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Replacing My Kid’s College Fund with a “Start Something” Fund (unsupervisedmethods.com)
104 points by RobbieStats 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 113 comments

Sounds like a horrible idea full of assumptions and pressure, as opposed to offering an exploratory period of life that is college (socially and intellectually), a nice option for those who can afford it.

Not everyone has to be coaxed into entrepreneurship, it's an evil of our consumerist age. Your kid would probably rather participate in society at large than in your suicidal runway idea of a romanticized youth of modern times. "Starting something" with no experience at all is almost guaranteed to mean burned cash, family resentment and a bunch of hard lessons. Why not send them to military school and spare cash and suffering?

> offering an exploratory period of life that is college (socially and intellectually)

That is exactly what college is, and is supposed to be.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that college is a jobs training program, or a career readiness program - it's not. It was never intended to be. College is supposed to give someone a broader perspective, a more complex worldview, exposure to a vast array of topics and ideas, and to develop habits that are generally beneficial to any life or intellectual pursuit. That's it.

Entrepreneurship is great, and it will teach you many different things and some hard lessons as well, but it's not going to even remotely offer the same sort of experience or exposure. It's not college, you're not reading classical literature as part of a startup grind.

Also, society needs to accept that for some people, neither college, nor "starting something", is well suited or an appropriate expectation. Some people just aren't cut out for either, and there is nothing wrong with that. Some people would be better off learning a trade, or going through an apprenticeship, or being self taught, or any number of other means of learning and developing skills.

> That's it.

Actually, you scratched the surface, but it goes so much further than that -- that sadly most of our modern universities have lost sight of. I've posted this in previous comments, but universities are actually suppose to help build more just societies -- an idea Plato describes as the purpose of university, and echoed by many chancellors across the country.

"The goal of university education is to help build a fairer, more just society" - Steven Schwartz. [0]

"Plato regards education as a means to achieve justice, both individual justice and social justice." [1]

[0]: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/comment/columnists/the-...

[1]: http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9517932/

I think this is what everyone is missing. If we're treating college strictly as a financial ROI calculation (which, partly, it is) it's obviously getting dicier by the year. This is exacerbated by Colleges and Universities treating every major from Economics to Cultural Studies as if they held roughly equal career prospects (they obviously don't).

Yes, it is a luxury to have the time to take a step back and consider your own society from a wider lens than "how can I beter secure my financial future this week." But without experiences like College, gap years, travel, and other "frivolities," you'll most likely end up as yet another short-sighted member of upper class who's spent a majority of their lifetime's creative power accumulating and hoarding wealth. Many don't have the bandwidth for both personal security and a strong social conscience, and I don't blame them for it...but I sure wish there were more with that ability.

Money is a very powerful tool and 18 is usually not old enough to be done with the formative experiences that will determine what you do with that power.

Most short-sighted members of the upper class went to college too; not clear that we have any data on if / how much a liberal education modifies selfish behavior.

If you want to improve selfishness,look at places where such change may happen , for example in: the military{honor code?}, religion/spirituality, deep relationships{especially with non-selfish people}, being strongly exposed to the suffering of others,meeting emotional role models.

Those seem very deep emotional experiences, very different from the experience of being in college(mostly intellectual, or the college socialization process - i.e. the frat etc).

> Many people make the mistake of thinking that college is a jobs training program, or a career readiness program - it's not. It was never intended to be. College is supposed to give someone a broader perspective, a more complex worldview, exposure to a vast array of topics and ideas, and to develop habits that are generally beneficial to any life or intellectual pursuit. That's it.

In short, it was designed as a luxury for rich kids who didn't need to contribute to society or provide for themselves. That militates towards setting up a "start something" fund (and maybe that "something" is setting up a Subway franchise or a construction company!) for your kid rather than a college fund.

I don't see the connection between the first part of your response and the second part. Yes, it was designed as a luxury for rich kids to get a leg up in adulthood in all the ways your parent mentioned, and then society realized that maybe it shouldn't just be the rich kids getting that luxury, maybe smart and / or hard working but not rich kids should also have a chance at that luxury. Of course it turns out to be expensive to make that work, but that doesn't mean the idea is bad.

Are the rich kids moving on to some better way to get their start in life? It doesn't seem like they are, to me. So college seems like it is still a valuable model, and making access to it more fair still seems like a worthy goal.

It's worth keeping in mind in these discussions that tuition and expenses aren't the only cost of college attendance; four years of opportunity cost in earning are also involved. We can drive tuition costs to zero and still the overwhelming majority of selective school attendees will be from high-earning families.

