Invest in Yourself First

Obviously, you’d like to earn more money. You should start by making the choice to invest in yourself first.

WHY INVESTING IN YOURSELF IS IMPORTANT

WARNING: This is the first real article on the site, and it doesn’t teeechnially fit into the personal finance category. But, it’s the most important investment you can make, so hear me out.

If you want to get filthy stinkin’ rich, you probably wouldn’t want to take a minimum wage job, right? The problem is that you don’t have any skills or knowledge that makes you stand out from anyone else, which means you aren’t worth more than minimum wage.

You need to make yourself more valuable.

Well, that’s easier said than done. One of the most common routes used throughout the past several centuries to gain an edge is a college education. Those who spend the time and money to better themselves through higher education have typically gotten the cushy, better paying jobs. Not to mention the respect and opportunities accompanying a prestigious career.

As always, things change. A college degree is basically becoming the norm, and almost every average, decent-paying job will require some kind of degree. Without a degree, companies will automatically choose to place you in a lower level position where you’ll earn less money.

Yes, this will probably be a problem on your route to making millions, but it’s nothing you can’t overcome. Amancio Ortega, the founder of the clothing brand Zara, left school at 14. As of right now (July, 2016), he is the second richest person in the world and is worth over $70 billion. If a man who quit school at 14 can become a billionaire many times over, there’s no reason that every single one of us can’t at least become a millionaire.

If you want to build wealth and increase your income, you need to increase your value. The best way to make more money is to be the best. Make yourself into the person that everybody wants to have on their team. Or, make yourself into the person that provides the most value to other people. Both of these options are entirely achievable in almost every field. The best lawyers, chefs, carpenters, writers, waitresses, and doctors make the most money. Having something that everybody else wants or needs is what makes a person valuable.

HOW TO BECOME VALUABLE

I know this has been a lot of talk without a lot of actionable advice, so let me explain HOW you actually go about making yourself more valuable.

To start off, let’s do a little math. How many additional hours per week would you be willing to work in order to make an extra $10,000 per year? For our purposes, let’s be conservative and say you make $15 per hour. For $10,000 per year, you’d need to work:

$10,000 / $15 = 666.67 hours

So over the course of a year, you’d need to work an additional 667 hours, 55.5 hours per month, 12.8 hours per week, or 1.8 hours per day (including weekends). Almost 2 hours per day of work doesn’t seem so terrible at the end of the year when you look at that extra $10,000.

The problem is, that was just one year…

If you (choose to) work a 40 year career, you’ll have worked an additional 26,680 hours by the time you retire. Yuck. Imagine what else you could do with 26,000 hours.

BUT, if you choose to invest in yourself for just that first year of your career rather than investing in the business you work for, the rewards can be much greater. Instead of 13 hours per week at work, you could spend 13 hours improving your knowledge and abilities. Spending 667 hours in one year on one skill or one specific type of knowledge will definitely make you stand out against your competition.

Think of it this way, if you chose to spend 667 hours studying or practicing something rather than working, you would be missing out on $10,000 that year. That sucks, I agree. However, your new expertise will make you more valuable, and will make you more likely to get a better paying job. So, you missed out on $10,000 of earnings in the first year, but you put yourself in a position to potentially make an extra $10,000 each year for the rest of your career without having to do that extra work each week.

So, you give up $10,000 and 667 hours this year, but each year for the next 39 years, you’ll be earning an extra $10,000 for an additional 0 hours of work. Solid trade in my opinion.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to give up on a commitment to yourself than a commitment to your boss. Telling yourself, “I’ll do it tomorrow” is simpler than calling off work. If you really want to better yourself and better your future, you can’t let that happen.

Write down your goal. Hang it somewhere that you’ll see it every day. Make the commitment to yourself that you’re going to spend X hours per week studying or practicing. Tell as many people about it as you can, too. The more people that know what you’re trying to do, the harder it is for you to skip doing it because now your reputation is on the line.

Yeah, I’m serious, tell everyone. It’s much harder to have 50 people know you gave up than 1. If you care about your credibility, stick to it.

If that doesn’t work for you, try and find some other way to motivate yourself. Create a reward system for reaching goals. Ask someone to keep you accountable, and then make them responsible for your reward. Maybe if you really are disciplined enough to only reward yourself when you’ve earned it, you can be in charge, but those of us who can consistently do so are few and far between.

Be realistic and do what works for you. Don’t set a goal of 40 hours of practice per week if you’re working full time and have multiple other commitments. If you fail a goal, it will demotivate you which will keep making it harder and harder to achieve it next time.

Another good way to develop a realistic goal is to look at your plans each week and see what can be done. For example, if your goal is to read 2 books per week, but you know this week will be incredibly busy, choose 2 shorter books. You’ll be more likely to keep your goal if it’s more realistic, and you’ll be able to accommodate your other plans. This will keep you on track and motivated.

In the end, you’re your own boss and you choose where to spend your time.

MY SUGGESTIONS

Focus on activities that are the most efficient use of your time. In my experience, the best way to learn and develop new skills is to see what experts are doing, and then try to copy them. That’s exactly what a college does. They put someone with extensive knowledge in front of a group of people with little knowledge and then ask them to communicate what they know. Because of the internet, you now have the ability to do this with almost any topic.

Basically any hands-on skill can be learned on YouTube. People make a living providing instructional videos on YouTube for free. Almost anything you can think of learning, there will probably be a video for it. Also, blogs can be extremely useful (J). The ease at which anyone in the world can start a blog is amazing. It allows for experts from everywhere to easily share knowledge and experience. They’re also beneficial because other people with experience and input in the same topics often contribute to the information through comments, forums, or guests posts, which means average people now have access to a group of experts all clustered in one place.

Some of the more popular blogs have a great community with members who are more than willing to give one-on-one advice to help you better yourself, and they’ll often do it for free. Speaking with, and learning from, these groups of experts is a good path towards becoming an expert yourself.

My personal favorite way to learn is through reading. Blogs are definitely good, but books are even better. Books often provide much more detailed information in one location than most blogs do.

I would honestly recommend buying an Amazon Kindle (THIS is the one I have). I know, I know, this is a finance blog. I’m supposed to tell you to save money, not spend it. But, an investment like this will pay you back much more in the long run than the money you would save by not buying one. Spending on something like this is a significant, and easy, investment you can make into your future.

Another wonderful feature offered by Amazon is their Kindle Unlimited program (you can get a 30-day free trial HERE to test it out), which offers unlimited downloads of participating books for a fixed price. I’ve always been hesitant to spend money on a book because I usually would read them in one day. To fulfill my reading appetite, it probably would cost me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per year. This is a pretty significant barrier to learning. If you’re a big reader, Kindle Unlimited is DEFINITELY worth the investment.

Spending time and money on bettering yourself is something I really believe in. The more you know and the more valuable you become, the more respect you’ll earn and the more money you’ll make.

This will probably be the only time I say this, but spend today, save tomorrow.

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