A number of clients have pointed out significant savings they were incurring from only one Bridgenosis session. One client stopped spending $600 per week ($2400 per month) on physical therapy and taking acid-reflux medication. Yet, I still receive calls from potential clients who hesitate to spend the money to improve their lives. Some may confuse value and cost.
So, to help people understand the value of investing in themselves, I asked Jason Hull, a unique and brilliant financial planner and personal finance columnist with U.S. News & World Report, to help out. Jason is a financial planner on steroids, as he focuses on the psychology of personal finance and helping people overcome the inner dialogues that prevent them from winning with money. Here is Jason’s take on investing in yourself. Take it away, Jason…[Disclaimer: I’m not sure about the perky and sparkly part after a few hours of sleep, but the rest is legit.]
I got introduced to Laura by a mutual friend, Carla. Carla told me that Laura worked in Hypnotherapy and Energy Medicine and I admittedly thought to myself: Fluffy bunny.
However, once we started talking over dinner, I realized that there was not only a lot of substance to what Laura was saying, but there was also a lot of overlap in my approach to personal finance and Laura’s approach to organizational conflict resolution and personal growth and healing. Furthermore, she hadn’t popped into D.C. straight from some off-the-grid commune, but had previously been an appointee in the Department of Labor.
I was impressed. Here was someone who not only understood about limiting beliefs and our Monkey Brains, but she got results in a whole lot of different scenarios. The three of us stayed up until about 3 a.m. talking until Laura realized that she had a meeting at 8 a.m. and wanted to run some ungodly distance like 18 miles before that meeting, so she went home, went to bed and was up before the sun perky and sparkly and taking no prisoners like she always is.
So, when Laura asked me to write a guest post about investing in yourself and the benefits you get from it, I couldn’t type a response quickly enough.
INVESTING IN YOURSELF: THE HIGHEST ROI POSSIBLE?
I’m a financial planner. I want you to earn as much money as possible and use that money to spend on things which really matter to you. I don’t want you to waste your money on the 183″ TV to go in the man cave or to buy 43 pairs of shoes which will never see the light of day and then complain that you can’t afford to go on vacation.
I get questions all the time about where people should invest their money. Facebook? Gold? Mongolian pig belly futures? Almost invariably, the first answer I give people is the simplest one.
Invest in yourself.
Some respond along the lines of “Huh, that’s interesting” and then they walk away. They really wanted me to tell them that I knew what the next Google or Apple product was going to be. The answer is that I don’t. Even if I did, I am not the Amazing Kreskin, and I don’t have some magical crystal that allows me to see into the future and determine if the next Apple product is going to be run like Steve Jobs and Tim Cook ran it.
What I can tell is how you can control yourself. The right investments in yourself provide returns both in financial ways that you can predict as well as financial ways that you wouldn’t have envisioned at first.
Allow me to explain.
Increasing Your Human Capital
The surest indicator of whether or not you’re going to succeed in your financial goals is whether or not you have a good income. If you don’t have a good income, then it’s going to be hard to make ends meet, much less set aside money for your retirement.
Human capital is your ability to convert your brains, brawn, and labor into income. The higher your human capital is valued, the more money you will make for it. Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Jay-Z are all pretty smart, innovative people, and, as a result, they make a lot of money for it. While the world needs dishwashers, pretty much anyone can wash dishes, and, as a result, they aren’t paid very much for the work that they do.
In your life, your human capital follows a parabolic arc. When you’re young, you can’t do much to generate income unless you’re Macaulay Culkin. You deliver papers, walk dogs, cut lawns, etc., and you make some pocket money. Then you graduate from high school, and the world deems you somewhat educated, opening up the doors to more jobs. If you go to college, then you get more education and the doors open further. Alternatively, you can go to work, kick butt at it, and make yourself valuable, and increase your human capital that way.
You continue along this path until you reach your peak of earning capability in your 40s and 50s. That’s when you make, relatively speaking, the big bucks. At some point, you decide that working is for the birds, and you retire, ending your stream of human capital. At that point, you have to either rely on a pension or rely on your accumulated assets that you’ve saved up over the years to provide for you until your time on earth is done.
What if you could, early on in that path, bump up your earnings by 10% and then create a new baseline for the rest of your career?
You’d take that, right?
