive to say about anything, and when someone around them starts to move forward, they usually take the opportunity to tell them why it can’t be done.  I have been friends with these kinds of people.  They want you to do exactly what they are doing, which is usually NOTHING!
  • Take responsibility for yourself! Nothing robs us of achieving success, as much as failing to realize that OUR own actions determine our path.  By thinking that someone else is keeping you from taking action or becoming successful, you yourself, become your biggest obstacle.

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.” – William James

Successful People With Only A HS Diploma And Even Less!

Mary Kay Ash – (Mary Kay Inc.) High School diploma!
Coco Chanel – (Chanel Number 5) One-time orphan!
Henry Ford – (Ford Motor Company) High School dropout!
Milton Hershey – (Hershey’s Milk Chocolate) Fourth grade education!
Frank Lloyd Wright – (Famous Architect) Never attended High School!
Walt Disney – (Disney) High School dropout!
Steve Jobs – (Apple Computers) College dropout!
Michael Dell – (Dell Inc.) College dropout!

Other well known degree free people:

Orville and Wilbur Wright
Thomas Edison
Rachel Ray
John D Rockefeller
Abraham Lincoln

Top 10 Highest Paying Jobs Without a Degree (Traditional Jobs)

Air Traffic Controller – $105,820 (no degree, but 4 years of college is needed)
Real Estate Broker – $76,930
Transportation Manager – $75,130
Non-retail Sales Supervisor – $73,670
Nuclear Power Reactor Operator – $66,900
Gaming Manager – $65,920
Power Distributor – $59,510
Detective – $58,750
Elevator Repairer – $58,500
Ship Engineer – $57,290

Others with income ranging anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000:
Police Officer
Appliance Repairmen
Web Designer
Entrepreneur (income obviously varies)

Proof that a high school diploma doesn’t equate to poverty or being unsuccessful!  Don’t believe the myth!  Having only a high school diploma also doesn’t mean that you have to use debt and credit cards to survive!  Do a budget, have a plan, and make better decisions with what you do make, and you will be more likely to escape or avoid poverty than if you use debt.  Debt is NOT a tool, and it will only keep you poor or struggling if you use it!  It will steal your hope, and cause you to see yourself as the victim that just can’t get ahead.  (That’s the result of thinking debt is your best option, because when it doesn’t work, you have nothing to look forward to.) With that said I am currently taking classes, debt free, and believe that a degree will give you some advantages.  It’s just not the only way to success!  Get an education however you are able to, but do not accept that you can not be successful just because you don’t have a degree.

Are you a degree free success story?  Do you know somebody that is?  Share your thoughts in the comments section.

About Brad Chaffee

8 Responses to “No College Degree Equates To Poverty And A Life Of Debt?”

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  1. Pedro says:

    A degree doesn’t garantee you anything. I know quite a couple of millionares who din’t complete High School myself.

    My dad for one the son of a gun keeps braging about making more than all his doctors, lawyers and accountants by himself.

    Total disbelieve… if you want to think you can’t its your problem. I myself make good money but i admit i can’t be a business owner and refuse to pursue making big bucks like my dad or friends dad.

  2. Chad says:

    I do have a degree, but I agree completely with your point. I did not need it to own the business that I own today. The thing that pushed me to get a degree, was back during the last slow down in the economy I was between businesses and having a degree would give me more opportunities and typically better paying positions. I pushed through and got the degree. I have owned two companies for the last 15 years, and dabbled in a few others over the past 15 years. None of which would require a degree. Just requires a lot of knowledge, and that can be acquired many ways without college. I would say the best thing I learned in college was to follow through and finish what you start. It says a lot to me when people say they never finished their degree.

    I feel the same way about people who tell me they used to do martial arts, and when asked they say they were yellow, or purple etc… The goal is Black Belt.

  3. Publilius says:

    Successful People With Only A HS Diploma And Even Less!

    Bill Gates – (Microsoft) College dropout!

    Umm, Bill dropped out of graduate school. He does have an undergrad degree.

  4. Brad Chaffee says:

    My mistake, I googled it and his name showed up on every list. Thanks for the correction.

  5. Vic Morrow says:

    Today a college degree is not a guarantee of a job or a specified salary. Those days are gone. The education bubble has taken many educated people by surprise.

  6. Jeff Logue says:

    I love how we are brainwashed into believing that a piece of paper will instantly endow us with great wisdom and poise after college. Heck, I remember nearly 5% of what was taught to me during my time there, and none of the skills I apply today has nearly anything to do with it. That is the worst advice we could give to any student graduating high school that aspires to take advantage of our free enterprising society which America was originally built on. Let the kids dream and decide what they will be passionate for and what they aspire to do before spending a fortune!

  7. The salary levels for police officers are inaccurate btw; in many areas cops can make $100,000 a year or even more. Of course there are always exceptions to the rule; it is very possible to be successful without a degree. Statistics are just averages; that doesn’t mean they apply to everyone. Vocational schools are a great alternative for someone who would prefer to learn a trade.

  8. Should I Drop College says:

    i for one don’t believe in the title because sometimes education isn’t everything. its who you know. not what you know that matters the most sometimes

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