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The F You Degree

2019-05-21

"When I was in college at the University of Illinois from 1968-72, the total annual cost was $1,200. This $1,200 covered everything: Tuition, books, rent, food and even a little entertainment.

Each 12-week summer I worked taking down diseased Elm trees. I was paid $20 a day over a six-day week. I saved $100 a week and by Fall had the $1,200 needed for the school year.

Of course, I lived in one room of a dilapidated old house that should have been condemned. White rice and ketchup served as dinner two or three times a week."

Blogger JL Collins, who wrote the seminal "Stock Series" that is now the defining opus of the financial independence movement, has a concept called F You Money. The idea is that at the point in which you've saved above a high threshold of minimum saving percentage (50-70%) in order to embellish your tax-deferred investments at a young age, you obtain money with which you gain the autonomy to say "F You" to situations you don't want to have to be coerced into (say, certain jobs). I think there's an auxilary concept to this, and that's the $5200 F You Degree. I'll explain.

It's now the case that computer science jobs are going to be the main vehicle for employment in the future. Even jobs that you don't expect to have a coding component will soon have a programming skill requirements. This is just the result as technology eats everything it touches. Learning to program is essential for anyone looking to be a high wage income earner in the 21st century. The F You Degree is spending four years studying at Treehouse and the University of the People as well as supplemental reading of the free OER curriculum at Holm School in order to obtain a bachelors of science in computer science for $5200 total (not including the cost of internet). You study primarily at the University of the People, but supplement your studies with a Treehouse account and well as reading the OER available on Holm School to compliment your UoPeople classes. That's four years of hard work, and at the end of it you'll have a CS degree for only $5200 ($4000 at UoPeople, $1200 at Treehouse, $0 at Holm School). You'll be qualified for junior dev positions based on having a CS degree, you'll be skilled in multiple languages due to your independent study at Treehouse, and you'll have read many essential free computer science texts at Holm School so that you'll nail all your interview questions. You will have the qualifications to break into the technology sector, and your life will take off at age 22 and you can max out your 401k and IRA each year from age 22-32 in order to sock away $369,600 total ($25k a year at 7% market gains for 10 years) in tax-deferred accounts by age 32, which will compound to $2,457,344 by retirement age of 60. This is the F You Degree, and it will enable you to be financially independent at a young age, and it only costs $5200 total (I get Treehouse free through my public library, so if you convince your public library to subscribe to Treehouse, it could be even cheaper).

The F You Degree is completely online. This is good if there isn't a public or community college in your hometown. If there is, I suggest you enroll at it in order to take CS and math classes. Only take CS and math classes, you should not enroll in a full schedule. Instead, take as many CS classes as you can in four years. You will practically complete the degree, but you won't have the necessary accompanying requisites. This is okay. At this point you can apply to UoPeople as a transfer student and receive credit for the CS classes you took at your public university/community college. You'll be able to put the classes you took physically on your resume, as well as having the end goal of a bachelors of science in CS from UoPeople. Even public university costs a lot more than it needs to because of all the extra requisite courses you have to take in pursuit of your degree. If you skip those and only take CS, you'll have more time to perform very well in those classes as well as having more free time that you can put towards studying on Treehouse. While you can't dual enroll at UoPeople and your local public university, you can max out your CS classes there and finish up the degree at UoPeople. This should minimize cost.

Of course, most people don't live in a city with a community college or public university. In that case, just enroll at UoPeople and Treehouse. In four years you'll earn a F You Degree which will rocket boost your career in technology as well as having the chance to max out and complete all the available tracks and courses available on Treehouse over the course of the same four years. You'll be well versed in modern programming and have a resume that includes all the tracks you completed on Treehouse, plus a UoPeople BS. The F You Degree is designed to be a ticket through the door of a programming job, while minimizing costs as low as possible yet still training you in the skills necessary for employability. The F You Degree directly leads to having F You Money. By not having a college loan (you can pay for the cost of the degree by working 742 hours at minimum wage over the course of four years, or 4 hours per week).

People, after reading the stock series, might be wondering how you get a career that earns you F You Money. That's where the F You Degree comes in. For $5200 and four years, plus a lot of hard work, you'll be qualified for programming jobs while having zero debt at the end in order to max out your 401k and IRA each year as soon as you start working at age 22. A programming job will easily start at $50,000 a year, and saving 50% of that in your 401k and IRA and investing in VTSAX or VFIAX index funds each year will be very easy by living frugally. Having no debt at age 22 is very essential to being able to max out your 401k and IRA. Otherwise you're paying off your loans instead of putting your earnings into a tax-deferred account. Because the F You Degree leaves you with no debt, you'll easily save 50%+ of your earnings pre-tax. You might even be able to save your additional earnings in a post-tax account, in order to work towards early retirement. The trick behind the F You Degree is having that zero debt, because having debt at age 22 is as harmful as investing at age 22 is helpful, with 40+ years of compounding growth ahead of you.

