On this blog I regularly discuss techniques for investing, companies to invest in and how to save. One investing topic that I think really needs to be given more airtime is how to invest in yourself. I’ve found that internet and print media dispense lots of advice when it comes to building wealth, but very little when it comes to building up your own personal capital.
We are constantly bombarded with messages in the media that tell us that we need to buy a new car, upgrade our house or wear the newest trendy fashions. Where then are the messages that tell us how we can better experience life?
If we are constantly consuming and working hard to pay for our consumption habits, there is not much time left to pursue our dreams and aspirations. In order to experience more than the endless cycle of consumption and live life to the fullest we need to invest in ourselves.
Make no mistake, investing in you and building personal capital is difficult. It is much easier to go out and make a purchase and get a sense of gratification. Personal capital takes a long time to build and a lot of effort. Contrary to the lessons you have been learning about investing and saving, in order to build personal capital you need to spend!
What Should You Invest In?
Investing in you is obviously a very personal process that will be different for everyone. Rather than try and cover the endless possibilities one by one I’ll discuss some areas that I have invested in.
Many parents these days encourage their children to pursue careers in finance, law, medicine and other high paying professions. For those of us that earn a living by sitting behind a desk, learning how to play a musical instrument or how to create a piece of art can add tremendous richness to life. The benefit of pursuing the arts as a hobby is you don’t really have to be any good since you are already earning a living!
Suggestions: Take a course on drawing or learn how to play piano.
People born and raised in Canada and other countries where English is the primary language have a tendency to be monolingual. Sure we have mandatory French in the school system but very few people continue with it after high school. Learning a second or third language can open the door to new cultures and parts of the world to you.
Brush up on your French or take Spanish which is widely spoken. For a really different experience you could learn Arabic or Japanese. Use your new found language skills by planning a visit to a country where the language is spoken.
There’s a reason why Canadians are known as “Snow Birds”. Our country is cold during the winter so we fly south to warmer weather. We love going to resorts in Cuba, Mexico and any number of different Caribbean islands. Going to the US or the Caribbean to escape the cold are great getaways, but they don’t tend to teach us a lot about different cultures and ways of life. A Cuban resort with five restaurants onsite, a gym, nightly entertainment and a pool with a swim up bar isn’t a conducive environment to learning about the Cuban people and culture!
To really build personal capital, go somewhere a little off the beaten track or slightly outside of your comfort zone. Been to four different Mexican resorts? Try a small hotel or B&B in Costa Rica next time. Learning a bit of Spanish would go a long way!
Looking for a quick getaway? Do a road trip to somewhere local like Prince Edward Island or The Rockies.
Head to Europe in late fall, the prices are way cheaper and the hordes of tourists are gone. If you started to learn an instrument, find a classical music event to go to.
Improve Your Health
We all know that our health should be a priority in our lives but many of us neglect it. There’s never enough time, it’s too hard to commit over the long term or an old injury flares up. The answer to improving your health is not simply to start going to a gym. With improved health, everything we do becomes easier as our energy levels increase and our self-image improves.
Walk to the corner store instead of driving, bike to a park in good weather, spend more time cooking at home with friends and family, pay a little more for higher quality foods, learn a new sport.
We can’t build our personal capital overnight, it will take time, patience and commitment. Spending time on the areas above (or many others) will help to enrich life far more than a new gadget or purse! Investing in yourself requires time, a commodity that most of us are short on. You can find the time by watching less TV, reducing commute times to work by living closer to your job, hiring a baby sitter to watch your kids or arranging group family or friend gatherings instead of seeing lots of people one on one.
Just like any investment, you will need to research and plan how to best invest your time and money. Take comfort that an investment in yourself will pay itself off over your entire lifetime!!
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