The end of the year is a good time to think about how you’ll handle your financial investments, but it’s also a good time to consider how you’ll handle your number one investment — you.
With the stresses of work and other responsibilities, people often forget about treating themselves well, but the notion of investing in you goes beyond giving yourself a little time off or a treat at the mall. If you’ve ever wondered if your job could be better, if you could be earning more money, or if you simply could be happier, it makes sense to develop a plan to get there.
Here are first steps in creating a self-investment plan:
Realize what an underpriced asset you are: You’re the engine of everything — your earning power, your contact with people, your ability to take advantage of opportunities and to avoid mistakes along the way. Once you truly focus on your chances of success in a chosen field, activity or creative endeavor, the steps to getting there become clearer.
Start gathering advice: When you identify your goals, don’t be shy about asking people in those specific fields and interests what it’s like to be there. Ask them what they did to zero in on doing what they enjoy — and only what they enjoy. Read everything you can, and talk with all the experts you can find that will get you closer to the feeling of what it’s really like to make that leap.
Tuition might be expensive, but ignorance is a lifetime liability: If it’s a class or two or an entire degree program, don’t automatically dismiss the ridiculously high cost of education to reach a goal. There are always ways to afford instruction — see what benefits your employer offers, check to see whether specific grant or scholarship programs may apply to your financial situation. Be entrepreneurial in your efforts to afford learning.
Make two asset lists: Try this. Write on one sheet of paper (or type if it’s easier) all of your financial assets. On the second, write down all your personal assets — your ability to communicate with people in a variety of ways; your individual knowledge or skills in key areas of interest to you; the people networks you maintain that could potentially benefit you if you maximized those contacts in certain ways. Even blend your appearance into the mix. What would happen if you invested in various aspects on this second list? Could you derive more happiness in your life? More earnings? More fun? What could that investment become worth to you?
Review your career map: Maybe it’s just a matter of looking closely at an updated resume, but try and focus on what you’ve done in your life that was really fun or engaging. Maybe it wasn’t a dream job you had for years, but a fleeting experience or chapter within a career that surprised you in how happy it made you. How do you create that experience of enjoyment, and what investment of time and money will it take to get there?
Consider outsourcing: Most of us have a very effective excuse ready when people ask us why we’re not spending more time doing what we’re good at — "I don’t have time to focus on that." What would it take to get that time? Would it involve hiring someone in to take care of household chores or bringing in a competent sitter for your kids more than once a week to allow you to launch a business or take a job you’d really like to tackle? If you’re already in business and swamped, check your support system — if you have one. From answering the phone to bookkeeping, there’s always a way to offset time-killing jobs so you can focus on higher-earning, higher-enjoyment ones.
Confer with your family: Single people can operate independently, but families owe it to each other to discuss goals and how they’ll get there. Achieving a career or personal goal shouldn’t be any different since it will likely affect a family’s financial or time opportunities to do certain things. It’s tough, for example, for new entrepreneurs to get time for family vacations. There may be favorable solutions to this problem, and it may be other members of your family who help you achieve them. Be open, and make sure everyone understands your dreams.
2009 — This column is produced by the Financial Planning Association, the membership organization for the financial planning community, and is provided by MWBoone & Associates, LLC , a local member of FPA.
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