Science Confirms: The More You Learn, The More You Earn. Here's The Data...

Consistently finding the time in your hectic schedule to learn can be difficult. It's hard to find time for something that's not urgent when you're balancing work deadlines, quality time with your family, hang time with friends, and exercise.

If you delay learning new skills, no one will be angry at you. So, most people procrastinate or under-invest.

But new data is showing that this is a big mistake! And here's why...


There is a startling correlation between skills and earnings according to the results of a skills competency test administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Across the 22 countries the test was done in, an increase in skills always led to an increase in earnings.

For example, in the United States, an increase in skills of one standard deviation led to an increase in earnings of 25-30%. A standard deviation is the equivalent of the difference between an IQ of 100 and an IQ of 115. What this means is that the more skills you learn relative to other people, the more that standard deviation increases.

Let's put these numbers in context...

Learning A New Skill Now Can Double Your Lifetime Earnings

Let's take two people who are 25 years old making a $50,000 per year salary. One learns a new skill and earns 25% more or $62,500. If they each keep the same salaries throughout their career, here's what happens by the time they retire at 65:

  • Normal Person Cumulative Career Earnings: $2,000,000
  • Skilled Person Cumulative Career Earnings: $2,500,000

Now, let's suppose the skilled person took their 25% skill premium and invested it at 6% interest over their career. By the time they retired, their cumulative career earning would be $4,683,418. That's more than twice what they would have learned if they had NOT learned a new skill at the beginning of their career.

The chart below captures what happens as time goes by. The different groups diverge from each other...


Economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz have researched the link between skills and earnings for the last century, and they came to the same conclusion in their book...

At almost all educational and experience levels, the earnings for those near the top of the distribution increased considerably relative to those near the middle or close to the bottom.

So why do people who learn more, earn more?

According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Jan Tinbergen, the answer is two-fold:

  • There is a persistently rising demand for high skilled labor in advanced economies as technology progresses. This is known as "skill-biased technological change."
  • The supply of high skill labor began to slacken in the 1980s after drastically increasing for decades.

So what happens when there is more and more demand for a skillset while the number of people who can fill those roles remains constant? Wages for that skill increase! And that's what we're seeing in the data.

Bottom Line: Success = Learning Time * Learning Rate

If you spend 10 minutes per day learning and practicing a new skill, 5 years later you will be an expert at that skill.

We can all find the time to learn. Small chunks of learning time add up.

In fact, they don't just add up. They compound on top of each other. As we learn how to learn, we learn faster and get more learning per hour.

Ultimately, by putting in more learning time and learning faster, we can change the trajectory of our career and life.