Right now you’re listening to this podcast, or reading the blog article.
You’re curious, and have a thirst for knowledge. You want to learn new things. You want to improve yourself.
We usually think of investment as being a financial thing. But investing in yourself – your skills, knowledge, and health, can be just as important and impactful. And just like a financial investment, diversification pays.
In past Financial Autonomy episodes we’ve looked at investing in the share market, buying or starting a business, getting debt under control, and various other topics that tend to have dollars and cents as a core element.
And whilst the money side of things is unquestionably important in you attaining Financial Autonomy, there are other essential ingredients required for you to achieve success. Motivation, health, happiness, self-awareness, creativity.
There is a lot on the net about self-improvement and investing in yourself – I’ve spent hours reading it to research for this article. So what I’m going to share with you today is the 5 ideas I’ve been able to identify that will have the greatest impact in you reaching your Financial Autonomy goals.
- The starting point must be your health. It’s no good achieving Financial Autonomy at age 50 say, only to drop dead 6 months later.There’s 2 elements to investing in your health – activity and food.On the activity front, the important thing is to start. If you’re currently doing very little physical activity, start by taking regular walks. Build up the distance over time. Perhaps you could extend that to jogging. There are podcasts available based on the couch to 5k approach that I know people have found useful.
If you already have some level of fitness, think about setting yourself a new challenge. Last summer I set myself the challenge of completing a triathlon. Swimming has never been my thing, so I had to put quite a bit of time into training for that component of the event. The funny thing was, when the tri season ended and I focused back on running, I found my running had improved, even though I hadn’t given it much focus over the summer.
When thinking about the activity component of health, just remember the “R” in the SMART goals acronym – realistic. The surest way to side-step success in this area is to set some crazy high goal, that you quickly become discouraged by, and you defeat yourself before you make any progress. Start small.
The second component to investing in your health is food. As important as activity and exercise is, if you head down to KFC for a post work-out feast, you’re probably not going to maximise the health benefits of your exercise. I’m not a nutritionist, so I can’t give you any particular guidance on what you should and shouldn’t be eating, but just reflect on your eating habits and consider whether this is an area worthy of investing some of your time to research and improve.
2. Get your creative juices flowing! For many of us, creativity seems to die when we leave primary school. But it doesn’t have to. Indeed as technology like self-driving vehicles and AI eliminate many of the traditional jobs in our economy, the ability to think creatively takes on far more value and importance.
Pick up some blank paper and a grey lead pencil and have a go at drawing that tree in your back yard. Is there a musical instrument floating around the house that you could teach yourself to play. If there isn’t a YouTube video showing you how, I’ll eat my shoe.
How about expanding your cooking repertoire? There’s no shortage of cooking shows to give you ideas. Many years ago my wife and I made a new year’s pledge to cook something we’d never cooked before, once a week. We subscribed to one of the monthly cooking magazines, and so that was the main source of inspiration each week. There were 2 or 3 weeks during the year where we didn’t achieve our goal, mainly due to the very reasonable excuse of our first child being born. But there were several other weeks where we tried 2 new recipes, so over the course of the year we felt we’d ticked the goal well and truly off.
And it’s paid long term dividends. Once you learn basic cooking skills, and what goes with what, you gain the ability to ad-lib. Substitute what you have in the cupboard for what the recipe is asking for. Cooking skills can also help with your health goals, and be good for the household budget.
How about learning a new language? There are great podcasts around. I’m currently having a go (pretty unsuccessfully so far) at Coffee Break French, interestingly enough taught by two Scottish people.
Perhaps writing is your thing. Short stories, a novel, or poetry. Worst case, no one reads it but you. Make a start, have a go. Only good things can flow.
3. Expand your knowledge in an area you are already good at.
Professionally we operate in a competitive world. I make my living providing financial planning advice. But there are many financial planners in the world. So just being competent isn’t enough. I need to be an expert. Over the 17 years that I’ve been providing advice to clients I’ve become an expert in Self Managed Super – I even wrote a text book on it. And in recent years I’ve pulled the treads together to become an expert on Financial Autonomy.
The reason I’m able to get articles published in quality brands like the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, is because of that expertise. It’s also the reason I was nominated as 1 of the top 3 Certified Financial Planners in Australia this year.
So when we’re talking about the most impactful ways that you can invest in yourself, moving up the ladder from competent to an expert must to be right up the list.
So what professional development opportunities are there for you? If you’re an employee, many employers will have staff development budgets. Make sure you get your share. Is there a conference you could attend, any short courses you could enrol in, webinars or books to read? Maybe you even take it up a notch and go for a Masters or Phd, though this a significant investment not to be taken lightly.
How much could your income rise if you became the expert in your sector?
4. Build your team.
I heard a great quote last week from Dr Susan Carland, most well-known as being the wife of TV host Waleed Aly, though unquestionably an intellectual powerhouse in her own right. She observed “you can do anything, but you can’t do everything”.
What are your key strengths? What are you really good at? How can you focus more of your time and energy on those things, and get others to do things that a) you’re not strong on, b) don’t especially enjoy, and c) someone else could do better or more quickly than you?
Whether it’s a business coach if you are self-employed, a personal trainer for a fitness goal, a cleaner or a gardener for your home, or a financial planner to maximise your financial opportunities.
Sure, you could try and do it all yourself, but is that really going to deliver the best result?
5. Perhaps linked to building your team, is finding time for yourself.
Value your time. You’ll only live this day once. Your kids will only be this age once. Busy does not equal success.
Find time to read a book or listen to a podcast. And not just about topics in your professional life. Use your time to broaden your perspectives, get fresh ideas, and take on new knowledge.
Take a break and relax. Our mental health is so easy to overlook, yet so fundamental our well-being. Go for a walk, watch some TV, or go to the footy. You’re not slacking off – you’re achieving balance in your life that will enable you to be far more effective when you then devote your time and energy your income generating activities.
Finally try to incorporate some travel into your life. It could be as simple as a camping trip a few hours drive from home. Travel recharges your batteries, expands your perspective, and deepens your relationships with your travel companions. It provides life long memories that are impossible to attach a financial value to.
Well, that’s it for the top 5 most impactful ways to invest in yourself. Investing in yourself can definitely help you make progress in your Financial Autonomy goals. It can also make you happier – you’re more challenged, more fulfilled, and more connected with those around you.