According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the potential lifetime earnings of an individual with a bachelor’s degree versus someone without is over $1M higher. If we break that down over a 40-year career, that $1M translates to an annual income difference of $25,000 or an extra $12.00 per hour (based on a 40-hour workweek). For those that go on to further increase their education with a master’s degree, that gap grows even larger to a $1.4M increased lifetime earnings or an added $36,500 per year and approximately an extra $17.50 per hour. 

Indeed, you don’t need a degree to be successful with money and income, however, statistically speaking it is much easier to do well financially the higher your education level. Before we dive in too far, let me set a couple of things straight: first, I am not suggesting that life is all about earning money. Instead, I am suggesting that increasing your lifetime earnings equates to greater resources for your family, giving back to causes you support, or accomplishing more of the dreams on your life’s bucket list. Second, while these statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau refer to formal education, which I strongly support, I am also a believer that learning and ongoing education can happen in many other forms outside of a classroom environment.

Setting aside the formal education route, let’s talk in more detail about the other ways you can invest in yourself and create lifelong habits that perpetually build your knowledge and skillsets. There are two ways you can learn: one is self-paced on your own and the other is through organized programs. Those people who prefer to learn on their own will often lean towards resources such as books or podcasts. Conversely, those who prefer to learn with or from others will likely lean towards seminars or a traditional classroom structure. Keep in mind there is no right or wrong way to learn and so both options can provide significant benefits. 

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As we’ve already established, you are your main earning source and so just as you add oil to your car to keep it running or make healthy eating choices to keep your body working well, it’s the same approach with taking care of your mind and growing your knowledge for personal and professional gain.

So just how exactly do busy professionals find the time to invest in perpetual self-development? There are 3 steps you can take to help create a lifestyle that values ongoing self-development, they are Prioritization, Planning, and Preparing. For example, if learning about how to plan for retirement is important to you, you will search for books that can educate you on the topic, then download the book on your phone so it’s ready to play as soon as you get in the car to commute to work. If all 3 steps are not followed you will not be ready to learn on the go during your commute.

Here are 2 underutilized sources of the fantastic learning that are available to everyone for almost no cost.

Almost five billion (That’s a billion with a B!) videos are watched each day on YouTube and over 300 hours of videos are uploaded every minute. Granted a lot of these videos may be silly entertainment offerings but the sheer amount of content available from industry leaders and academic professors from the likes of Harvard, Stanford, and M.I.T. for example is staggering. Simply search for a topic and add the words ‘professor’ or ‘course’ and you will gain instant access to any subject you want to know more about. In essence, YouTube is an aggregated source of knowledge on a wide range of topics from experts around the world.  

LinkedIn Learning is another valuable source of information and learning. Think of LinkedIn as a business filtered version of YouTube with content delivered by business professionals on a range of hard and soft skill topics. With LinkedIn Learning, you can refine your PowerPoint skills, learn to negotiate sales deals, and brush up on change management all with a low monthly subscription cost.

Don’t forget about all the other resources available including, audiobooks, Podcasts, Ted Talks, university classes, seminars, trade magazines, training resources at work, mentorships, networking, webinars, learning new languages, and job shadowing. All forms of learning help flex mental muscles and keep us at the top of our game throughout our careers while also improving our ability to grow or advance either personally or professionally


  1. Therron H. says:

    I never thought of using YouTube as a learning tool, I’ll have to give it a go. Any suggestions on speakers or books?

  2. Finding time is the hardest part! I recently started listening to audiobooks while commuting instead of listening to music. I read 2-3 books a month because of changing this habit. Great advice especially with all the free content available online.

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