Intelligentsia: The Other 1%

Future professor.

Plenty has been written about income and wealth inequality over the last decade. There is another inequality gap expanding even faster than that of income and wealth. The gap between the top 1% and the rest is growing rapidly in this area and it had a direct effect on income and wealth.

I call it intelligentsia. These people are the most educated or learned (there is a difference) and therefore control their ability to grow income and wealth at will. These hyper intelligent people also have greater political influence.

The intelligentsia are the other 1%. Nobody is complaining about their growing gap of knowledge. The reason for this is clear. Anybody who wants to grow their level of knowledge can with few barriers. Because personal responsibility is involved we will never see a rally or protest claiming people are not allowed to learn.

Do not confuse this with formal education. Formal education is expensive which is a serious barrier many people cannot overcome. The intelligentsia know a formal education is only a small part of knowledge and the influence it brings. Most colleges teach nothing about sound investing. As the owner of a tax practice I can assure you colleges are not churning out highly qualified tax professionals. These and other forms of knowledge require a personal commitment to learning.

Time to Get Schooled

The newsfeeds are filled with the plight of getting a college education. Costs are rocketing higher and student loan debt is blasting further into record territory daily. But formal education isn’t the problem, you are.

Sorry to be so blunt, but there is no other way to put it. The whining and complaining about college costs are unacceptable and do nothing to improve the situation.

College is important. Learning is even more important. If you can’t motivate yourself to learn without the stick of a professor threatening, you will never be part of the intelligentsia. Ever.

Four professors in one class? Awesome!

What you learn in college or technical school is only a fraction of what you need. Formalized education is more about the experience, the contacts, than about learning. Learning comes from outside the institution.

I know this is hard to grasp, but can you imagine Newton going to school to learn the things he discovered? Who taught Einstein about relativity? Who taught the Wealthy Accountant about taxes? It was the same person in each case. We taught ourselves.

Newton and Einstein had to learn and then build new knowledge and understanding from the base they had. Your favorite accountant took one tax class before going full-time. Of course, I read massive amounts of material in addition to that single class.

I have a secret. When I started my business I took the H&R Block tax course. That was the one course. It was something like 10 or 15 weeks where we met one night a week (maybe it was twice a week; it was a long time ago) for a few hours. That’s it. From there I kept growing. I read IRS publications. I attended continuing education classes before I had my enrolled agent license and was required to. I read every tax book in the library and bought more.

I went from dumbest to the intelligentsia of the tax community in a handful of years due to my massive indoctrination.

What about Contacts

The biggest benefit of formal education is the contacts you make. The classroom learning is available outside the institution in most cases. In some disciplines the professor requires you step off the campus to experience real world activities. It’s kind of hard to experience an archeology dig at a desk.

The cost of college is the textbooks. Having a professor preach to you from the book she probably wrote herself and requires for her class to drive sales is a waste of time. The professor then tests you to see if you have been paying attention and reading the additional material. If you are part of the intelligentsia you don’t need a professor prodding you; you can learn faster and better on your own. The classroom is slowing you down.

Formal education has one huge benefit only available from a group.

The intelligentsia is a small group of people, the 1% of knowledge holders, who stick together. College brings people together allowing these unique souls the opportunity to identify each other and share ideas. Is it any wonder managers of the largest businesses and political leaders draw their teams from people they met in college?

Contacts are more important than knowledge. (It hurts to say that.) It’s true. Who you know is more important than what you know. If you know the right people you are better off than knowing everything there is to know.

Without a formal education, without the advantage of a college campus, how can a budding intelligentsia acquire the contacts she needs to excel? The answer is simple: conferences.

Once formal education is completed the intelligentsia needs a way to stay in touch. If they are not part of your team you need a way to contact these people when the need arises.

One of the most common questions I get in my office is: Do you know anyone who . . . ? In many cases I do. Why is that?

I meet many highly advanced performers during the course of my day. Some I met during my short tenure attending college. (I have no degrees.) Many I met personally at a conference.

Conferences are like mini college courses. The training is intense; the learning environment ripe. I learned more at conferences than college ever taught me. Things never taught in the classroom are discussed over a cold one as the evening wears on at a conference.

How to Be Part of the Intelligentsia

The intelligentsia is an unassuming group. Rarely do you find someone excluded. Admission is simple; be an intellectual or highly educated.

How do you get this way? By standing on the outside drinking in all the knowledge until you qualify. It doesn’t take long either. When knowledge is flowing fast and furious your learning curve is steep. Soon you have something to add to the discussion. It is at this point you are a member of the intelligentsia whether you know it or not.

