Invest in Yourself

Posted on 11/04/2010

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With the global economy still trying to break free of the turmoil that has made up the last few years, many people are wondering where they should be investing what little money they may have after paying their ever-increasing bills. 

Our trust has been shaken as we have watched financial conglomerates collapse under the weight of management’s recklessness and greed.  Prodded for decades to invest our life savings and retirement funds in Corporate America, we have watched as one institution after another has failed us…our governments, our banks and in many cases, our employers.  Stock values are unpredictable, taxes continue to go up, and jobs are hard to find and even harder to keep.

As we contemplate the last few years, one thing becomes clear: we all need to be in control of our own destinies. We can’t count on being employed by the same company for 30 years and retiring with a gold watch and nice pension. Nor should we depend only on IRA’s and  401Ks filled with a mix of Dow stocks and laddered bonds to fund our Golden Years.  And if you’re relying on Social Security, your odds might be better playing the lottery.

So what is the prudent course of action in these desperate times?  Where can you invest and receive a guaranteed return? Invest in yourself.  

Your stock is far more valuable than Berkshire Hathaway or Google. Any dollar or minute spent on discovering and fulfilling your true potential will never be wasted. Education, exercise and therapy will all provide benefits far in excess of their cost. The dividends may be monetary: a college degree at any level can increase your earning potential.  Or the benefits may be less tangible: improved health, increased self-confidence, or overcoming an addiction are all improvements of immeasurable value.

And who knows? You might just find a passion that fulfills and transforms you. You just might start a business.

Entrepreneurs are the foundation of our country. Virtually every private sector job can be traced back to a business that was originally started by a small number of people who had an idea, brought it to market, and then sold the hell out of it. The richest people in the United States are either individuals whose passion and drive lead them to start successful businesses, or people who were fortunate enough to inherit their wealth from individuals who did so.

Notably absent from Forbes 400 are people who worked 9 to 5 jobs until they were eligible to receive their pension, take distributions from their retirement accounts, and collect Social Security.

This is not to say you should stop saving and investing a portion of your income. Over time, stocks, bonds and mutual funds remain solid investment options, and 401Ks and IRAs are important retirement savings vehicles. Nor should you necessarily quit your job for the first speculative venture that presents itself.

But if you rely exclusively on other people to make your fortune, you will be at the mercy of market swings, questionable accounting practices, golden parachutes, and executive shenanigans. By contrast, with careful thought, proper planning and realistic expectations, you can start now to build a business that is financial rewarding and spiritually fulfilling. You can be in control of your destiny. 

Every journey starts with the first step. Take yours today.

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