July 15, 2014

The Markets

Germany may have clobbered Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals last week, earning a chance to become the first European team to win the event in Latin America, but things back home in Europe weren’t quite so rosy.

First, a sizeable Portuguese bank startled investors when it failed to make an interest payment on its short-term debt. Investigators have found financial irregularities at the bank’s parent company and don’t believe the problem is systemic, according to Barron’s.

 “…but jittery investors didn’t hang around to find out the true picture. The missed bond payment sparked an indiscriminate selloff among financials across Europe. Banks in countries at the periphery of the euro zone were particularly hard hit, but the ripples washed over markets at the core, too.”

 In addition, Reuters reported a Spanish bank cancelled its bond offering and Greece was only able to place one-half of its debt issue as a wake of uncertainty about Europe’s financial system worried investors.

U.S. markets moved lower last week, too, as Europe’s banking crisis renewed investor concern.

The Value of a Diploma

What is the value of higher education? Does it justify the cost? It appears the value of education is in the eye of the beholder. Aristotle thought education was about learning to think. He said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Nelson Mandela, who helped lead South Africa out of apartheid, said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Ben Franklin wrote, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” On the other hand, Abe Lincoln was self-educated and Mark Twain belittled school boards.

The cost and value of higher education have become issues for debate in recent years. During the 2013-14 school year, the average cost of tuition, room and board, and fees at a four-year public, in-state university was more than $18,000 per year or about $72,000 for four years. At a four-year private non-profit university, the cost was almost $41,000 per year or about $164,000 over four years. That’s a hefty chunk of change even without adding the interest owed on student loans and it has left some parents and students wondering whether it was money well spent.

James Altucher, a venture capitalist, Cornell graduate, and father of two young children, wrote an article questioning the value of college. He suggested young people choose not to attend college and instead start businesses, travel the world, and create art, among other things. He has since become one of the leaders of the ‘anti-college’ crusade, said New York Magazine. When asked about his stance on higher education, he told the publication he was trying to reduce demand for college so costs would go down.

Skipping college may not be the best idea. As it turns out, more than 98 percent of the world’s millionaires went to college, according to a 2013 study from Spear’s magazine and WealthInsight, a consultancy group. Just over one percent took a pass on higher education or dropped out before graduating. The dozen colleges and universities with the most millionaire alumni are:

  • Harvard University
  • Harvard Business School
  • Stanford University
  • University of California
  • Columbia University
  • University of Oxford
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • New York University
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • Cornell University
  • University of Michigan

Millionaires who participated in the survey typically studied engineering, business, economics, and law, although many did not pursue careers in their fields of study. According to a Spear’s editor, “Entrepreneurs, who ultimately end up being the wealthiest in the world, are innovators, and the top subjects are those which encourage new and smart thinking, whether technical or financial.”

Weekly Focus

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
–Leonardo da Vinci, Italian inventor

Image courtesy of Sakeeb Sabakka on Fotopedia. Used in accordance with the Creative Commons 2.0 Generic license.

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