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The billion-dollar asset

Armstrong Williams | 8/24/2011, 3:28 p.m.
At Thanksgiving, embracing the winds of change and increasing our faith

* Student loans for college

A good expense might be:

* A $10,000 renovation to a house that increases its selling price by $40,000

* Paying a certified public accountant to help your business legally save $20,000 in taxes

* Educational seminars

Bad debt or bad expenses are then just the opposite. (Extra cars, TVs, season tickets to football games, eating out at restaurants when you have credit card debt, taking out a loan on a "hot stock tip," etc.) The difficulty is that unless you have a trustworthy mentor to guide you financially, you may have to learn from some bad judgments to make good ones in the future. If you are currently over 50 and can't yet afford to retire or have debt you could not cover with the sale of your house, you might have to admit that you do not know as much about money or finances as you thought.

Admitting the need to change and then doing something about it is quite possibly the most difficult thing to do (think dieting) because we have been taught that it is not okay to be wrong. Too often we think it is a sign of weakness to ask for help, yet the millionaires I am fortunate enough to know personally are always seeking others' advice and often times ask the same questions of multiple sources.

There is no question that education is necessary for building wealth by expanding the billion-dollar asset that is your mind, even if you currently don't believe your mind is worth much. But the question is, what kind of education should you get? Is a college education worth the price? I admit I had trouble including student loans as "good debt" because it could require investing up to $150,000 for a bachelor's degree alone without the guarantee of a job when you're done. That could be a nail-biting proposition if you did not take the time to understand how you'd apply the education.

Many people I graduated with simply waited until the end of their four or more years to find a job or get offers! This is a perfect example of how debt can be good or bad depending on the person!

The person who makes this investment an asset is the one who gets the most out of classes, looks for areas to apply the knowledge in a working environment, networks with other enterprising people, starts a business or participates in co-op programs so that he or she has good leads for employment by graduation. You might also call this working smart.

Someone who only takes classes and works service jobs may do enough to cover their expenses and gain a lot of book knowledge, but what kind of opportunities will that person have at graduation? Is that time or money spent effectively if no effort was put into finding opportunities to get a return on their education? Obviously not. Working hard is part of success, but not as big a part as working smart and putting our billion-dollar asset to use.

Armstrong Williams content can be found on RightSideWire.com. He is also the author of the new book "Reawakening Virtues." Listen to him daily on Sirius Power 128, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside.