Last week I talked about the worst investment decision I’ve ever made, so this week I thought it would be fitting to share with you what I consider to be one of my better investment decisions.
It began in 1999. You may recall that was the year I participated in my worst investment decision, which was simply buying dot com investments at the height of the market, but it was also the year that I realized I was heading in the wrong direction career wise. At the time, I was working for a company that sold retirement plans wholesale to employers. I was making a decent paycheck, but I was on a career path to becoming a wholesaler myself, and while the wholesalers I knew were paid very well, they sacrificed much in the way of time spent with their family, and I didn’t want to fall into that trap.
In 2000, I jumped ship and began working as a financial advisor with a local bank. That translated into more time with my family, but less in the way of income. After a couple of years, I knew that if I stayed where I was I would not be able to enjoy the lifestyle I’d always dreamed of for my family, and so that’s when I made the best investment decision of my life: to invest in myself.
There are a number of ways to invest in yourself, but for me that meant furthering my education, and more specifically, pursuing my certification in financial planning. I knew I wanted to help people manage their finances, and the CFP® designation was one of the most respected in the industry. Obtaining a CFP® designation was not cheap. It required two years of education, several thousand dollars in coursework and study material, and the successful completion of a 2-day, 10-hour exam.
The traditional method of certification starts with enrolling in certification classes at a nearby educational institution. Many in the profession take classes at night, and with six areas of concentration that must be mastered, most only take one class at a time. Because I was motivated, and wanted to keep my expenses down, I enrolled in online coursework that allowed me to advance at my own pace. Within 13 months I had completed my courses and was prepared to sit for the exam, which I did—and successfully passed—in 2004. In total, I invested a little over $3,000 toward the study material and online classes, along with countless hours, but in the end I attained my designation.
With my designation, I knew I would have more, better paying job opportunities, and it wasn’t long before I ended up with my current employer. Not only am I benefiting from an increase in compensation, but I can honestly say that my job satisfaction is at an all-time high. It has truly been the best $3,000 I’ve ever invested.
Here’s how you can invest in yourself:
1. Continue your education
It’s been said that we never stop learning, and I am a firm believer in that. No matter what you do for a living, there are opportunities to continue professional development, whether it’s in the field you are in right now or perhaps another. When you continue your education, not only do you make yourself more valuable in the position you currently hold, but you also gain a competitive advantage over other candidates in the marketplace. This could translate into faster promotions, more leverage when negotiating pay, or an increased likelihood of finding work should you want or need to in the future.
2. Explore the job market for different degrees
You may have always dreamed of being a real estate agent, but the home buying market right now isn’t looking too great. Consider where jobs are growing, and see if any of those places would be of interest to you. Also, consider the value of a degree versus certification. While it is clear that a college degree opens more opportunities over a lifetime, in your line of work certification may be more valuable.
3. Consider online or correspondence study as an alternative.
Online study and at-home correspondence courses are becoming more and more practical as a way to control costs and to add flexibility to the learning schedule. There are a number of online colleges that offer coursework in a variety of fields of study. Find out if any offer the education you are looking for.
With so much market volatility, finding the right stock or the next best investment seems to get harder and harder, but there is always one investment you can count on: yourself.