Gary A. Scott writing on the gig economy…

I hate freeways.

They are great for getting from A to B, but they lack soul…too packed with speeding cars, trucks, and stress. Like so much of modern life, it’s hard to keep up when driving on freeways.

Who needs the pressure?

Last time we drove from our North Carolina farm to our Florida grove, we headed south down quiet Highway 321 instead. The trip was revealing, cruising through small towns which form the heart of North and South Carolina. Then we passed Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Honest…these are all small southern towns, each one a junction opening a window into America’s historic soul.

Driving was a relaxing pleasure, but also a bittersweet ride. The crumbling nature of those towns revealed that employment, as we knew it, is gone.

Empty factories, faded structures with broken cobwebbed windows, rise above weed filled prairies that formerly were parking lots. The businesses moved abroad, leaving behind these scenes of rotting infrastructure.

Now artificial intelligence is taking over the more sophisticated factory jobs that are left. Even truck drivers will soon be replaced with driverless trucks. Millions more middle class jobs will disappear.

How can we keep up? In the past, the answer was “Get a college degree.” University degrees were tickets to the best jobs.

If only that were still true…

Today a degree still makes it easier to get a job, but it’s more likely to be a lower-paying job.

The class of 2016 had the best hiring prospects since the Great Recession, but the number that are underemployed has risen. According to one study, 51% of graduates from the classes of 2014 and 2015 are working in jobs that do not require a college degree. Almost 39% of graduates from the classes of 2014 and 2015 are making $25,000 or less.

Yet university tuitions and student loan balances have climbed to an all-time high.

That’s nuts…

Research on what it takes to be a millionaire found that higher education can even hinder rather than help as it delays earning, increases expectation of spending, and builds up student debt.

To make matters worse…by 2013 student debt exceeded auto loan and credit card debt, making it the largest form of consumer debt after mortgages…even though the debt buys less and less.

What a rotten deal. How come?

Since 1980, there have been 46 acts of Congress concerning student loans. The legislation makes it easier to get loans — even for people that shouldn’t be borrowing. The rest of the laws make these loans exempt from bankruptcy — meaning there’s no way to escape this debt, no matter what you do.

Add it all up, and we’ve got a new kind of inescapable financial bondage. One that will follow you everywhere.

Spend four or five years accumulating debt to maybe have a better chance at a low paying job?

Give us a break.

But, wait a minute…

Why not earn and learn? Gain experience, earn, save a bit, and end up with a college degree and money in the bank instead of debt.

The gig and internet economy makes it easier to get part time jobs or provide a way to earn and finance your education.

Combining work and education can eliminate debt, provide money and time skills, and put you ahead of the competition. Potential employers like those who know their way around a job. Doing well in school and having work experience sets a person above the “just school” graduate.

If you have a job, continued education helps your prospects of promotion. Because college — and advanced degrees — aren’t just for the young. With the rapid shifts happening throughout the economy — and the number of jobs that are disappearing — you can’t afford to sit still.

Work and keep learning. Or learn and finance the process with work. Whatever your emphasis, the realities of rapid technological and economic change, combined with higher educational costs makes this approach the only effective way to adapt.

Earn and learn. This is more than a way to get a job. It’s a great way to live. Life is change, so never stop learning, and always be earning. The two steps work hand in hand to make your every moment a success.

P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.

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