Should you study Business to become rich?

Dear friends,

Some of you may be at a crossroads in their career paths : Whether you are a high school graduate evaluating which higher education institution to attend or like my friend Franky who had already graduated from Uni and changed his career orientation in his late 20´s by taking an MBA at my Business school.

You are aspiring to a great and fulfilling job which at the same time will be a stepping stone to achieve your financial and life goals : enjoy an early retirement, live worry-free, start your own business, provide a nice home for your family and be able to spend time with your loved ones, explore the world, “Make [your country] great again” (sounds somehow familiar doesn’t´it?),… and you ask yourself : Should I study Business to become rich?

As a matter of fact I recently had an interesting email exchange with our family friend Anthony asking me about the Business School I attended in Brussels. One of his nephews started to attend the same school but he was not sure it was something for him.

Here is the extract of the freely translated email exchange :

“Hello Jonathan!

I wish you a Happy Birthday and much happiness!

By the way, one of my nephews has just started “Ingénieur de gestion” (Msc in Business Engineering) at the Solvay Brussels School.

But I am wondering if that is really something for him : Even though he was a grade A student in college, he was more of a literature person.

My nephew Benjamin has a cousin who also studied at the same Business school and who encouraged him strongly to do so too. This cousin is a business owner (fiduciary services) and has proudly “sold” the advantages of his professional life (“an endless flow of income”) without going into details about the content of the studies themselves. I understand it might be difficult for you to help me on someone you do not really know but you could perhaps enlighten me on the studies at Solvay : The rumors goes that “these studies are quite difficult” but no one can tell me what makes them so difficult, since you have been through these I thought of asking you.

Benjamin just had his first test in Physics and thought it was quite tough (To those who speak French it said : Il a trouvé cela “vache” – it was hard to find the proper translation and I could not use “cow”!)

I do not want to bother you too much with questions but I am concerned : Is this Business school a good choice, and once again Happy Birthday.”

Here was my response :

“Hi Anthony!

Thanks for the wishes! It is always a pleasure to exchange with you so of course, no problems to answer your questions about the studies at the Business School.

You could not time your email better as it has now been 10 years I got my degree. In those 10 years I have worked at 3 different companies and in several countries so hopefully that will bring some perspective to your nephew.

During high school I was quite the opposite of Benjamin : Fairly good in Mathematics, physics and less strong in French and other literature courses. I have always liked to compute and have thorough understanding numbers. This still applies today when negotiating salaries, mortgage with the bank,…

So my first question is : Even if he is an overall good student, will he enjoy economics and management studies? What is his motivation? A financial comfortable life as a business owner? Does he enjoy economic literature? Is he reading articles about Warren Buffet every evening?

When I was 17 (I drank a very good beer…), it was not easy to choose a career orientation that would shape my professional life. One of my uncles on the other hand knew he wanted to be a dentist from when he was 12, his choice was definitely easier for him!

I chose the Solvay Brussels Schools for both the numerous job possibilities at the end and for the intellectual challenge, as such I did not have a precise goal in mind. What I wanted back then was to get a job, earn a decent income, travel and those goals have been achieved so far! 🙂

Are those studies difficult? Yes and no. When I started I did not think it would be too difficult to understand the materials but I could see that it would require some efforts to truly master the courses. But once again as such not incredibly difficult.

The difficulty of the studies at this Business school are multiple :

– The first year (which is to me the hardest of the 5). It is new for high school graduates and a totally new environment (however this applies to every type of studies).

– There are many courses to attend, much to read after class and ideally one could read prior to the next class.

– If you live in a student dorm or apartment, the distractions are countless.

– The exams are not easy and the way professors grade them is more demanding than in high school. I remember that for one course we had with economy students, the exams were different even though the classes and the professor was the same.

So yes, no wonder Benjamin thinks the Physics test was “cow”! Back in high school if I had a good reasoning but a false answer I would get half the points, at Solvay it was 0.

Anyway as for every career choice the most important is to pursue something you are interested in and will enjoy. I am truly glad and proud to have graduated from Solvay.

In Belgium, this degree is a “free-pass” for employment, it shaped my mindset which in turn opened doors to a fulfilling career. Even though my journey did not go hassle-free, it gave me a combative spirit and a strong wish to excel at work.

To those that are looking for a complete Management/Economics “toolbox”, yes go for it!

If your strongest career aspiration is to become a literature professor, a doctor, a painter, language teacher, then no forget about these studies. However if you are looking at boosting income and need some financial advise there are enough books on the market (Look at these : The Millionaire Next Door, I Will Teach You To Be Rich, and many more…) to understand basics about Personal Finance and you can read the blog I just launched! I will develop the advisory services in a second phase.

Do not hesitate if you have further questions!”

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This was the correspondence transcript but to summarize here are the 3 only topics you need to reflect on :
  • Focus on your long-term financial and more important (more difficult as well) your life goals.
  • What do you enjoy most doing? Can this hobby/passion be turned into an income-generating business? What education/training is required to start working on it? Work hard on your necessary licenses and degrees and start working on a successful  career!
  • Is Economics/Management something you see yourself working with for the next 30-40 years? Career paths can be very diverse and you can easily move cross-industries through your career so that is definitely a plus (So far I worked in Finance, IT and Energy). I would not see myself studying Geography (even if I know the capital city of Angola among others!*), transmitting knowledge to a class, fixing my patients´teeth,… I was made to negotiate on commercial issues, deal with relationships and manage money.

and now for the Grand Finale:

  •  Will Business studies make you rich? Based on my experienced I will give you an unbiaised YES. If I look at my pals from Uni everyone is on a different level but what we all have in common is a solid understanding of how money works and how to make it work for you. (Some are business owners, many invest in real estate – that is probably a Belgian thing as well, we invest in the stock market, commercial real estate…). Now some are less frugal than others and enjoy a more “glamorous” lifestyle, are they rich in terms of net worth? I am not sure but they live comfortably for sure. There are however other studies that could make you richer : EngineeringArts, or you could even skip studies altogether like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and co!
  • Should you study business to become rich? The straight to the point answer is NO. Do you foresee yourself working 8-10 hours (12?) a day for the next 30-40 years at a financial job you despise with a boss you hate only because it pays well? It is not a walk through the park  but you need to, and my strongest wish is you do, find an activity that will fulfill you professionally and financially. You can always get more literate in personal finance matters by following this blog and other resources. You might not end up rich in terms of Dollars like uncle Scrooge but you will for sure end up rich in terms of quality of life and personal fulfillment! And that is the best you could wish for!
* Answer : Luanda
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