There's been a lot of talk lately about whether the government's exhortation that a degree isn't a prerequisite for success is a lot of hot air.
To be precise, there's been a lot of complaining, but not a lot of debate, because, duh-would you want to receive a starting pay that's half of what your degree-holding friends are getting?
Still, there's some truth to the statement that a degree doesn't guarantee financial success.
Here are 3 factors that are totally within your control and that can give you a huge advantage in your financial life, degree-holder or not.
Making smart career choices
Having a degree does not automatically save you from the plague of poor career choices.
In fact, sometimes having a degree, especially if it's a professional one, throws graduates into turmoil as they grapple with choosing between a job they hate or one that they prefer but that would result in years of guilt and parental nagging.
Is this a rhetorical question? The answer may surprise you!
Ok but seriously, whether you have a degree or not, making smart career choices is what will make or break your earning power.
Choose something you hate and you might be looking at a future of job hopping, prolonged absences from the workforce and career changes. Just ask anyone in Singapore with a law degree why there is such a high attrition rate in the legal industry.
Being smart about your career means first and foremost having the self-awareness to pick a job and an industry that suits you and in which you can thrive.
Just because you did well in engineering school doesn't mean standing under the sun on a construction site will necessarily be your cup of tea.
And those who join the banking and finance industry soon learn that corporate culture in Singapore is quite unforgiving of those who don't fit the mould.
Making smart career choices also means knowing when to leave your company for a new one. In general, unless you're getting impressive yearly increments, staying in the same job for over 3 years is not a smart financial move.
Making smart investment choices
All the saving in the world won't shield you from the ravages of inflation and the rising cost of living. If your salary isn't as high as that of your PMET peers, don't despair, as starting to invest regularly and early can put you in a better position than they will be 20 years down the road. No kidding.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to investing, so it's not like you can just pull a guidebook off the shelf and follow everything they say to the letter. In addition, your investment strategy will change over the years.
What all this means is that you need to put in the effort to actually make yourself more financially literate. It's really not as hard as it sounds, and attending a few talks at the Institute for Financial Literacy will get you up to speed.
Having the right attitude towards spending
I always feel that if you earn $10,000 and spend $9,500, you might as well just quit your job and become a mediocre social media influencer. You might earn only $1,000 or $2,000 a month, but why work if you only save $500 anyway?
Your attitude towards spending can have a huge impact on your future financial wellbeing. Credit card and household debt are huge problems in Singapore, and many of the people who are struggling are, surprise surprise, degree-holding PMETs.
You might have a fancy degree and be earning big bucks, but if your spending habits are out of control and you're in the red, it's clear you didn't learn much in the hallowed halls of your university.