The personal finance community talks a lot about investing. We collectively cover the fundamentals, risks, benefits, and logistics. All of this is generally focused on investing money in the stock and bond markets. But is investing in the market the absolute best way to secure your financial future? I would argue that it isn’t. The best investment you can make is really in your own earning potential.
I just got back from FinCon in Dallas, a conference of over 1,700 self-proclaimed money nerds that are involved in the financial media in some way or another (think mainly bloggers and podcasters). There were several reasons that I debated whether to attend the conference, and money was one of them. Even though I used miles for the flight and had a shared hotel room, there were still some costs involved, including taking several unpaid days off work.
Because my goal for my blog centers around helping others to find financial freedom and not around making money (although that would be nice someday!), it took the realization that the costs of attending the conference weren’t an expense. It was really an investment in myself. The connections I’ve made and the things I’ve learned have impacted my ability to share my message and have changed the way I view my world.
WHAT’S YOUR PURPOSE?
Maybe you aren’t a big money nerd and your life isn’t nearly as focused on budgeting, money, and numbers like mine. There’s something for everyone out there and the key is to find that thing that you’re really passionate about.
What is your purpose?
What do you really, really want to accomplish in life?
What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?
If you find that your current day-to-day lifestyle doesn’t reflect what you really want from life, investing in yourself is particularly important. The real purpose of money is to sustain and improve your life. What better way to spend money than to achieve your biggest goals?
There simply isn’t a better way to spend money.
WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN TO INVEST IN YOURSELF?
The first thing you might think when you hear about investing in yourself is getting a higher education. Sure, a degree might be beneficial to your career success and earning potential, but that’s by no means the only way to invest in yourself.
First of all, education can take several different forms. It can be going to a conference, taking a class, simply buying a book or taking the time to learn from someone that knows more than you about a particular topic.
Investing in yourself might instead be more focused on time than money. It might be taking the time to prepare healthy meals, exercise and rest.
Alternatively, investing in yourself might be getting a life coach or a therapist to conquer your inner fears and be able to move away from past experiences or trauma that is holding you back.
Think about what it would take to get to your end goal and work backward from there. Always keep your goals in mind and you’ll be able to achieve whatever it is that you really want.
WHAT KIND OF RETURN ARE WE LOOKING AT WHEN INVESTING IN OURSELVES?
As a very savings-focused individual, it took some clarity to justify the cost of the conference I attended. Sure, I could save an extra few hundred bucks in my IRA and enjoy the benefits of compounding interest. But what about the less easily quantifiable benefits that the conference would bring? What about the returns of investing in myself?
If I’m able to grow my blog and provide even more value for my readers, while also making an income from it that exceeds what I paid for the conference, that is a pretty clear return on the investment. However, some efforts may not yield quantifiable results for a long time, or even really ever. It’s just not as simple as that when it comes to investing in yourself.
If you invest in your happiness, it’ll show in your relationship with others.
If you invest in your physical health, you’ll be able to achieve more at work and in life in general.
If you invest in your mental health, you’ll have the confidence to be able to go for your career goals.
COMPOUND YOUR INCOME, NOT YOUR SAVINGS
By investing in yourself, you’re acquiring the skills, network and knowledge it takes to push past any limits you thought were there. Instead of compounding the interest on the portion of your income that you’re able to save, you are compounding your actual income. That’s a huge difference!
Let’s use a quick example: Assume that you attend a conference that costs around $1,000 total to attend. Let’s say that you would have invested this $1,000 in the stock market earning 7% annually. After 5 years you would have $1,403. Isn’t compound interest amazing? However, let’s instead say that by attending the conference, you were able to make connections and gain knowledge that increased your business from $500/month to $750/month and that your income is currently growing at a rate of around 1% per month. You’ll recoup your conference costs in less than 4 months and then have an additional benefit over 5 years of over $18,000. Now that is a good investment!
The most successful people, as measured not only by their financial success but also their ability to make a truly positive impact in the world, are without exception those that have prioritized investing in themselves and their ideas.
I’m an advocate for plugging away at those savings goals little by little, day by day. Those little things are going to make a big difference. But if you’re faced with the choice of compounding interest on savings versus compounding interest on your potential future income, it’s an easy choice. Choose to invest in yourself.
What are the ways that you’ve invested in yourself that have provided the greatest return?