I'm not sure I follow, are you assuming poor college students are expected to help support their families while in school?

He's saying that they give up the opportunity to help support their family during those years if they choose to go to college.

> Many people make the mistake of thinking that college is a jobs training program, or a career readiness program - it's not.

The numerous jobs that require a college degree as a prerequisite suggest that it's the de facto job credential program for a large chunk of the economy. The fact of the matter is, if you want to get into a lot of (though not all) high paying jobs, college is a necessity, and that's likely the reason almost all college students are going to college (how many students are taking classes after they graduate?).

We can talk about what college theoretically could be, but it's important not to ignore what college currently is.

Sorry for being edgy, but please tell me where I can get jobs training for being a doctor, lawyer, etc. that isn't college. Regardless of what you think college is, college currently is primarily jobs training.

That is a small percentage of the population.

Most people who went to college are not now working in an industry where a degree is literally required by law.

Or they're working in a field where any degree will do and none are actually going to prepare the worker for the job. Many office jobs qualify here. You need to be literate and numerate to be an insurance adjuster. But no degree will prepare them for that job, generally speaking. I know many who were English, philosophy, or history majors in that field and others that require a degree but just want a box checked.

It is also not the most efficient way to achieve the required training for those jobs. We could have future doctors and lawyers go straight to trade schools focused solely on those professions, and likely shave a couple years off their total education. But most people in our society agree that we like our doctors and lawyers to have the breadth that an undergraduate degree is intended to provide.

I don't really care if my thoracic surgeon has a strong grasp of microeconomics or 19th Century British Lit. I only care that s/he has good medical training and experience.

Note: I'm a doctor.

You don't care if your surgeon has been exposed to the idea of opportunity costs and given a framework for thinking about them structurally?

That's pretty weird, Doc.

I sure don't. First-line health care is way too expensive, and everyone suffers from it, both patients and prospective caregivers. I don't really believe exposure to gen-ed requirements makes my internal medicine doctor any more effective at diagnosing and treating illness.

First-line health care is too expensive for reasons entirely separate from "the doctor had the basics of a humanities education," though. TBH, most of the doctors I know (and I used to work in healthcare) are hyper-specialized cargo-cultists in a lot of ways and that worries me a lot; a basic framework of how-to-think-about-things seems kind of important to me (and that's what the humanities are).

I think I'm going to push back on this. First-line health care is expensive in large part because the educational process of taking an 18 year old and turning them into a caregiver who can prescribe drugs and perform basic procedures is nosebleed expensive. (I'm staring down the barrel of it right now with my first kid going off to school this fall).

I'm aware that a lot of that expense is in stuff like organic chemistry, which we probably don't want to cut back on. But the gen-ed stuff matters too, especially because it matters where you go for undergrad and how well you do in those gen-ed classes in order to get into a selective med school, which is how you get a selective residency.

I don't think those gen-ed requirements are really paying for themselves in how health care is delivered.

Is it nosebleed expensive because of this class or that class, or because demand is high and supply of positions in medical schools is strictly controlled to provide scarcity to the consumer market on the other end?

I kinda feel like you're pulling an XY problem here.

(Grats on your oldest, though. Condolences on the bill.)

I think this is one of those things that reasonable people can disagree about. Cost is definitely a problem, but I believe another problem is doctors being a sort of "human body engineer" rather than a personal care provider. I personally believe that going straight to technical school would exacerbate that issue.

I agree with you, but one quibble--I would suggest "human body technician" more than "engineer". I've met doctors who understood the practice of medicine; I've met more who treat it as an if-then by rote (and who believe some real cockamamie stuff on top of that).

You see this in tech too, of course. Knowing the "what to do" and knowing the "why you do it" are different things. I don't think enabling the latter is helped by rushing straight into technical education, either.

You don't care but I do. This is how we set it up as a society. I think that's a good thing. You don't. Perhaps over time, if more people agree with you than me, things will change. I would be bummed by that, but so it goes. But it's not where we are today.

Edit: removed a second paragraph that I thought was dumb in retrospect.

Only in America.

In Europe, as I understand it, people generally study law right out of secondary school.

Both models seem reasonable, but I'll just now that America has been pretty successful with this model.

Required by employers tho.

Graduate and professional school are different animals. They, like the workforce, have a strong preference for people who have first gone to college, but not necessarily because they have dependencies on particular college classes.

Preference? What US law or medical school can one go to without a bachelor's degree?

