LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS. The only true way to be happy, no matter what income level or job you have.
A smart person learns from their own mistakes, a wise person learns from others.
Debt is bad, will make you stressed and unhappy. So IF you choose debt there better be a guarantee and a REALLY good reason for it.
College is not for everyone, and not a guarantee. But, like anything else, done properly can be great.
I have been self employed since I was 20. (8 years). I love it. Worked 2-3 jobs from 15 to 20 saving to start a business. NO College for me even though my parents wanted to pay. First in my family to be self employed. No handouts or help. But owning a business is not for everyone.
Done right, you can make your passion a career. I do, but I understand why others don't.
Mechanic career is fine as long as you live below your means, or you are the best around. You need to be naturally good at "driveability". Diagnosing problems the computer, and others can not. Or you will just be a parts changer making a low income. Again, you still might be happy, as long as you live below your means.
Have a goal to live debt free as soon as possible. I have been debt free for a couple years and love it!
Good luck and enjoy everyday. Don't live life "chasing" more money thinking you will "be happy" when you get it, because you will just want more, and more, its a vicious cycle.
Some colleges and universities have a heavy emphasis in liberal arts and humanities, and even business majors tend to take less focused courses much later in their college lives. For average students, maybe it's better to get a trade, or just the paper at a cheaper school.
If you have the opportunity, go to college. A degree is something you will always have and can fall back on in a pinch. I have learned this the hard way, I am back in school full time after 16 years working. It is much harder when you have the obligations of a home and family. Also as stated many times here, put some thought into what you will pursue. Try to pick something you are like or that interests you, but at the same time is marketable. Business, technology, engineering, are good. Something that if your interests change later on will give you mobility.
Military is a great deal these days. They paid for my college education before I commissioned as an officer. You have job stability. Good health care. I am an 0-3 going on 8 years of service and I am very close to making six figures.
I would think the Coast Guard would be a great choice. Same benefits of military without the overseas time and so many awesome choices of duty station (Alaska, Hawaii, Great Lakes, South Florida).
I have 19 year old twin boys. Did not want to go onto school. They love boats and cool cars. Told them if they want to have toys they best get some education. Local jobs will not support a house, food and toys. Gave them a choice of what they wanted to do. For now it is school.
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