Is education the key to financial success?

Is education the key to financial success?  Yes and no. 

Yes, better education will usually enable you to get qualifications and then a job that will pay more than jobs without qualifications.  This in turn should provide income and savings that will lead to your financial success.

But having qualifications that lead to a well-paying job isn’t enough by itself.  You also need financial education as well.

Starting with job qualifications:  These can be many and varied and a qualification is often just a stepping stone or a way to open up more job options.

However some jobs can be obtained with minimal or no qualifications if you have great and relevant experience, for example, working in a family business. There are also many stories in the computer industry of great programmers or sales people who are naturals and self-taught and doing well without formal qualifications.  But qualifications, whether in a trade or through university, are a way for many to break into better paid and more stimulating work opportunities.  By mid-life earning ability may be similar for trade and university educated people.

Students are constantly told to follow their passion.  That passion may be fashion, music, film, drama, media or sport but getting a well paid job in these areas early on is very difficult, especially without an established name and reputation. So do you doggedly follow your passion or get a reliable paying job first?

There is no right or wrong answer here.  Many pursue their craft while working part time, for example, in hospitality, cleaning or office work. The term “struggling artist” has been around a very long time so is not a new thing. But this doesn’t make travelling or buying a house any easier.

Another way to approach this is to get a qualification that will provide you with a well-paid income source while pursuing your passion outside of work hours. Musicians often do this. This also gives a back-up for whenever the craft no longer provides you with an income.  And this approach is particularly relevant for top athletes.

Or another option is to complete a joint qualification, for example, a degree in finance and drama.  This may allow you the best of both worlds.  Although realistically you may have to complete both separately as you may not be able to complete them at the same time.

So having qualifications can make it easier to get a job – but not in all cases.  Having a job in turn makes it easier to improve your financial success but a job by itself is not enough.  Most people can easily spend all they earn regardless of the amount they earn. 

This is where financial education comes in.  It will enhance or hasten your financial success.  By learning about financial matters such as understanding key financial concepts including loans, interest, and how shares work, and then putting that education into practice will give you a head start in improving your financial situation.


Ellie’s favourite subjects at school were film, art, media, drama – all creative subjects. She excelled at them and was excited to be accepted at film school after she completed her BA.  While she did well there as well, there wasn’t much work around in NZ so she decided that she needed to be proactive at getting herself established here.

She worked several part time jobs while she built up the equipment she needed, set up a website and started doing videos for friends’ businesses.  This has led to more work and she has picked up a steady stream of editing work – which she has found she has a real knack for.  While not yet giving her the financial and creative freedom that she would like, Ellie is building a reputation in the industry which she hopes will open doors to bigger projects and opportunities in the near future.


Rawiri had always wanted to be a top rugby player and to play for the All Blacks.  He had done well at school and had been picked by selectors for various junior teams.  He looked to be on the road to his dreams.  He earned just enough income from various part time jobs and casual work.  But by his late teens/ early 20s he was suffering from regular injuries which knocked him out for significant parts of the season, and affected his earning ability as one of his jobs was working for a furniture moving company.

By his mid-twenties he realized that he wasn’t going to fulfill his dream and that his body was pretty broken.  When he caught up with his mates at the weekends  he felt as if he’d wasted important earning years, years that he couldn’t “recover”.  After a period of not knowing what to do he set himself some goals and he now works as a manager in a nationwide furniture moving company.

Although he hadn’t any formal qualifications, skills he had learnt as a sportsperson: determination, self-discipline, pushing through tough times, punctuality, reliability, consideration of others etc had made him a popular and inspiring leader.  As part of his sports training he also had exposure to the financial education provided to players and he used this information to buy his own home and a couple of rental properties.

In summary, the steps to financial success are:

  1. Get qualified (it makes step two easier),
  2. Get a job to provide income for living and saving,
  3. Invest in your financial education (this can be free through online blogs such as this one),
  4. Act on what you’ve learnt, for example, buy shares or invest in property.
  5. Enjoy the benefits of your work!

Photo credit: Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington.

The information in this blog does not purport to be financial advice and no reliance should be placed on it. It is of a general nature only based on my experience as a Chartered Accountant in practice and specific advice should be sought for your particular situation.