I think his point was that it's possible to get into those schools without a related degree.

You're conflating college with professional school.

Colleges conflate college with professional school. The first time I visited my alma mater as a high school senior, I told them I wanted to be a programmer when I grew up, and they said "You'll want our computer science program, then." Nobody ever recommended me to a technical school instead, or told me that the CS program would teach me very basic programming, lots of academically interesting stuff about operating systems and electronics and math, and practically nothing that prepared me for a career.

They were perfectly happy to take my money and let me believe that I was learning professional skills.

Classes taught me in one area. Student-organized study groups, living with classmates, taking part in on and off-campus programming competitions, and working on side projects with the people I met at school taught me in other areas. Both were part of "college", to me; I wouldn't have done all the campus-life stuff if I hadn't been there.

CS itself was always presented to me as the science that acts as a basis for the more practical engineering side of things. It was supposed to be the theory underlying the practice. That's what I paid for, and that's what I think I got (with the remainder of my experience being what I made of it). So, college could've been useless crap. For me, it wasn't.

Sure, and some of my classmates did the same. I didn't, because I foolishly assumed that going to classes and doing homework would teach me the things I needed to know and I could relax the rest of the time, and no one ever told me otherwise until it was too late.

I thought I was paying for an education. I was actually paying to hang out in the vicinity of an education, while being distracted with useless busywork.

My GEs included a lot of critical thinking courses. Maybe they influenced me more than I realized at the time. Without the classes from my degree, my practical knowledge would be built on sand. I feel like the things I learned in class provide a solid foundation for building upon, but just a foundation. The nature of what I was learning became clear as I was doing it, and I could see the delta between what I was doing and the future I wanted to aim for. As I went on, I could also see how the theory could be leveraged to get me where I wanted to be.

Did you expect them to recommend something they don't offer?

I expected them not to lie and tell me they had what I wanted when they didn't.

I would strongly prefer job training element in college for my kids then just "exploratory program". Science training counts too.

People pay for college so that they can get a job that is not menial and low paid. Not everyone will inherit company from parents nor has buddies to call to when they want high paid job. Most of us need the job to pay bills and we need to be qualified to get that job.

>as opposed to offering an exploratory period of life that is college (socially and intellectually),

To me, college has been the opposite. Most people I know feel restricted to getting a 9-to-5 job and are very stressed about how much they will make compared to their peers.

Nearly all of the depressed people I know feel very restricted. They feel as though they cannot get out of their situation in life. I think this is only bolstered by the enormous debt and time investment that comes with going to college---one or two small decisions (perhaps going into economics rather than stats, or going into chemical engineering rather than computer science) can lead to major regrets a few years down the line. These people feel trapped and full of regret. They don't know what to do.

Stepping aside and exploring opportunities that don't funnel you through a massive rat-race can be the biggest relief.

What? How is this pressuring his kid into pursuing entrepreneurship? He's still covering college.

> If after high school my kids are eager to enter a college and start a path of learning and/or self-discovery, I’ll cover four years of tuition. However, if they have an idea for a company that they are passionate about and want to start working on that, I’ll be the first investor in their “seed round.” College will always be there (until it goes away entirely, ha) so he/she can always do that if the company doesn’t work out. I’m calling it their Start Something Fund. Either start a company or start college.

I take it you didn't read the article. The whole point is to provide more options than the single track path that has dominated the post high school mindset, not to say they have to go one way or another.

Plenty of great entrepreneurs start their company with little to no experience. Having done both, I think you can learn a lot more starting a company than you can at college.

I am not sure that "starting something" is a good idea when one of the two alternatives can be completed succesfully by applying yourself diligently (i.e. studying hard enough to pass with good grades) while the other can fail for any of a large number of reasons, mostly outside of your control.

I.e. if the author's son or daughter opts for starting a company, works hard and diligently, and after three years it goes bankrupt due to: - A competitor cuts them out of the market - New regulatory laws make the original idea unprofitable/untenable - A technical breakthrough makes the product unappealing

The boy/girl may have worked as hard as if they were in college, or even way harder. And after three years their company is in debt, they have nothing worth selling/salvaging, and they are 3 years late to go to college.

Also, it is not clear if the parent intends to provide something more than just seeding money. From the article it looks like that. Is this really so? Suppose that the "baby-entrepreneur" has a really dumb idea for a start-up, but they are "passionate" about this (how many 18-years old can be passionate about financially untenable ideas?). Will the author provide money even if he cannot see anything reasonable getting out of it? And after it has failed, will he have enough money to pay an equivalent sum for going back to college?

I left an amazing job at a high tech company to start my own company. We had a successful exit five years later, but I've always said that if the company went belly up after 2 or 3 years it would have been WELL worth it. I don't associate being a successful entrepreneur or having success with a big exit. The point is to learn and try new things.

Of course I'd help my kid get the company off the ground in whatever capacity they'd like. I help a half dozen companies now in an advisory role and I'd do the same for them.

> Sounds like a horrible idea full of assumptions and pressure,

You've just described how I view the idea of myself going to college straight after high school, despite being quite able to afford an exploratory period and having been a straight A student for a long time. I was burned out on studying for a grade (among other things).

While you're right to be wary of shoving someone onto the entrepreneurship track, you'll not convince me that shoving them onto the college track is necessarily better. There are plenty of stories of burned cash, family resentment over "wasted" college educations, and learning the sometimes brutal lessons that your college degree (if you managed to finish it) no longer guarantees you a good job, or that debt sucks.

I ended up spending very little of my "college" fund, and after some much cheaper and less stressful non-college exploration, eventually landed a career in gamedev - something I'd extensively studied outside of school for myself and my interests rather than a grade, and cost me very little more than my time.

I've seen parents essentially drive kids into liberal arts by pressuring kids to try everything else.

Pointing a kid in the right direction is high art.

You say this as though liberal arts is bad, perhaps that's what some people want to do. Don't see anything wrong with it.

> You say this as though liberal arts is bad, perhaps that's what some people want to do. Currently in the US you have no choice (if your going to college) as to whether or not you get a liberal arts education. Pretty much every school in the US have strong general education requirements. So perhaps some people want to do liberal arts, and that's great but Imo it is being imposed on the entire society.

I don't know what they are now but I satisfied the gen ed requirements of my engineering degree with 2 classes of Spanish, 2 classes of economics, 2 classes of philosophy and 1 class of history.

I tested out of the Spanish (approximately by knowing "perro", that is knowing some basic vocabulary) and still got 8 credit hours for it.

Math, chemistry and physics (4,1 and 2 classes) are technically liberal arts, but they were also sort of applicable to my degree.

I suppose there is an argument to be made that 1.5 semesters is a "strong" requirement, but not really, especially when it includes 3-4 beginner classes that are mostly surveys.

> Not everyone has to be coaxed into entrepreneurship

Not everyone has to go to college, either. It's always interesting that these discussions often have people both saying that college made them much more open minded, and heaping derision on unorthodox approaches like these. It's great that some people find college useful for their personal growth. It would be even greater if college also impressed upon those who attended the fact that not everyone is like them and not everyone is going to find it as useful as they did.

When I compare my personal growth, I've found that non-college experiences were much more effective for myself. People talk about learning as a group and having their ideas challenged - I've found that (again, for myself) this is much more effective in groups outside of college, where you get a much greater diversity in terms of age and experience (the relative homogeneity of college might be part of the reason why some of its graduates extol it's virtues as a homogeneous solution). College is also highly structured and hierarchical compared to many other experiences, and I wonder if that's one of the reason why some of its graduates don't see similar opportunities in less structured experiences.

Again, if college works for you, great. But we should stop acting like it works for anyone, or that it's the only approach (or even a particularly good approach) for personal exploration and enrichment.

> a bunch of hard lessons

That is the gamble. If your 19 year old kid burns $100,000 over 1 year trying to start a business, or, pays another form of "tuition" at a traditional university?

Probably good cases to be made either way.

Why is everyone that disagrees with you being flagged?

We don't accept dissent or discussion here?

I see one flagged comment, and that starts with an insult. There are other comments disagreeing visible (and not even grey), so what are you on about?

I don't know.

Basically this means more or less that on the day your son (or daughter) becomes 18 you put on the table 2,000x100 US$ bills in a few neat stacks and ask him/her whether he/she likes it better to:

1) Study (hard) for the next 5 years (possibly in a remote city), living with one or more co-students in a tiny apartment and receive - say - some 500-600 bucks each month for petty expenses


2) get - here and now - all the 200,000 US$ as long as they are used ONLY in expenses related to the building of a new company, but of course with no particular form of control on expenses, as I trust you and you are big enough to make your own decisions.

