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I'm a 28 year old programmer currently living in a Balkan country.

Back when I started college on computer sci my family did not have enough finances to support me plus I did not judge the university to be on par with good colleges I had seen or read about.

I overviewed the curriculum (program of study) of my state university and decided to drop out for mainly the two reasons I mentioned above.

Shortly after I dedicated a few years to learning some essential skills in programming and databases and started working with good results 2 years after dropping out(surpassed the local salary of a local programmer).

Currently I am earning about EUR 17,000 a month ($20,000) and have started wondering how to invest or what to do next.

Would it be wise of me to go back to college? What would you do if you were in my position?

Get a degree? Launch a startup? Invest elsewhere?

I appreciate all opinions. No matter if it comes IT or non IT related.

Edit: I'm not sure how the next 2 or 3 years will be financially. I want to be as much prepared as possible for the future. Money itself is not the definitive solution to anything future might bring. I can't deny the possibility of working as a programmer for a company(for that I need a degree in most companies/countries);

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    Sounds like a humble brag. – RonJohn Nov 29 '20 at 21:13
  • I don't brag. I'm lost. There aren't many investing possibilities where I live. – inrob Nov 29 '20 at 21:14
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    Have you considered taking night courses or online courses to progress your education while remaining employed? – fred_dot_u Nov 29 '20 at 21:35
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    When you are asking if you should "go back to college," do you mean to cease your self-employment and attend full time? One might think it is advisable at your age to continue to gain income while applying online course study to a degree program, rather than terminate (or reduce) your income. – fred_dot_u Nov 29 '20 at 22:31
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    Hi; welcome to the site. I don't think this is on topic; particularly not on personal finance. If you wanted it to be on topic, I think you'd need to ask more about how to make the decision. "What should I do" is nearly never on topic on Stack Exchange sites - it's your call what to do, and not up to us to tell you which decision to make. We can help on the "how do I make a decision" front. – Joe Nov 30 '20 at 19:35
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What do you want to do?

All personal finance is based upon helping people achieve their goals. So far, you've not established any major goals... so it's going to be hard to provide any useful advice.

Where do you want to live? What do you want to do for income? How sustainable is your current income stream etc?

While you're pondering that, here are a few tips:

I'm not sure how the next 2 or 3 years will be financially.

You want an emergency fund. This is money set aside in low-risk investments (e.g. savings accounts in the US, not sure the Balkan equivalent) designed to tide you over to a new income stream if this income stream dries up or something else occurs (e.g. health issue).

Would it be wise of me to go back to college?

What for? Universities are usually used to get one a foot in the door. You appear to already have a foot in the door, so without a specific goal (that can't be obtained more easily outside a university), this seems pointless.

Invest elsewhere?

For long term investing - e.g. retirement - index funds that are diversified and low cost is the usual recommendation. Don't know how that looks in your specific situation.

However, this assumes that retirement is a goal of yours - which first you have to establish with your other goals.

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I like NPSF3000's answer and would like to add some to it.

IMHO a degree would be useful. Despite being a developer for 25+ years I still use things that I learned in college on an almost daily basis. Could you set aside money, for a degree, so that if things slow down and you cannot find a similar paying job, then you can tap into that fund to complete your education?

While a startup is a noble pursuit, I would want a good idea first. A sure way to lose all your money is to startup a business just because you have extra money. One should first have a passion for the business they want to enter, then start it with as little as cash as possible. Reading the book The Lean Startup and The Pumpkin Plan would be helpful if this is the way you want to go.

With this kind of money, it is essential to build a solid foundation. Yes an emergency fund (I'd shoot for 50K Euros), yes some basic stock and bond investments in mutual funds (probably about 100K Euros with additions each pay check). From that foundation, you can then look to branch out into other areas.

So my suggestion would be to build an emergency fund first, then an investment base, then explore the idea of saving money to complete your education, or just go in a different direction.

