The Most Important Investment You Will Ever Make


Howard Hughes was not a normal man.

No single vocation could contain his energy and talent. Hughes was a famed aviator. He was also an engineer, inventor and filmmaker. He dated Hollywood's elite leading ladies.

He was a genius of invention and innovation. He radiated entrepreneurial dynamism.

Hughes was many things. Almost all of them wildly successful. Yet he was one thing above all else.

An inveterate, unstoppable entrepreneur. A business tycoon of the highest order. One of the shrewdest investors on the planet.

Hughes bought a majority of TransWorld Airlines for $7 million in 1952. A bitter legal fight among shareholders ensued. More than a decade later, Hughes was forced to sell.

His return on that $7 million? $550 million.

Now that's an investment. It helped make Hughes one of the world's wealthiest men.

The most critical investment you can make

We're not all business tycoons with millions to burn. Yet you don't have to be a Hughes-level genius to grasp the most important investment opportunity available.


Let's face it. On the open market, some of us are blue chips. Some of us are penny stocks.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't aspire to change our valuation.

Education is the easiest path to doing just that. The costs are often steep. Yet the returns are almost always worth it.

Building wealth without earning power won't work for most of us. It's like trying to win the Daytona 500 with a Toyota Corolla.

Increased earning power comes with enhanced marketability. A college diploma has become devalued. The bacherlor's degree doesn't possess the exclusivity it once had.

Master's degrees have become a vital credential. According to an article in Forbes Magazine, 20-percent of open positions in the U.S. job market require or prefer an advanced degree.

Meanwhile, only 11-percent of the public holds such a degree.

That's a gap ripe to be exploited. Pure supply and demand. It means that advanced degree holders have far more leverage when it comes to job offers. Salary negotiations as well.

The Federal Reserve reported in 2013 that virtually all the wage growth in the last decade was clustered among advanced degree holders.

That's an astonishing fact. It's also a sobering notion for those without an advanced degree. A master's degree offers a 30-percent wage premium vs. a bachelor's degree.

The jobless rate for advanced degree holders is only around three-percent. That's vastly lower than the national average.

Clearly, graduate education offers a competitive advantage. It's leads to higher salaries and greater career flexibility.

There is a crucial distinction, however. A business degree and a master's in Greek poetry are not equal. At least not with regard to money.

Some advanced degrees will enhance your earning power. Others will merely qualify you for a doctoral program.

Or make you the most well-educated barista in town.

Other options

There is a significant barrier to investing in your education -- cost. Tuition has skyrocketed. This is due to demand and the ready availability of federal subsidies.

Even with a hefty price tag, studies have shown that additional schooling still returns a major economic premium.

If the cost is out of reach, there are other options available. Schools such as Princeton, Yale and Stanford offer open online courses that can be taken at no cost or for a nominal fee. These courses aren't typically for credit. They are, however, a fantastic resource for professional development.

Today's corporate landscape is intensely competitive. To thrive, you can't rest on your laurels. There's always someone younger and cheaper coming right behind you.

That's why it's critical to stay abreast of the latest developments in your field. Pursue continuing education if necessary. Improve your technology chops in your spare time.

Remember, it's not age that makes us less relevant. It's complacency.

Finally, if you've ever harbored the desire to start a business venture, now it the time to jump. Technology has radically lowered the barriers to entrepreneurship. New businesses with marginal funding are bootstrapped out of dorm rooms and garages every day.

There's no excuse to stay on the sidelines.

Entrepreneurship is an amazing wealth creator. Like Howard Hughes, some are born with the entrepreneurial spirit. Yet others learn to cultivate the same zeal later in life.

The important thing is to get moving. Building wealth is simple, but it's certainly not easy.

Invest in yourself. Take a chance. Build something that will outlast you.

You've got nothing to lose -- and everything to gain.

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