With rigorously invented numbers (i.e. pure speculation or guessing), I would expect that out of 100 choosing option #1 70 would get after 5 or 6 years studying and a degree (without student debt to hunt them for the rest of their life) a decent, qualified job (and income), 20 a somewhat underpaid job, 5 no stable job/income and 5 (for one reason or the other) something else.

Of those that chose option #2, I would expect that 5 manage to build a "successful" company, 15 a more or less good company (anyway providing enough income to have bills paid and raise a family) and 80 either building a company soon going to Chapter 11/bankrupcy or building no company at all.

The good question would be how many of 18 years old would choose option #1 over #2?

Quite often investment is delivered in tranches where a chunk of the funds are delivered at different stages as milestones are met. Just like you don't get all the entire student loans at once, you get them year by year assuming your grades/extracurriculars meet the criteria.

But it's not like the children of rich parents end up less spoiled just because their inheritances are released to them over time in a trust fund.

And would you really want your parents to be your venture capitalists? Your parents may not be focused on getting to a quick exit like most traditional VC investors, but if the whole point of them releasing the money in tranches is because they don't trust your inexperienced judgement, that's just a recipe for your parents second-guessing your every move as a founder.

Children need to be able to fail, and quickly and safely recover from that failure - college, with poor freshman year grades and learning to live with less-than-perfect roommates and all the rest, is a much better way to impart that than letting your kids blow through a quarter million dollars with little more to show than a high school diploma at the end of it.

If you're waiting until they're ~18 to teach them how to fail, YOU have failed.

There are hundreds of cheaper, safer, and more responsible ways of doing that long before then.

> Study (hard) for the next 5 years

I don't think colleges in US can be as hard as universities in some european counties. Especially where universities are free.

I would be curious to hear if there are some exceptions.

In my country (Finland), government actually pays for studying and universities are free. My experience studying abroad is that actually the curriculum and studying is mostly the same all over the world. I think there might some outliers in the TOP10 universities in the world, but the major differences are in the student population, connections and reputation. I think only maybe 10-20% study really hard anyways. At that point in life most people would have more than 100 usable hours easily, but most of the students do minimal work necessary and do something else.

What's the point of this comment? It's off topic at best and an excuse to debate about European vs US colleges at worst.

I only attended one university but it was quite a lot more rigorous than anything I'd done up to that point in my life.

Look up international college rankings. The US is vastly overrepresented in terms of quality of higher education.

I daresay the experience of hustling and trying to build a company is a valuable form of education even for the 80 who fail

Sure, but what's important from college is not education, but credentials. The credit given for having a failed company on your resume is significantly less than for a BA of any sort.

I thought the credentials showed that you had completed the (purportedly valuable) education?

This is less and less the case, as weird as that sounds. I'm finishing my degree not because I'm learning anything, but too many managers (and academics) have point-blank told me they just want to see that I've been "initiated".

If you're not learning anything, that's your own decision. Paying for education is paying for access. If you're paying for access to people that you choose not to interact with, then that's it's own brand of stupid.

I never met any of our professors of journalism or dance. Everyone at college is paying for a bundle of credentials and access to experts in many unrelated fields, and nobody uses all of it.

so signals. If you're talented enough you don't need signals, you just provide value.

So for many people, acquiring signals is a complete waste of time and money.

Sure, it is a form of education, but - being probably much more pessimist than you are - my invented 80 was including BOTH those that tried (with smart ideas and hard work) but failed AND those that wouldn't even try or try without ideas nor working too much hard for it.

I suspect that for the latter ones (how many? maybe 20-30) that wouldn't even be educative at all.

Compared to a rigorous comprehensive education, social development, and near total lack of responsibility, starting a company at 18 is not "good" experience.

18 year olds are idiots (source: was one) and are simply not capable of managing organizations of adult humans.

I love this idea, but you need to nurture the entrepreneur in your child before giving them the money. Like a lot of people here, I have a decent degree from a good university; I can confirm that it hasn't given me much more than a foot in the door for my next interview. Most of the academic knowledge I gained, I could have learnt by myself (in fact that's what I did, even at university), and a lot of it is now redundant. In some ways, I feel a university education was a fairly bad use of my time and money. After uni, I got a "good" job, was hugely unsatisfied, saved some money and then started my own company. I cannot stress enough how difficult it can be to find direction when doing your own thing. As a kid you're used to living within a fairly bounded, directed framework. When you have to define your own direction, it can unsettle you. Make sure your kids are comfortable with finding their own way - it's not just about making them independent, but also about developing an intelligent work ethic (which I believe is the key characteristic of a good entrepreneur), and being comfortable in the midst of uncertainty.