The next question is: Where do I find these conferences?

Before I tell you that I remind you a college education starts before you attend your first conference. You can buy or rent textbooks from Amazon. Books are the dues paid to become a member of the intelligentsia. Rare is the intelligensa (yes, I know I made up a word; would you prefer intelligencer?) who has no personal library.

Read. Read every day. Read stuff that nourishes the mind. Novels are fine for entertainment, but you are an intelligentsia neophyte. Your mind is fertile ground waiting for the seeds. Never allow such a fertile field to lay fallow!

Once your mind has been planted with vast tracts of knowledge it is time to meet your people. You could read the textbooks and wander the local college campus discussing the issues with those you find. Some colleges allow this; other might ask you to leave. It is an idea.

As your level of knowledge increases you want focused increases of knowledge. This requires a venue specific to your needs; you need to start attending conferences.

Conferences cost money. This is where your real education takes place. Conferences have classroom training coupled with massive socializing. What you learn in the classroom is only the conversation starter.

What is taught in the classroom continues afterwards. The presenter is frequently part of the discussion. The same thing can happen in college, but getting the professor to be one of the guys is unusual. At a conference the people you meet are people you can contact when the need arises. When you need a team member you have a pool of intelligent and experienced people to draw from.

Conferences are everywhere! I have never met a conference I didn’t like. It’s hard in the beginning for the newbie. Don’t worry. Walk right up and join the group. You’ll be one of the cult members in about thirty seconds flat. Don’t be shy. Do NOT waste the opportunity. To this day I have never witnessed anyone getting shot because they joined the conversation. (A few should have been.)

It is impossible for me to list every conference in every genre so let me give you an example you can extrapolate from.

Let’s use my profession, taxes/accounting, as a discussion point. If you want to attend a tax conference/seminar there are thousands to choose from. The AICPA is a good place to start. An internet search of your state CPA organization will have additional offerings. The National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) has many basic tax courses to pick from too.

Once you attend a conference or a few seminars you will end up on a list. Then the opportunities will come to you. The difficult part is choosing which conferences and seminars to attend with your limited time resources.

The internet has made finding conferences matching your interests easier than ever. By joining the intelligentsia you are joining an elite group. The intelligentsia earn more and have more. For some reason the 1% of income earners and 1% of wealthiest people in our society also happen to be in the other 1% too: the intelligentsia.

By focusing on income inequality you miss the point. Focus on learning and knowledge and you will be a card carrying member of the intelligentsia. Your income will go up automatically as a result.

Now, if you will excuse me. I have a book with my name on it.

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Keith Taxguy


  1. Mrs. Picky Pincher on July 31, 2017 at 10:03 am

    I think too often we think the pursuit of knowledge is tedious or boring. It’s much easier to gripe on your newsfeed about complex social issues than actually studying them, after all. 😉 College was a good option for me, but I do think it’s not always the curative shot. I’m a big fan of taking a few gap years before college to see what you want to do in life. The issue isn’t with college degrees themselves–I think we’re getting degrees that aren’t marketable (because who the hell knows what they want to do in life at age 17?) at hugely inflated rates.

    • Keith Schroeder on July 31, 2017 at 10:35 am

      I hope I conveyed the message I wanted, Picky: education and learning never stop.

  2. Gwen @ Fiery Millennials on July 31, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I’ve found this to be the case. I stick out like a sore thumb in my neighborhood. I have a college degree. Few in my neighborhood have a college degree and most are lucky to get a high school diploma. They don’t care about thinking, or learning, or bettering themselves. They don’t have the time or inclination. It’s a startling gap to talk to my neighbors vs people in the FIRE community. I also encountered the same issue when dating. A minimum requirement was to be able to keep up with me and there weren’t many who could. Fortunately, my boyfriend now not only can keep up with me, he challenges me 🙂

    • Keith Schroeder on July 31, 2017 at 10:37 am

      Gwen, nothing beats a significant other who constantly challenges you in a good way. Thinking and learning are the greatest pleasures of living. It amazes me how so many people miss these great pleasures.

  3. Michael Crosby on July 31, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Excellent article Keith.

    How true–” By joining the intelligentsia you are joining an elite group. The intelligentsia earn more and have more. For some reason the 1% of income earners and 1% of wealthiest people in our society also happen to be in the other 1% too: the intelligentsia.”

    Looking back, conferences are a great tool. Lots of great info, but I did not put myself out there to make more contacts. Part of my introvertedness, it would have been good to stretch myself.

