I can’t tell you how many people will say to me, “But I just really need a bigger boat! I can’t spare a single piece of wood because my only goal is to make this boat bigger.” They might not be where they want to be, but the focus isn’t direction, just a bigger boat. At some point, they will have a freight liner floating aimlessly in the ocean.
Ok, I’m not really talking about boat building but investing in your life direction.
I wrote Be Your Best Boss Ever that touched on the idea. But then I was flooded with questions:
-How much should a person invest in themselves?
-I’m ok investing my time and energy, but does it actually require money?!?
-Where’s the best place to start?
How much should a person invest?
A big part of our journey to financial journey has been practicing frugality. In the post Frugal vs Cheap, I outlined how frugal is not spending on things that don’t matter to you. But a person becomes cheap when they say they value something but refuse to spend time, energy or money on that thing.
Personal and professional growth was always a priority to me. It’s a big part of the reason I made as much progress as I did. From 19-29 I attended about 30+ events/conferences/retreats. I read well over 500 books. I took 20+ classes, and dozens of book studies or trainings. Now that we are FI, that number is even higher per year.
But where to start?
I like to ease into this personal development investment.
1% of your income, 1% of net worth or 10% of a raise
This is a good baseline for directional investment. It’s low risk and an easy starting point.
During high transition times, that percentage might be higher. If your switching careers, retiring or taking a mini-retirement, 3-5% might make sense.
Do I have to spend money?!?
No, of course not. Time and energy are important assets to invest with. But at some point, you should be willing to invest your money as well.
Think about it like a relationship. Can you have a long distance relationship? Sure. For a while. If that’s where you need to start, start there. But at some point, it’s nice to live in the same city.
You can and should invest in yourself for free. And it’s a great place to start. But at some point, like when you have paid down debt or started investing in stocks, it’s also good to put a little bit of that cash into crafting your best life.
I love the journey that Alan Donegan is on right now. He’s Co-Founder of Pop-Up Business School. An amazing organization that teaches people (for free) to start businesses with no funding. But he also had another dream. To write a movie!?! He spent $100 on an online course (directional investment) and now is spending $6k to travel to LA and give it a go for two months (funding the dream). Why leave a thriving organization for two months to chase down an unlikely dream? Because it’s a dream!
Some dreams are worth a $100 course, $6k for travel and 2 months of leave. So you can at least give it a try before you die. You can read his journey here.
How Do I start Investing in My Best Life?
Let’s break these options down by cost!
First up: Free or close to it!
If you are living pay check to pay check or feel like your drowning in debt, there are still a LOT of great places to start.
- Blogs, podcasts, Youtube and newsletters. There is SO much good content out there! Find a few things that really resonate with you, and subscribe. At some point, you will need to balance new information with action. If you consume too much information and you can’t take action at the same rate, it can create an “information overload anxiety”. New ideas are great, just balance it with taking real steps.
- Books: Start with the library, buy used, subscription services or buy new. Books are an amazing value.
- Free tools and resources: There are lots of great free resources out there. I like the ones that give specific steps and a more directed approach, again to combat the “information overload anxiety”. It’s a big part of the reason I have created a dozen free resources! If you haven’t taken my 10 Days toward Intentional Living course, sign up here!
- Find some new friends: Attend meet-ups, free community gatherings, or events that bring together like-minded people. And there might be a few friends that should have less space in your calendar. Find people who are learning and doing the things you want to learn and do. It could be around finances, business, lifestyle changes, relationships or health. There are groups for everything. If you can’t find things in your local area, try online.
- Plan it out: Plan out your dreams and goals. Take the time to figure out what direction you would like to go. If you get to draw your own itinerary, where do you want this adventure to take you? Then start planning out your quarters, months, weeks and days. Just knowing where you want to go is half the battle.
- Move your body: Not only is it great for your health but it’s good for your mind. Talk a walk, dance with your kids, or watch a Youtube yoga video. ( I do all three each week!)
I believe that investing in yourself should be available to everyone. It’s the reason I write this blog, have a free email course, travel all over the country and speak for free, and create Youtube videos.
Really low cost $50-$300
- Local classes or courses: I’ve taken a lot of random college classes and non-credit courses! Local events are often free or very low cost.
- Online courses: I’m amazed at the amount of great content online. Courses are very different than just watching Youtube. They give some step-by-step instruction and structure. And there are classes on everything! If you are looking to craft your best life, there is a class that can give you some direction or clarity out there. I’ve created 3 courses, all under $200 each. Udemy and Skillshare are other great options for finding courses.
- Paid tools: There are some amazing tools out there and all are very affordable. Ontrajectory is my favorite for financial planning ($49 year) and I use it will all my mentoring clients. Tiller is amazing for expense tracking ($59 year). I recently bought a years subscription to Headspace to work on mindfulness ($100).
Medium price $300-$1000 (using the 1% rule this is a yearly amount for those making $30k-100k during low transition times.)