"you need to nurture the entrepreneur in your child before giving them the money."

This is key imo. Even if it means starting small little business type things like selling candy at school. Teach them how to keep track of profit/losses/expenses, how to recognize opportunities and how to test the waters before jumping fully in. I do this with my 13 year old son. His most successful business so far has brought him $4500 in revenue.

I don't call it entrepreneur training or even training at all. He doesn't even really realize he is learning. It is something fun we do together and he has tasted what it feels like to make his own money. It has allowed him to save and buy his own things.

When he graduates from high school, I won't push him one way or another (college vs entrepreneurship). I will leave that up to him but I hope at least I will have given him a little taste of entrepreneurship so he can make his own choice when the time comes. I will also heavily encourage him to work a few jobs at other companies first. That in itself is a huge learning experience.

I went the build your business route, if I had my time again I'd get the degree first, compared to the time, effort and risk of building a business taking 5 years to get a degree seems like time well spent. Getting a degree does not preclude you from starting a business, the reverse is not so universally true as youth is on your side when funding education in most countries. Few of my peers work in fields related to their degree, yet few would have their current standing were it not for holding a degree.

There's a certain cultural or community hypocrisy in these discussions. Not at the level of individuals necessarily, but it seems in reading through HN and other sites, there's two opposite messages I see:

The first is "degree doesn't matter! You need to go out and build something, and you don't need a degree to do it!"

The other is "we won't hire anyone except those with X STEM degree, possibly even not anyone unless they have a master's degree or higher."

As someone considering a career change (with an advanced degree) it's maddening. The message seems to be that if you don't have a core STEM degree, or haven't started a self-sustaining mega-profitable business, you have no ability to do anything.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, other than that societal perceptions of skill and ability seem seriously pathological.

I don't think everyone needs an undergrad degree, but it sure doesn't hurt. But by the same token, a degree isn't everything, and I think people need to take this position seriously if they're going to take it.

>Getting a degree does not preclude you from starting a business

I would argue that it does. When you get a degree, you are mostly being guided into thinking patterns of academics i.e. the people who most likely did not pursue business... or worse condemn business in some way.

Even if starting your business requires several years of academic knowledge, I think it is much better if you start it without a degree anyway and then take courses along the way. That way, you will have a much better context for what you are learning because you can immediately apply some of it.

A fully qualified engineer will be in a much better position to provide valuable products and services than an 18 year old noob.

I guess it's better than a gender studies degree, but believe it or not, undergraduate education is not completely useless. I learned a hell of a lot.

Even a gender studies degree would have a lot of value. A lot of people who get university degrees, myself included, end up working in a completely unrelated field, but that doesn't mean the education was worthless.

"A fully qualified engineer will be in a much better position to provide valuable products and services than an 18 year old noob."

Not sure I totally agree with this. I have meet a ton of very smart fully qualified engineers who have no business sense whatsoever.

That does not mean I am discounting the engineering degree. Not at all. At least an engineering degree will generally give you a very nice return. What makes a good engineer though is not often the same as what makes a good entrepreneur.

Guess the point is: All else being equal, someone with a relevant degree will have an easier time being a successful entrepreneur (and, not less important: a reasonable backup plan) than someone fresh out of high school. Likely they will have a better network too. And this is all assuming that entrepreneurship is really the goal, which, lets face it, for most people is an unreasonable trade-off of safety, personal time, health and comfort for nebulous "freedom" and a very unlikely chance at striking gold.

"All else being equal, someone with a relevant degree will have an easier time being a successful entrepreneur"

I think that is where we may disagree.

Plenty of Entrepreneurs who made it big without a degree. Some of the top of our time actually. http://www.businessinsider.com/top-100-entrepreneurs-who-mad...

"for most people is an unreasonable trade-off of safety, personal time, health and comfort for nebulous "freedom" and a very unlikely chance at striking gold."

This I somewhat agree with but I oftentimes wonder if a lot of the "very unlikely chance" part of it has to do with the inaccurate and unrealistic image the start-up scene places along with the lack of good education on starting a business. You can build a very comfortable life running your own business without being a unicorn but seems as though most are shooting for unicorn level. That I believe is where most of the failure comes from.

It really isn't all that difficult to build a $200k to $500k+ year small business. Easier today than ever. But that's not sexy so people shoot for the stars and miss more often than not.

It's not completely useless ... Yet, but with the shift the world is taking (globalisation, *robotisation and move to renewables) it will be. Some engineering degree too will put not have a place in the future.

