Let’s play a game. Anytime you see someone asking the understandably common question of ‘What/Where should I invest in?’ online – in Facebook, Twitter, any social media really – try and see if you can find that one fella who reply ‘you should invest in yourself first’.
Which is, you know, not wrong. But it *is* condescending and useless advice if told without additional, helpful details. I said what I said.
(Btw – the actual answer to what/where to invest your money is in this article. Most people can start their investment journey this way and personalise it as they go along)
But fine. Like I said, those fellas are not wrong. It *is* important to invest in yourself first, I agree.
How does ‘invest in yourself’ look like in practice though? In this article I’d like to share how I’ve been interpreting that statement. The steps are loosely chronological.
#1 – Get access to learning materials
Learning materials are:
- Books, in both non-fiction AND fiction* categories
- Courses – online and offline
- Any source of new knowledge, paid or free
- Any new method(s) to apply said knowledge better
- I’d put travel in this category too
(Note: Finance and self-development people LOVES non-fiction books, but fiction books are important for soft skills and EQ development.
As mentioned in this Harvard Business Review article, “Reading literary fiction helps people develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking”. These are all necessary for personal and professional success)
Tbh you already know investing in yourself requires learning materials – it’s too obvious and I’m not even going to expand this section beyond this.
I will say though that I have books you can consider reading:
- Money Stories from Malaysians series – helps you expand your understanding of ‘personal finance’ from other people’s POV. Read a FREE chapter
- Bergaji & Pokai – Malay-language beginner’s guide to money management (You can also double this as a way to improve your conversational Malay)
#2 – Look for ways to increase personal time so you can use it for self-improvement
I didn’t make the connection early, but oh boy is time important. Buying all the learning materials means nothing if I didn’t have time to go through them!
(Plus, having time also allows me to explore free sources of information. You can even find video summaries of the best investing books on Youtube!)
Getting more personal time is easier for some than others. For example, someone who grew up with a domestic helper in the household (like I did – admitting my privilege here) tends to have more free time because someone else handles the housework.
Others use different strategies to find the time, like the ‘hack’ of waking up early. People who do this belong to what they call The 5am Club – I’m not even kidding about this. It’s a whole book and everything.
The good thing is you can use money to buy time. For example:
- Buying gadgets and tools that cut down time spent on performing household chores, like robo vacuum cleaners that automatically clean the house
- Hiring someone to do work that would take you ages to complete, like hiring a plumber
- Hiring someone who can help you exercise effectively
- Using ride-hailing services instead of LRTs and busses
- Buying tools that help automate parts of your business
So those expenses, as long as within reason and within your budget, I would consider as an ‘investment in yourself’.
This is also why I support government policies that help people save time rather than save money. Like childcare services and better public transportation connectivity. Giving cash handouts is cool but sometimes I look at people queueing up for hours and think, wow that’s counter-productive.
#3 – Attend in-person events
As you gain more time and money – they kind of feed off each other in a positive loop; more money gives you more time and more time gives you the opportunity to make more money and so on – you can do more things that require more resources, like attending workshops, conferences, and networking events.
Your motivation to attend these events is to meet more like-minded people and learn new knowledge. Later on you realise that paid events tend to result in better connections and knowledge, so you start to dedicate some money towards it.
Note: free events aren’t necessarily bad. It’s just… if I’m being frank, I find that the sort of people who attend exclusively free events and the sort of people who attend paid events are different sorts of people. The latter are usually more driven, ambitious. The former complains the free food isn’t good enough.
I talked about this a bit more in the What Rich Malaysians Do With Their Money (That You Don’t), under Point #2.
#4 – Cultivate relationships that matter
(Note: Cultivate is such a strange word to use since some people I meet through #3 became great friends and even lovers.)
This is what people mean when they say you should ‘invest’ in relationships – spending the time (aka money) to meet them regularly so they can strengthen their bond because they know that quality relationships matter more than quantity.
The awesome part is the better your relationships get, the better you grow together. You’ll introduce new friends and bounce off ideas and pass on work to each other. They hype you up and you hype them back. It’s a nice, supportive environment to be in.
How do you invest in yourself?
What comes after #4? Do you agree with my loosely chronological structure at all? What is the one investment you have made for yourself that has been transformational and life-changing?
Would love to hear your thoughts, leave ’em in the comments section below 🙂