Investing in yourself, making yourself more valuable in your job, your profession, or your business, is the shortest path to making that happen. Learn more, create more ideas, generate more value, make yourself the person that everyone goes to, and you’ll be able to ask for that raise.
Yet, if I tell someone to take $5,000 and spend it on training and education to make him or her more valuable in the workplace, I’ll generally get the same look that my dog gives me when I talk to him and the cocked head.
People would rather take that $5,000 and gamble with it in the markets, instead of trusting themselves. Good luck finding an investment which will provide the same long-term return that a focused investment in making yourself more valuable will provide.
Investing to Become Self-Aware Enough To Plug Your Leaks
Americans waste a lot of money on a lot of needless things. Subscribe to cable? Smoke? Drink alcohol? Have a 138″ TV? Have 42 pairs of shoes? You don’t need any of these things to be happy and to live a perfectly normal, functioning and productive life.
Let’s look at where Americans actually do spend money. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2010, the average American family earned $62,481 before taxes annually. They then spent $5,042 on interest, $3,157 on healthcare, $2,505 on food away from home (think McDonald’s), $412 on alcoholic beverages, $2,504 on entertainment and $362 on tobacco.
That ís $10,825 spent on things we don’t need. It’s 17.3% of our pre-tax income, not the money we take home from work. Now, I’m no Luddite. I like to travel and to have fun. However, I also like to choose where and how I spend my money in order to get the most value out of it.
Yet, how many of us spend money needlessly because of the invisible scripts in the backs of our heads that Monkey Brain keeps feeding us? He tells you that you need cigarettes or the flashy sports car or the man cave because that’s immediate gratification. Your Monkey Brain doesn’t want you to evaluate these decisions; he wants you to act on impulse.
If you invest a little bit of time and contemplation on yourself and review your life to determine not only what is important to you but also what stories have been running in the back of your mind, which might have caused you to veer away from the direction you really want to go, then you may find out that your life is not aligned.
As Joe Biden said, if you want to know what your priorities are, look at your budget.
Investing to Reduce the Downsides of Your Life
If you’ve ever heard of the term a “wall of worry,” then you know the impacts of stress and worrying. How often do we worry about things which we cannot change or which may or may not happen? Do you watch the news and find out about another Snooki pregnancy and suddenly your blood pressure spikes to resemble Pete Rose’s batting average?
There are costs to worrying. They’re psychic, and they’ll eventually become financial costs. As Laura explained in her March 1 and March 9 posts, when you’re stressed, you release adrenaline. It’s the same thing which, when we were running around chasing mammoths, allowed us to determine whether or not to fight or flee. We made the decision to either chase the mammoth or run away. In either case, there was closure. We either cowered in a bush or we feasted on mammoth, but in either instance, we didn’t need the adrenaline anymore, so our bodies stopped producing it.
Now, though, with our constant bombardment of sensory stimuli and the creation of seemingly high-stress situations, whether legitimately stressful or not, we never get the denouement. We don’t get to eat the mammoth or to cower in the bush. Instead, when we are stressed, we go from wave to wave to wave and continually spike ourselves with adrenaline. Too much adrenaline in our systems is unhealthy. Blood pressure goes up. The heart rate remains elevated. Our brains send forth hormones in waves and overload our systems. Check out two quick techniques I learned from Laura on how to retrain this stress response: March 1 and March 9
Over the long term, this continuous barrage on our internal systems is deleterious to our health. We’ll need more medical attention. We’re more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes and other maladies, which cost money to fix. There’s a reason that healthcare costs in the elderly rise so quickly, and some of it has to do with what we do to ourselves in the intervening years to get ourselves there.
So, by investing in yourself, becoming aware of what is unnecessary in our lives, and what creates undue stress, we can work to remove that stress from ourselves. We’ll be healthier and happier, and weíll have to spend less in the long run to keep ourselves ticking along until it’s our turn to depart the earth.
Can I point you to the next Google product? No. Can I make you the next Steve Jobs or Warren Buffett? No. But, by investing in yourself, I can assure you that there are positive returns, and they all don’t appear in the bottom line of your checkbook, either.
Jason Hull is a candidate for the CFP(R) Board’s certification, is a Series 65 securities license holder, and owns Hull Financial Planning. You can subscribe to his free newsletter and receive a free e-book, Four Places Your Monkey Brain Should Never Live by clicking here.