University of the People + Treehouse + Holm School. Hard work for four years and lots of github activity will help secure you a junior dev position, which will kick off a career as a programmer. At the cost of a few hours of minimum wage work a week, you can begin employment as a programmer at age 22 with no debt, at which point you can max out your tax-deferred accounts every year for ten years, which will be enough to secure a more than comfortable retirement after 30 years of compounding.

This is the tactic I used: I went to two years of public university in my hometown and took as many CS classes as I could. I studied at Treehouse in my free time and on the holidays. I had the skills, thanks to Treehouse (which I got free through my public library) to work on the stack of an NSF grant. I lived frugally for two years, maxing out my 401k and IRA one of those years, having a more than 50% savings rate. I got a new job in a lower cost of living area, and now have a savings rate around 70%. I am still maxing out my 401k and IRA. I am young enough the amount that I've put in will compound to a good sum to retire on at age 60, even if I were to stop working now. I will probably, upon receiving tuition reimbursement through my current employer after having worked here for a year (6 months down), I will get a masters in CS through Georgia Tech's OMSCS degree. All this cost $8000 and two years total before scoring my first job, $1000 per class at the public university (8 in total) and zero dollars for Treehouse. Obviously a public university will cost more than UoPeople, but my public university also got me my internship, which is now my current employer. $5000-8000 is the perfect cost of a F You Degree. It just takes a few months of work to pay off, at which point you can start contributing to your 401k and IRA and invest in index funds, and an OMSCS masters degree will be free through employer tuition reimbursement (compounding your F You Degree, just like time compounds your F You Money). The F You Degree is a great strategy, and a good compliment to a goal of financial independence at a young age.

The F You Degree is a great thing to discover at age 18, just like having an index fund strategy (outline in JL Collins's "A Simple Path to Wealth") is a great thing to discover young. The F You Degree is robust. If you want to pursue a liberal arts degree, because it is your passion, you can do that after earning your F You Degree. Of course, you can also just read books in your free time after your work as a programmer, but the F You Degree will cover your ass in the likely outcome that a liberal arts degree results in zero employability and jobs. Knowing how to program is a great skill to have, and at only $5200 cost total, the four years you spend studying programming will ensure a lifetime of employability, even if you want to pursue other interests and jobs. It's the F You Degree, it allows you to have greater autonomy and choice in what you do with your life after earning it.

The F You Degree is flexible. If you want to, you can subscribe to PluralSight for a year or two along the way to supplement your studies. You probably get a Lynda account for free through your public library. Use Lynda as extensively as you can! Perhaps spend a few months studying just Lynda instead of Treehouse. The flexibility is yours, and hopefully Holm School has taught you how to "unschool" computer science so that you are able to masterfully craft computer science curriculum for mere dollars.

Good luck in earning your F You Degree. It is available for nearly anyone at anytime (I earned my F You Degree at age 32). A career in tech is a sure bet for financial independence with mixed with Mr. Money Mustache-levels of frugality. Keep studying financial independence and personal finance along with your computer science studies, and in the end you'll earn the F You Money that comes from having a F You Degree.

Addendum - May 2020

It is worth noting that Perlego (a website/app) was recently released in the United States. Perlego is a "Spotify for Textbooks" that aims to recreate a university library on your tablet or computer for just $12 a month. I demo'd it, and it comes pretty darn close in scope of books offered. I think anyone self-learning computer science should work the extra ~2 hours a month to pay for a Perlego subscription while they're holmschooling their education. It basically makes paying for a university in order to access their stacks obsolete. Mix Perlego with OER and you'll be swamped by the sheer amount of CS textbook studying you have at your fingertips and todo-list while you spend four years self-educating a programming curriculum equivalent to a university degree. It just got even more affordable! Total cost of F-You Degree: $5776, or $120 a month. That's if you absolutely feel you must get a degree to be comfortable in your own skin. Just get the cheapest C.S. degree possible and blast off on your career. Otherwise study online for a couple dozen a month (i.e. Perlego).

In my opinion, if my parent's generation succeeded in life going to a college that could be paid off working summers, then you too should choose a college that can be paid off working summers. Unfortunately(?) the only college where that appears possible is UoPeople. But it is for that very reason I think it is the future of learning. If you can't pay off your education budget working summers, you might want to consider your options. Even if that means going to an online college as proposed here. Or you could earn a scholarship. I think a good rule of thumb is: Pay off your education budget working summers. If you can't, don't enroll. Then work your butt off studying the rest of the year.


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