The Most Important Investment You Can Make (And you can do it for free!)

“You have to spend money to make money.”

I’ve heard that for a long time, and you probably have too. But a lot of people think that investing is just putting your money in real estate or the stock market… Maybe Blackjack if you’re an MIT student who can count cards.

But these conventional ways of investing won’t get you far if you don’t have any money to invest in the first place.

Let’s say that you want to make $1 million in 10 years… how will you go about it?

If you aren’t lucky enough to be adopted by Brangelina when you were a kid, you’ll most likely go about it the hard way: by working a lot.

And I promise you, most companies won’t be gracious enough to give you $100k/year just because you asked for it. You need to deserve it, so…

Always be on the lookout for ways you can improve your skills

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The average student loan debt in the United States is $32,731.

If you want to get out of that debt and eat ramen noodles by choice someday, you have to make your student loans you racked up worth it. 

Even better, if you are currently a student with no money you are already in the perfect place to improve your skills! You’re literally in a place of learning. 

But most people aren’t going out of their way to improve their skills because:

MYTH #1 – They think they can learn anything by themselves

And to that, I say try learning how to backflip by yourself. Everyone needs support so their improvement is always in the right direction.

MYTH #2 – They think they don’t have the time

I’m not saying put all your time into your job (studying if you’re a student). But the progress from 30 minutes/day is way better than nothing.

MYTH #3 – They think they don’t have the money

You don’t always have to spend money to learn. Sometimes, all you need to invest is your time. But when you do invest your money the payback is REALLY impressive.

And to maximize the return on investment on yourself, consider focusing your attention on skills needed for in-demand, high-paying jobs.

Soft skills: Often overlooked, but actually pay well

According to Glassdoor, 4 out of 10 high-paying jobs with lots of open positions right now have something to do with managing people. 

And to be great at managing, you don’t need a huge list of technical skills. For this, you need soft skills like:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Leadership
  • Creative thinking
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving

These make you an all-around better person. And no technical skill can match the value of these soft skills when your team encounters a problem.

But this doesn’t mean you should stop developing whatever skill you have in mind. You can develop soft skills while also investing in yourself by improving some targeted technical skills.

Ways you can invest in yourself without spending any money

1 – Check out free resources

And the great thing about this, they’re mostly available in any medium that you’re comfortable with – podcasts, videos, and blogs come to mind.

Let’s say that you’ve decided to learn about web design. Should you shell out thousands of dollars just to learn about it? 

Not right away! Use free resources to help you land your first clients or jobs. From there, you can decide if investing in a paid course is worth it.

2 – Start communicating like a pro

If you get nervous during interviews or when speaking in public, overcoming your stage fright will benefit you your entire life. So invest in learning to work with it.

Think of it this way. If your audience is the person you want to date, would you want to come off as shy and nervous?

No! You want to be a smooth-talking person who exudes confidence and competence. Here are a few ways how overcoming your stage fright can help you:

  • When you get interviewed for a college/job you’re applying for, you can get your point across more easily because you’re not wasting most of your energy on controlling your nerves.
  • When you apply for a job after college, you can negotiate your salary more effectively because you’re not just waiting for the conversation to end.
  • Networking with professionals in your field will be a breeze if you’re not worried about saying something awkward.

Working through your issues with speaking in public or with talking to anyone will serve you well all your life. So why not start now, not later, while you have a whole lot of life left?

Improving and investing in your skills doesn’t have to just be free. Most people pay for courses or trainers eventually. You can go the other way though and use it as an opportunity to earn extra cash!

If you want to be a teacher, working as a tutor can help you improve your skills way before your practicum.

Before you decide on that part time job, ask this question: would it look good on my résumé?

Ideally, the answer should be YES. Look for opportunities relevant to your desired field, so you can have a feel of what it would be like if you worked in it long-term.

4 – If you’re a student, do well in college!

Your college tuition is one of the biggest financial investments you’re ever going to make. So make it count!

Studying a few more hours to ace your classes or joining a research group won’t cost you money. And they don’t charge extra for your degree if you happened to learn more in college.

So why not maximize your current investment?

You are your most important and valuable asset

I mean this literally. Evaluate your marketability in your field. How hirable are you?

If you’re trying to land a career in the hard sciences, being the best at throat singing probably won’t help convince the HR to hire you.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t pursue it. Learning throat singing (hopefully in a sound-proof room) is an investment, but maybe it’s not going to be as valuable if you’re going to be a chemist.

The same goes beyond the job market. Straightening out your finances takes skills. You could be earning $1 million/year and still have nothing if you blow it all off on bad investments and frivolous purchases.

So invest in yourself! You’re the most important asset you’re ever going to have.

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