What he's saying is that a college education does not have ton map directly to a job to be useful. So even in your example an engineering degree will have some value.

I have an "after highschool" fund. My parents called this a university fund. But I'm communicating it as money to use to figure out what you want to do with your life. My kids can use it to do whatever, so long as they can make a rational case for how they intend on spending it. They'll also have to endure lots of dad talks and dad advice to make use of this resource.

If I've done my job as a parent well, I won't have to worry about policing the "proper" use of this money.

"If I've done my job as a parent well, I won't have to worry about policing the "proper" use of this money."

Except they still have to come up with a rational case, and endure lots of dad talks, and dad advice before they can use it.

Serious question: what do your kids know about running a company?

Serious answer: it's not about his kids, it's about him living vicariously through them.

Oh, and building his twitter/thinkfluencer brand

This seems like a problem that could be solved by simply having business development classes in high school. Much like all other skills, there is a need to understand what it takes to run a business; manage budgets, invoice and some rudimentary things. You don't have to create some crazy big start-up, but these are skills that seem necessarily to understand before college. My sister started a therapy business after she was in college and there are basic skills that could of been taught in high school that would of better prepared things. I didn't come across business plan proposals and contingency plans until college but these are pretty straightforward things that could of been taught far earlier IMHO.

Once you have that in place, if not in the education system, then through parenting and after-school programs, then by the time college comes around the "decision to start a business" won't come with the unnecessary risk of not knowing how to run one.

I agree with the sentiment that college is not the only choice after high school and may not be the best place to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit. However, I was surprised that after all the words used to describe how school was lacking in this particular direction, taking the kids out of school was not considered.

As some of the other commenters are suggesting, it may be too much of a jump to offer such a choice to the child at 18 if the child was not preparing for such an opportunity.

Homeschooling has its own critics and supporters and we don't need to get into that here. But my question is this: If he's going to trust his child to make a choice at 18, why not even earlier? How about 14? Or, in other words, why not have their education focus on learning how to make their own decisions as early as possible? And if school doesn't provide this for his children, should they be there?

Granted, the author doesn't outline what he plans on doing between now and the end of high school for his kids so maybe he is, in fact, preparing them for this decision. I just think that the decision would be too drastic to spring on an 18 year old who has had no preparation for it.

You may be interested in a concept called "unschooling."


Yes. Also, the discussions on John Taylor Gatto's work


There's a third option. Self educate. Take 200,000. Buy all the tools and equipment you need to do what you love. Do what you love for 5 to 10 years and you'll have more than enough experience to be successful in your industry.

Almost no 18 year olds are self disciplined enough to do that without structure. That's the point of college.

If you spend 5 years only playing your favorite parts of your favorite songs on a guitar, you're not going to be a good musician.

Just like if you spend five years doing the fun parts of programming or engineering or history, you won't be a good programmer, engineer, or historian.

College (or an apprenticeship, or trade school) isn't required to learn the hard/boring parts, but very few people are capable of doing so on their own at that age.

I would argue that "few people are capable of so on their own at that age" because they were never given the opportunity to learn and practice self-discipline at an earlier age. After all, the typical American schooling experience allows very little room for deviation from the same thing everyone else is doing.

If you started to self-direct at 13 (or earlier), you'd probably be pretty self-disciplined at 18.

As what amounts to a trust fund executor, it's your responsibility to keep your child on track to becoming an expert in their field if that's what you're worried about.

Ok, so you are saying that, since people in general like to do fun things, it takes a lot of self discipline to make yourself learn programming, history, etc, which in general requires doing things that aren't fun. I think you are overlooking something however: people don't just like to do fun things, they also like to make things that are cool (maybe not all people but this is very common in my estimation). And making things that are cool often requires doing boring work and learning boring things, even though the end result is not boring. I find this can be a very powerful source of motivation, so it actually might not take so much discipline as you think.

I would even speculate that how interesting / boring you find something is not static, but that otherwise boring things can start to seem interesting once it's clear that they are relevant to something you want to achieve.

Personally I learnt math mostly from self-study, and I've learnt it well enough that I now have published research (see [1], also [2] is in review and has been recommended for acceptance with revisions by the referee), have been invited to give talks about my research [3][4][5], and have stayed for a few months as a visiting researcher at University of Muenster [6]. I don't consider myself as having a lot of self-discipline; I have a tendency to hit the snooze button many times, to overeat, to let my room get messy, etc. But once I have an idea, I want to flesh it out and share it with other people, which motivates me to do the things that are necessary for this, which are sometimes boring.

