I lost my job in late 2008 along with a lot of other Americans. I knew our economic troubles were coming and I made financial preparations, but they were woefully inadequate. I didn’t have a backup plan in case I was thrown out of work. Worse yet, when it happened, I could no longer apply for the work I had been doing unless I had a college degree!
I was living the high life, or so I thought. I enjoyed exotic cars and sun-soaked vacations. I had a nice house and no real financial worries. But when I got shut out of the job market, I went broke overnight. Within months I was in foreclosure. My car loans were in default, not to mention my credit cards. I was frantically sending out resumes at the rate of a few hundred month and getting no calls whatsoever. There was little food left and no money to buy more. My heat and electricity were shut off. Life quickly became a bare struggle for survival.
With charity from my family and from local organizations, I held on. During that time, I lost considerable weight and became weaker. No matter how carefully I rationed, I watched the fresh food go. Then the dried. Then the canned. I kept busy with school to keep my mind occupied, not to acknowledge the unfathomable reality that I was slowly, literally, starving to death. A few of my more desperate friends committed suicide. I was in utter disbelief that all of this was happening, and in America no less.
The worst and most hand-wringing frustration is not having enough money. Every day, 6,000 more families sink below poverty level. When bills are piling up with no end in sight, the pain stings night and day. Much worse than never getting ahead is the very real threat of falling so far behind, you can’t recover. You’re forced to run faster and faster just to keep what you have.
While the economy teeters upon another potential collapse, the uncertainty of how secure your job really is may have you in a state of wide-eyed fear. You may hate your job or your boss and seethe with anger over the lack of respect the organization treats you with, but without a degree, the harsh reality is that you’re at their mercy. You can’t afford to lose what you have.
Life isn’t a blessing when you’re always tired from working too much. When you suffer in a constant state of depression because you know that today’s effort, and tomorrow’s effort, and next week’s effort, will not make ends meet. When you’re always broke, have no savings, and laugh cynically about the idea of retirement. Perhaps you get the chance to work a little overtime thinking you’ll be able to breathe for a while, but then something goes wrong with the car or the kids need school clothes or one falls off their bike and breaks an arm ($1,500), and the money’s gone. It doesn’t matter what you do. The money’s always gone.
Take any hundred people at the start of their working careers and follow them for 40 years until they reach retirement age, and here’s what you’ll find, according to the Social Security Administration: Only 1 will be wealthy; 4 will be financially secure; 5 will continue working, not because they want to but because they have to; 36 will be dead; and 54 will be dead broke—dependent on their meager Social Security checks, relatives, friends, even charity for a minimum standard of living. That’s 5% successful, 95% unsuccessful.
Some people say to themselves, “I’ll work until I die.” Unfortunately, if you don’t get educated, you’re probably right. The further tragedy is that your kids will likely follow suit and won’t escape this miserable fate either. The unnecessary and brutal struggle will be perpetuated. What if there was a way to break all of these horrible trends?
Occasionally I’d meet some of my degreed friends who would throw me a free lunch. They weren’t starving. Their lives hadn’t been disrupted at all. Then I had a major eye-opener: I saw a statistic that said while the unemployment rate was over 15% for the general population, but only 2% for degreed people! So I decided that getting a degree–even at the cost of four years of my life–was the quickest way out of starvation and homelessness. Still, a four-year commitment? That sounded awful. Then I was reminded of my original schedule 20 years ago: eight years part-time. I certainly didn’t want that (and you don’t either), so I began searching for ways to speed things up.
With extensive study of my college course bulletin (a yearly catalog defining rules, regulations, and classes), I realized I could finish the degree much faster than was customary. The college dictated the sequence of activities, but not the pace at which those activities must be accomplished. Much beyond the few ways schools offer to accommodate adult students, such as after hours and online classes, I found a number of degree accelerating methods which, when put together, turbo-charged the process of getting a degree. The result was that instead of four years or even three, I finished my bachelor’s degree in ONE year and three months!
I thought this was nothing short of amazing: ONLY ONE YEAR after going back to school, I graduated, and then enrolled in the Master’s Degree program! I shared my secrets with a number of other students and they ran with them. Soon they were thrilled to be getting the same results. Getting real results, really fast, invigorated them with hope and made getting the degree so much more rewarding. It also proved to me that anyone could do it.
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