- Multiday events: Conferences, retreats, camps and events have been so transformational for me. There are a few kinds. Informational: you learn a skill or gain information. Social: you meet amazing people doing the things you want to do. Cooperative: you come together to collaborate on projects and deepen connections. While my husband worked for the Army, part of his job was coordinating events, and often I was able to attend affordably. I’ve done marriage, personal development, parenting, mom’s events, leadership, entrepreneur, financial, FIRE, and spiritual. All have helped shape my direction in so many areas of my life. It’s why I’m a guest speaker at CampFI, Chautauqua, Lola Retreat, and Fincon this year. Plus I’m hosting 3 of my own events in 2019 (make sure your on my email newsletter for first dibs)!
- Classes: Some classes are more expensive but still a great value.
- Online communities: When time is precious and travel challenges, I love online communities. I’ve been part of a few and the best ones provide a good mix of education, structure, and community. I’m really passionate about this medium because it can be so helpful with a low cost and no travel. I have two that I created for my mentoring clients and will open them up mid-April! (The first one is for people on the Financial Independence journey called Adventures to FI. The other is for woman entrepreneurs and freelancers building their best work that enables their best life. Wifi&Tea will open next week!) Adventures to FI is open until the end of April!
- Health: You might be able to get a gym membership, good pedometer, group class, or nutritionist.
Higher Price $1000-$3000 (often for times of higher transition 3% for incomes 30k-100k)
- Expensive or longer events
- Coaches and mentors: Sometimes if we are going through big transitions or just have big goals, you need the clarity, accountability and feedback from another person. The last 2 years, I’ve spent at least 1% on just this type of directional guidance.
- Therapists: I wish I could put this into the affordable category, but for most people, a year of therapy is at least $1000, even with insurance. But even if therapy takes 3% of your budget, I would try to prioritize it at some point.
Cast a Wide Net
While I’m passionate about financial independence because of the options it creates to custom build your life, there are LOTS of areas we should be directionally focused. Really, anything that matters to you. Your marriage, kids, relationships, health, mental health, non-profit work, entrepreneurship, environmental issues, whatever you would say matters to YOU.
Not everything is an amazing value and that’s OK.
Guess what? Not all of the 30+ events/conferences/retreats, 500 books, 20+ classes, and dozens of book studies or trainings were life-changing.
Or even good. In fact, there were more than a few books, classes and courses that were downright laughably horrible! And that’s OK. I’m playing the average. 1 in 10 will be life-changing, 3 below average, and 6 just average.
I did a coaching call with someone who took my Mini-Retirements Mastered course as a beta tester. He paid $100, and in the next 6 weeks was able to negotiate time off from work to pursue a masters degree WHILE getting a 20k raise. Not a bad ROI on his $100 course. So I encouraged him to keep investing 10% of that raise into his direction. ($20k raise, 10%=$2000 a year). BUT I warned him. This course was an amazing ROI. Most things won’t be this kind of ROI (for lifestyle or financial) but play the averages anyways. I caught up with him 6 months later. He had hired a personal trainer and attended a $1000 one day event. “They were OK. But my mindset is entirely different now. I would have been terrified to “lose” money before. And now it’s just one more thing in slowly building my best life.”
All the while he was about to close on his first house and rental apartment. Something that was a 5-10 year goal of his when we chatted 6 months earlier.
Growing up in an often challenging and tumultuous environment, I was a little bit obsessed with how to change my life. I saw what happened when people felt stuck. And I wanted to be “unstuck.” I wanted big dreams: a strong marriage, to be a good mom, travel the world, achieve FI, and leave an impact.
When I was 23, my best friend asked, “Why the heck do you read SO many non-fiction books?” My response was simple, “I want to relearn everything.” I wanted to see if there was a different and better way to do life.
Over the next decade of my career, I was responsible for hiring and training over 100 people. I wrote the professional development plans for my staff. So my interest expanded to “How do I help others change, grow and accomplish their goals?”
These last two years I’ve worked 1-on-1 with about 70 people helping them design and take ground on their best life. Growing their financial freedom AND building the life they never want to retire from because it’s such a perfect fit for everything they love.
From the last 20 years of personal and professional research, I’ve taken these two lessons.
- Change is HARD. Figuring out what you want out of life and starting to take ground on that doesn’t automatically happen. Our default is to drift, like the freight liner without a course set.
- Change is MAGIC. The best part of working 1-on-1 with people is watching their lives change. All of it changes. Their self-image. Their joy. Confidence. Happiness. Relationships. Health. Work. Schedule. And yes, their finances too.
In Wifi&Tea, my women entrepreneur community, there have mastermind groups. Each group gets to pick its own name. One group choose: Change Makers.
My heart melted because I love that so much. As a person a little bit obsessed with change, there is nothing that makes me happier than helping others launch into their own communities as change makers. Each of us bringing our best selves, our best work and biggest impact to the communities we can influence.
Change is hard, but it’s magic.