    • Keith Schroeder on July 31, 2017 at 11:56 am

      It’s never too late to engage, Michael. You more than double the value of a conference when you engage other attendees. They give you so many great ideas just from conversation.

  4. Jover on July 31, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Totally agree about conferences! I’m in my current position due to a contact I made at a conference, from a contact made at a prior conference! And more contacts led to additional exposure, such that I was elected to a position on our statewide organization’s Board of Directors. Now I get to routinely engage with the top minds in my field, the ones most passionate about the work we do. And it has led to attending national conferences, and even greater contacts, exposure, and even a couple job offers! I didn’t take the bait, but my boss was afraid to lose me and offered a generous raise to entice me to stay around for a while! I can connect all of those dots through conference attendance and a thirst for knowledge.
    Great post!

  5. Jana on July 31, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Loved this article but I will add. My son lived at home and attended a state school. He was able to graduate without any debt so there are other options. Because he now lives local, and he went to college local, all his contacts are local. This has proven very good for seeking out new positions 🙂

    • Keith Schroeder on July 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm

      Jana, in no way do I denigrate the value of a formal education. Local contacts are powerful and more than enough for most people during their career. State colleges are great educational institutions.

      Also, you and your son are smart cookies. “Graduated without any debt” tells me he learned a lot more than was offered in the classroom. You guys get it!

  6. Kali on July 31, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I’m a new reader but I’ve decided I want to work for you. If you need a scrappy newbie investor who is eager to learn, let me know! Can help with emails, posts, social media, etc. You name it!

  7. dn on July 31, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    “Because personal responsibility is involved we will never see a rally or protest claiming people are not allowed to learn.” – this is one of the biggest problem sociologically these days, people exhibit little personal initiative to learn. There has never been a better time in the history of the world to learn and for free. With public libraries and online access with things like Courseara and the wealth of online information (blogs, such as this, or the multitude of other web sites (ie, bogleheads, reddit/personal finance, MMM, YouTube…), its all out there. I can’t believe how much BS is going around the US these days about how people cant get ahead when the information is all there, they just need to avail themselves of it.

  8. Turning Point Money on August 1, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Completely agree with this post. Never stop learning. I studied finance in business school. This was only a step in the door. After a few books, I was hooked. I haven’t stopped reading about the topic and learn little things from various sources.

    Conferences are great, but in my industry the get repetitive fast. The subject matter never gets deep enough. Always a consultant who wants to sell you his time. But like you said, it is fantastic for networking.

    • Keith Schroeder on August 1, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      Turning, consider conferences/seminars outside your field. Learning isn’t limited to work-related topics.

  9. The Money Commando on August 14, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    I think there is one more big advantage to a college degree – proof. That is, if you read books and do a lot of self-directed learning (which I do) there’s no proof that you have, in fact, read books or attended conferences. There’s no proof that you’ve achieved a minimum level of competence.

    One thing that a college degree denotes is that you’ve been taken a series of classes and, based on your grade, achieved some level of mastery of the subject being taught.

    This is primarily useful for getting your first job out of college. If you have a degree from a well-known college it opens doors that would otherwise be closed. After all, if a hiring manager receives 10 resumes for a job opening, they’ll need some way to whittle the list of candidates down. If nobody has any experience and 9 of the candidates have college degrees while one candidate lists “self-directed reading” as their education, I’m guessing it’s the latter that will end up in the circular file.

    • Keith Schroeder on August 14, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Agreed, Commando. My concern is so many people think a college degree is the only way to succeed. It isn’t. But you are right, a college education is valuable and if all things are equal worth pursuing.

  10. Bill Wagers on October 17, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Great article. I learned so much more about money and finances from reading on my own vs what I got in college. College was great and I’m a bit advocate for it if you’re getting a degree in something the market place needs.a lot of my best contacts are from college, but the real education is the real world. I talk to anybody have made many great contacts that way

  11. Billy B @ Wealth Well Done on October 17, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    You’re dead on. My journey from prison inmate to wealthy $**)*@&!) really had nothing to do with my college degree. People may think it’s my business, or my saving or investing strategies. But it goes deeper and further back than that. I credit all my success, and wealth, to all those years I spent reading, studying, and creating new philosophies in my prison cell. Then once I got out, I just added a bunch of action and determination to those philosophies I developed from books, and bingo, the wealth in my life compounded beyond my wildest dreams. Read and learn, and add action to what your learning, and that’s the recipe to evolve into a person beyond your wildest dreams no matter who you are or what life you started in.

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