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Monday, November 14, 2011

Everyone Needs a Plumber...

Plumbers typically earn (according to this in the WSJ) between $35 and $50 USD per hour - master plumber's up to $100 USD per hour.

I'd have to say that that's not a bad wage.

Know anyone who hasn't needed a plumber?  I don't.

What's more interesting, according to the same article, parents discourage little Suzy and Johnny from this sort of career.

Its viewed as low-brow grunt work.  Much less fun or fulfilling than IT or healthcare.

But is it?

I think not.  I've known plumbers, electricians, HVAC guys, builders, and as well as guys in virtually all other "blue collar" professions over my lifetime. 

Quite honestly I would say they think the job is on you.

With a reasonable effort you can work you way into one of these careers... often starting as a "helper" or "grunt."   If you have any brains at all you can do more, much more...  Have an artistic bent?  Then you can do jobs where people will wonder at your work.  Like to make money, then be like the one master plumber I used a years ago - showed up in his 20 year old beater car, no helper, etc. and drove his beater happily home with several hundred bucks for a few hours work.

This guy had no education loans - that's for sure...

Starting out with an ivy league degree and you can expect (according to USA Today) that the "lowest median starting salary for an elite eight ranges from $49,400 for Brown to $59,600 for the University of Pennsylvania."  By mid career you could be making anywhere from "$99,700 from Columbia to a high of $123,000 from Princeton and Dartmouth."

Sounds good, right?

But take my master plumber buddy - easily this guy is pulling in $100,000 USD a year.  He's probably less stressed than you average Columbia grad at the same age - and he probably doesn't have the corresponding $200,000 USD debt you'd have from an ivy league school.

That $200K loan is going to cost you $2,100 USD a month if you want it paid off in 10 years, $1,300 a month in 20 years (at 5%).

So for your average low-end graduate that's taking up about 1/2 your income... so your $50K salary is really about $24K for the duration of loan.  The same as making about $15/hour.

If you're a decent plumber's helper you'd probably be making more, at least in Alaska.

With no debt and fewer worries (if you worry about your debts).

And of course if you're ambitious you can start your own plumbing company and make even more...

So why are parents steering folks away from this kind of profession?

I think its because college's have created a mystique about "education" that they frankly can't really fulfill for the most part.

Sure it sounds great that little Johnny has a college degree.

But quite honestly most people couldn't care less - at least in the "real world."

In the "academic" world its a different story though.  I've worked with all kinds of people over the years and quite honestly what matters is the persons character and their skill for what I hire them for.  I don't care where they got it from.  I just care that they have it.

In fact, I'd rather hire a poor guy than a highly educated guy with an education loan.

The reason is that the poor guy isn't going to think he's entitled to a "high valuation" as far as payment is concerned.

The most desperate people in my view are those that have too much leverage.

Not those that are poorer - they tend to have better character and feel less needful of "entitlements" - like an entitlement to my money for less work.

College today plays the game of the old Dr. Seuss classic "The Sneetches."

Little do parent realize that the college plays the roll of "McBean" who, throughout the story, continually profits from envy of those who don't have.

As long as you think you are paying for something, like a college education, that's the "ticket" to riches you won't ask too many questions about the details - like if you'll really end up with riches, like if you'll have to work less hard than others, etc.

Certainly many professions require a college education - like doctors.

But don't enter the field unless you're really interested.

In 1985 I recall interviewing IT graduates from CMU.  Most couldn't care less about IT - they were in it for the money and said so in the interview.

Gee, should I hire them?

Sure, if I wanted my customers to think I was ripping them off...


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