I Made a Mistake With My Degree. Don’t Do the Same.

If you’re reading this, there might still be hope.

If you’re thinking of studying finance in the hopes of becoming a day trader or working with investments, please do yourself a huge favour and read this article before you leap headfirst into one of the worst career decisions possible.

This post is going to be quite specific, so if you’re not thinking of doing this, I won’t blame you for skipping this one, although there may be some similarities with your field!

Now that I’ve come out on the other side, I feel as if it is my duty to tell everyone I know that they need to do their research and be sure that the finance qualification is relevant to what they want to do.

This is of course, opinion based on my own experience, and whether you agree or disagree with me, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!

If I could have written a letter to my earlier self, this is probably what it would look like:

Dear Meathead,

First of all, congratulations! The future version of you has completed a five year double major in commerce, and now has a near-worthless degree!

Not quite what you were expecting?

Well, it turns out that most proprietary trading firms (prop firms) react something like this to graduates with a finance qualification:

A finance grad! They shriek, waving their arms in terror. Another one! Quick, send them the automated email that says we’re impressed but don’t think they’ll be suitable for this role in particular, but we hope that they’ll apply for future roles! 

Okay, I’ll admit, that’s not quite what they do, but in general, they’re not too keen on hiring finance graduates unless you have some serious quantitative skill, which you probably won’t learn from your degree.

Even in what would seem to be a traditionally finance-related career, companies are shunning finance graduates and opting instead for graduates in fields you wouldn’t even have considered as the competition!

Instead, they’re turning to engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists for positions that you should have been fully qualified for!

I know what you’re about to say (because I’m you):

“Wait, what? But why?”

Allow me, future Sanjay with 20/20 hindsight, to enlighten you.

Companies are well aware that finance graduates are basically irrelevant in today’s ultra-competitive business world, but it’s not entirely the students’ fault.

Graduates are leaving universities armed with a degree that equips them with a blunt dagger, to bring to a battle that is largely fought with the latest in drone technology. And there you are, outclassed and outgunned.

Why am I saying this? When you’re studying a finance degree in today’s world, the universities you study at are still largely living in the 18th century, when Microsoft Excel was all the rage and possessing knowledge of this single program was the gold standard.

They’re still proudly confusing students with irrelevant theories that will remain impractical and unused throughout their future careers.

Future you once asked a lecturer why we were learning material that isn’t applicable in the working world. He said: “Because we don’t have anything else to teach you.” That essentially sums up most commerce degrees. 

The nature of the coursework means that students never develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that employers value so highly.

My personal favourite is when universities attempt to pass off common sense knowledge as an almost biblical revelation.

To tell you the truth, the most practical and useful business knowledge can be gained by simply visiting a book store and purchasing any of the bestsellers in the field. You can learn from people who’ve actually done it, rather than learning from a textbook written by an author who gained his knowledge from yet another textbook.

I daresay the knowledge you gain from that $14 paperback will be worth far more than any $70,000 commerce/business degree.

As a finance graduate, I am embarrassed to say that I would not have been able to explain to you the basics of how the stock market works or how a simple index fund could earn you returns. I had to figure that out for myself, from books and the internet.

To survive in the business world, graduates require technical skills, like mathematics, statistics and programming. Yet, universities somehow decided that they would shrug of this minor detail and allow graduates to enter the “real” world without any technical skill or practical training whatsoever.

The reality is that quantitive degrees are in demand, because employers value an integral skill above almost everything else: Problem solving.

Move over finance graduates, because the business world is being taken over by engineers, statisticians, mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists.



P.S. I would like to thank my (your future) friend Yoni for the discussion that became the inspiration for this post.

Does this apply to your field as well? Let me know what you think in the comments!

How to Automate Your Savings

Solving the Avocado and Toast Conundrum

If you’ve found yourself spending too much, struggling to save for an upcoming expense (who knows, it could be a vacation!), or strapped for cash between pay cycles, don’t stress out. These are common troubles, and they’re easily remedied.

In today’s post I’ll show you how you can tackle all of these problems without using complicated budgets, expense tracking apps, monk-like levels of self-control or fancy financial tricks.

No More Avocado and Toast??

It’s become a running joke that millennials spend way too much on avo and toast (a blasphemous proposition, I know) and coffee. But rest assured, I would never prescribe that you cut down on the delicious breakfast, let alone the much needed morning pick-me-up.

Ramit Sethi (Brilliant and hilarious author of I Will Teach You to Be Rich) laments about how most finance “gurus” tell you to cut down on lattes to save money, but that’s precisely the wrong place you should be looking at if you’re trying to improve your finances.

The problem is, unless you’re a robot or have unnatural willpower, you will want to make small impulse purchases at times, but there is a way to ensure that you  can still do that without going overboard.

If you look up articles on how to increase your savings or cut down on expenditure you’ll find a wealth of information which all say pretty much the same thing. They’ll tell you to cut down on you small expenditures which apparently end up in big savings. They also advise keeping track of your expenditure using an app for example.

How many people do you know who actually stick to this? I’ve tried using an app to track every single expenditure but eventually I gave up because I kept forgetting to do it, and it was very bothersome. I eventually came up with a much simpler way to ensure that my savings were growing, while not having to worry about tracking every single dollar of expenditure.

There are a couple of ways of going about this, but I’ll show you my method and you can tweak it accordingly.

The Secret Sauce – Make Your Money Inaccessible

Or cumbersome and time consuming to access, at least.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Open an additional bank account

Keep your current bank account and open an additional one, preferably at a different bank if the interest rates are competitive. If not the same bank will do.

Another benefit of opening an account at a different bank is that you can avoid downloading the app that might come with it, which helps reduce the convenient access to that money.

  • Set up auto-transfers

Next, and here’s where the magic happens, you set up an automatic transfer of a certain amount that will go out of your main account every month and directly into your secondary account. The key is to have the discipline not to use the secondary account unless it’s an absolute emergency.

That’s why I mentioned opening the secondary account at a different bank. Doing this makes it harder for you to transfer money to your main account, thus decreasing the likelihood of you ever using it for regular expenditure.

  • Make your secondary account harder to access

Make it hard to access those funds by declining a debit card, if you really don’t think you have the willpower necessary to do this. Alternatively, accept the debit card, and leave it at home.

By doing this, you won’t need to stick to a strict budget and sweat the small stuff.

If you have a budget of $1000 per month for example, automatically transferring $200 out of that account every month allows you to stop worrying about consciously saving money. Of course, being frugal is always a good thing, but this method is more about guaranteeing a set minimum amount of savings.

If you don’t see the money in your account (because it’s already been automatically transferred), you won’t miss it. It will also give you peace of mind, knowing that you are definitely going to have an emergency fund if life suddenly decided to perform a belly-flop on you.

Let’s go back to Ramit Sethi for a second. In his book “I Will Teach You to be Rich”, he talks about something very similar to what I’ve just described above. He mentions that worrying about small decisions like having a latte vs not having a latte just to save $3 is not the point. The big stuff is what is really important. Automating your savings allows you to spend knowing that you’ve already guaranteed your savings.

That’s all for this post, and as always, leave a comment or email me and let me know your thoughts! Also, if you have your own tips, I’d love to hear it, and possibly feature it in an upcoming post.

You can check out Ramit’s blog here. It’s a fantastic resource and a lot of his content is absolutely free.