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  • "Despite being a developer for 25+ years I still use things that I learned in college on an almost daily basis. " The only thing I'd add to this is that while universities can teach useful fundamentals... these fundamentals (especially as far as software engineering is concerned) can often be picked up elsewhere with significantly less time and money costs. – NPSF3000 Nov 30 '20 at 15:36
  • @Pete B. Appreciate your response. "I still use things that I learned in college on an almost daily basis." You mean algos? Can you name a few? I already have like Eur 100k set aside. I can afford an apartment but I'm not sure if It'd be wise. (Just read Rich Dad Poor Dad lol) – inrob Nov 30 '20 at 23:45
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    @inrob please don't follow the advice of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The author is a fraud and bankrupt. Unless of course you desire to be bankrupt. – Pete B. Dec 1 '20 at 12:38
  • @PeteB. THANK YOU – inrob Dec 5 '20 at 2:00
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  1. Do not waste time at a conventional college.

You're now old, you're not 17. If you're already making good money, it would be madness to waste years going to college. Simply: you will not "make more than you're currently making" if you "have a degree".

  1. Comment about "needing" a degree is largely incorrect.

Turn to the "Jobs" on stackoverflow. In pretty much every case where it says "Degree..." it then says "...or equivalent experience." Look and see. It's a cliché of our times that (many/most) programmers can make it perfectly with no degree. I don't universally recommend "don't bother with a degree" but in the example at hand it would be simply throwing away the $milllion that could be made in the four years, for absolutely no advantage. It would be literally pointless.

  1. Study theory independently, or, using the many "modern" learning opportunities.

There are a huge host of online courses and self-study courses from the very best institutions. As a self-taught programmer, be sure to study the hardest stuff. Completely memorize every word of this book, memorize every book on this list, and chew up some comp sci basics.

Be aware that to move on to be making even more money than you already are, you'll have to totally ace the hard stuff. Knowing how to program Language X is valueless.

  1. Startups are an utter waste of time.

Let's do the math. You're currently able to make $200,000 a year puttering around with contracts. To throw off that much income you would need a solid 15 million in the bank.

It's easy enough to throw together a product that makes the odd 1/2m or a million, but it's "like winning the lottery" to put together a startup that puts 20 million (after tax!) in your bank. A total waste of the next 5+ yrs of your life, and you'll then anyway go back to "merely" making 200k puttering around with some contracts after the pointless effort.

  1. Buy a house.

In terms of what to do with your money, "first" buy a house. Run out and buy one today. For these four reasons.

After that just put money in S&P index funds and forget about it.

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  • The Albanian stock market isn't where I'd want to invest my money; it seems that he wants something more stable, too. – RonJohn Nov 30 '20 at 17:37
  • @RonJohn , cheers, I surely meant "S&P!" thanks – Fattie Nov 30 '20 at 18:36
  • He's in Albania. Problem #1 is getting the money out of the country. – RonJohn Nov 30 '20 at 18:40
  • Bought a house. Moved a year later and had to sell. While I enjoyed it, would not recommend it until OP knows his goals and they are compatible with home ownership. – NPSF3000 Nov 30 '20 at 20:13
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    @Fattie MUCH THANKS!!!!!!!! – inrob Dec 5 '20 at 2:00
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A Computer Science degree will not help you earn more.

That degree or a different degree should be because you like academia.

The concept behind the degree is that it lasts even after the market dries up for whatever you are doing. But that is no guarantee. Regardless, some employers and colleagues will use the presence of a degree to separate you from a larger crowd that has not proved discipline or stability in life.

With your cash flow you can acquire cryptocurrencies and get money out of the country. Even if there are no financial institutions for this in Albania, you can buy hardware and mine cryptocurrencies even at a loss. Just compare it to actual illicit, less convenient ways of getting money out of the country, what are they losing 20-30%? if you can convert hardware into money at a 5-15% loss you win. Maybe you can sell the hardware again after it has served your purpose.

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