[1] http://content.algebraicgeometry.nl/2017-2/2017-2-007.pdf

[2] https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.07306

[3] https://www.uni-muenster.de/FB10srvi/HotNews/show_artikel.ph...

[4] http://www2.math.binghamton.edu/p/seminars/arit/arit_spring2...

[5] http://www2.math.binghamton.edu/p/seminars/arit/arit_fall201...

[6] https://web.archive.org/web/20170121000748/https://wwwmath.u...

I always knew kids that wanted to start their own business - at least in high school and college. I grew up poor-to-middle class, nothing special, living in Indiana. I'm about 39 now. Some folks just don't consider it so young, just like changing professions in one's late 20's. It usually goes along with the dream of not having to answer to a boss and/or working hours one wants to work, but not always.

But I do think more folks would try if they could take the college money and invest it in things like starting a business, no matter what the business is, and wish more folks had this option.

"But I do think more folks would try if they could take the college money and invest it in things like starting a business, no matter what the business is, and wish more folks had this option."

I don't think these options are comparable. The other is a structured path to more or less predictably increase ones human capital while the other is a high risk, unstructured mess. I suppose the key is this - can the person thrive in a non-structured space, and would they enjoy the hustle of entrepreneurship.

They are definitely different options - and I think that is a good thing. I figure that some folks are good without the structured college environment, and some folks are truly self-starters or simply interested in things that college will help them little with (wanting to own a restaurant, for example). I think a few would be good with either option.

I'm also a fan of affordable trade schools and different types of apprenticeships or work/school combinations. They sometimes like comparing apples to oranges, but I also think they give more of the population viable options for their life.

But you are correct, it does depend on the person and what, exactly, they want to do. I'd not just give the money without strings attached: After all, college funds depend on the person getting into college. Startup funds would depend on them learning the skills they need, have a seemingly viable business plan, and possibly a backup plan in case it goes awry.

It would help a lot in making this a viable option if more companies gave credit/valued the experience a young person gains by trying to start their own company. Outside of the Bay Area, this is a rare occurance.

How valuable would that experience really be? "Hired some friends and had a good time playing pretend-company until we ran out of daddy-money" is a likely outcome and that sounds way to much like the kind of college years that is spent completely ignoring all education opportunities before eventually dropping out.

When the company turns out to be viable the person would not be looking for a job. But when it falls despite all the free runway the experience is likely much lesser than that of someone who failed by a tiny main bootstrapping or convincing real investors.

Actually, it depends on the industry you are applying for. If you are OK with something like retail management - something that is generally a path for folks without college anyway - you can generally hire in above entry level. Same with some other industries and jobs - mostly because you are more likely to meet the experience requirements. Your pay might or might not be on par with someone with a degree, but at that point you might be able to remedy that.

I'm not sure it's so much hiring managers not giving credit. Rather that, especially for relatively entry-level jobs, companies--especially larger ones--use a lot of cookie cutter heuristics to sort applicants. And "tried to start a company rather than go to college" tends to fail those heuristics.

The problem I see is that this option is about finantial success, not education.

Why not a third option of a fund to pay for 4 years of living/travelling expenses, courses/books/workshops on a chosen field of knowledge?

Why not do both? You have so much time in college you can strt a side business in those 4 years. Yes college is a lot of assignments but looking back, you realize you could have still graduated doing 50% less work.

Well, in the article he does say that college is still an option after the company if it fails

Yep, but it is not like there is infinite supply of (assumed earlier by me) US$ 200,000 packets.

There is just one, and if your kid burned it, there is no more for the college.

I find the title a little manufactured to be honest. He openly admits that if his kids decide they want to go to college then the fund will cover 4 years tuition, but if they decide to do something else then he'll fund that pursuit too. I think his open-mindedness is great as college isn't for everyone, but neither is entrepreneurialism. At the end of the day though, he's not really replacing anything but rather he's doing exactly what he was previously just with a different label.

If I were the parent I'd provide my kid with both options simultaneously: Money for college and additionally money to take two years off after college to do a startup.

Matching the return on a quality education is going to be tough.

whenever i see "my kid's college fund", im reminded how grateful i am to live in a more social country than the US.

(Norway here btw)

Now, download your government's budget, check the expenses in higher education and compare the taxes that all working Norwegians have to pay to support the education system (whether they go to school or not, have children or not) vs taxes in the US.

Silly if you think they are mutually exclusive

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