Advice for College Students- 5 Pathways to Millionaire Status

While some young adults enter college knowing their pathway- they know they want to be a veterinarian, an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant; most just simply show up and start taking classes without much thought of the future.  I want to encourage all students to take a moment and consider what lifestyle you’d like to have after graduation.  Look around you at people in their thirties, forties and fifties and notice who you most admire for their lifestyle.  While money is not the most important thing in life, it is important (just talk with someone who constantly struggles paying their bills every month).  I, like most college students, didn’t give any thought to future lifestyle while I was in college.  Had I done so, I would have done things much differently during my college years.  Fortunately, I gave this topic great consideration shortly after beginning my career and those early decisions have made all the difference.  So if the lifestyle you envision just happens to include becoming a millionaire, here are the top five best pathways along with the major I’d consider best aligns with that pathway:

  1. Self-owned business.  About three quarters of self-made millionaires are business owners.  Most started from nothing and built their business from the ground up.  Best major: Business.  With a business major you’ll learn all aspects of operating a business including management, financing and operations. 
  2. Real estate investor. While this could be a subset of number one above, I like to separate it since so many people invest in real estate while also having a regular job.  Depending on the type of real estate you invest in, it can also require a very different skill-set than the typical entrepreneur.  Best major: Finance.  Most often the key to riches in real estate investing depends on financial leverage.  With a degree in finance you’ll learn all aspects related to financial markets, banking and financial leverage strategies.
  3. Senior executive.  Senior executives, particularly in public companies, have the opportunity to create massive wealth primarily through stock options.  Sure, they make a great living through high salaries, but the real money is in the stock options.  Recently, a Birmingham, Alabama based bank, which began operations a short nine years ago, went public making millions of dollars for the senior executives and board members.  Best major: Management.  If you are going to become a senior executive, you’re definitely going to need to know how to manage people and business operations and a management major will concentrate on these areas.
  4. Professional. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, CPAs…people who have committed to advanced education historically earn a much higher income than those with just a college diploma.    Best major:  Varies… pre-med, pre-law, engineering, accounting.  The extra effort is well worth it.
  5. Sales. This is the one job that typically has no cap on income.  If you get a job in sales and are great at it, your income in not limited.  Best major:  Marketing.  Marketing majors learn all aspect of marketing and sales.  As a marketing major myself, at the time much of what I was learning seemed unimportant.  Thirty-something years later I realize that all of it served as building blocks for success in sales.

You can accelerate your journey to millionaire status by combining two or more of the above pathways.  For example, you could become a professional who owns your own business and invests in real estate on the side.

No matter what pathway you choose, you must also master the art of managing your personal finances.  I’ve witnessed way too many cases of large net worth; high income earners flaming out because of poor personal financial management.  Learn to be a good saver and smart spender.  Run your personal finances as if it too were a business…it has income and expenses and the profit is your growing net worth.

One final note:  College counsellors can be worth their weight in gold in helping you align your college coursework with your career ambitions.  Every college and the strength of their various majors differ so use these counsellors as a resource to guide you.