T. Boone Pickens has been in the oil business for 64 years. When he began his career at Phillips Petroleum (PSX) the average price of oil was just $2.77 per barrel ($25.20 adjusted for inflation). The so-called "Oracle of Oklahoma" turns 87 this month and doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I quit playing golf when I was 80 because I had macular [degeneration] and I couldn’t play like I did a few years before,” he says. “And I quit shooting quail when I was 80 for the same reason but I find that I’m still competitive working and I enjoy making money.”
Pickens says his philanthropy has also made him happy. He tells Yahoo Finance he’s given away over $1 billion to charity. He’s also joined Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and more in signing "The Giving Pledge," a campaign where the wealthiest people in the world commit to giving away at least half of their money. “I like all that. I don’t have any thought about retiring, I can tell you that. That’s not for me,” says Pickens.
Yahoo Finance asked him what he would tell a young person considering dropping out of school to go work in the oil and gas business. His response was uniquely Pickens.
“In 1949 my dad told me ‘you better get a plan.’ He said ‘a fool with a plan can beat a genius with no plan. Your mother and I think we have a fool with no plan.’”
Skipping or leaving college to work in the booming oil industry undoubtedly has appeal, especially when the starting salary for jobs that require only a GED can be well over the average pay of someone with a bachelor’s or even master’s degree. In Midland, Texas, high school students are reportedly dropping out as early as 9th grade to work in the oil industry.
“You can drive a truck now and make $100,000 a year,” Pickens says. He thinks that as long as young people have a plan, they’ll be okay. “I was up at Fort McMurray where the oil sands are and a young woman was driving a van up there. I said ‘Heather, tell me why are you up here driving a van,’ and she said ‘to get the money to get my engineering degree at McGill,’” says Boone.
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