The Best Investment a Woman Can Make

When I write about financial advice, I often include statements like “of course, it will depend on your personal situation” or “you should first start with your own financial plan.”

These qualifications address the personal nature of financial advice and the fact that great advice for one person can be inappropriate for someone else.

As I’ve shared before, personal finance is more personal than finance.

But there is one investment I can, without reservation, recommend to you regardless of your personal or financial situation.

The BEST investment you can make is an investment in yourself.

Many of you will immediately assume that I’m suggesting getting or finishing your college degree. Or going to grad school for an MBA or other advanced study. But that’s not what I’m suggesting at all.

This is an investment that requires little to no financial commitment, but it can provide a huge return over the remainder of your life.

Think about this: what if you could earn an additional $10,000 per year over the next 25 years of your remaining career? That’s a quarter of a million dollars!

Instead of reading up on how you can eek out an additional 0.37% per year on your investment portfolio, or skipping your morning Starbucks to save a buck or two, think of the career and lifestyle impact that comes from higher earning power.

So, what’s the game plan? How can you up your ability to earn more without going into deep debt for additional schooling?

How to Gain More Earning Power

I have a couple of suggestions to help you get started:

1. Be a curious, continual learner
 2. See rule #1

Think about it. What makes a person more valuable in an employer’s eyes?

It’s the ability to do what you’ve been hired to do AND be able to stretch into additional capabilities and projects as opportunities arise.

This isn’t just another “work harder, do more and everything will turn out fine” line of thinking.

Yes, you may need to do more from time to time, but you want to work smarter and not just simply work harder.

So where does the “curious, continual learner” part come into play?

Start with your immediate supervisor at work. This could be your boss, a team leader or someone else who is responsible for your work performance. And your pay.

Ask him or her to have a cup of coffee or a quick 15 minute huddle. In this meeting, your goal is to do one thing and one thing only. Find out what you can do to make their life easier.

Is there something you can offer to take off their plate, or is there a project you can get involved with?

Remember, your boss is human, too, and deals with the same challenges and fears that you do. Be empathetic and consider ways you can help your boss look good and be more effective.

Note: there is some risk with this strategy. Your boss could be an a**hole and happily accept your work without any additional consideration for promotions or higher pay. But I truly believe that most people, if given the chance, are good and decent and will do the right thing. Eventually.

Also, I’m not suggesting you be a kiss up and try to win the role of “teacher’s pet” in your work environment. While you do need to look out for yourself, I don’t think you want to alienate your colleagues and coworkers.

Seek to Learn on Your Own

Another strategy for continuous learning?

Read. A lot.

It doesn’t have to be all business, all the time. Mix in some fiction, some biographies, and anything else that interests you.

Reading can help stimulate your thinking and creative pathways. It’s not impossible that you could be reading the biography of a long-dead historical figure and have a moment of inspiration as you connect the dots between the person you’re reading about and a project at work. Or in your personal life.

Consider reading as a way to build your resume as well. Maybe you’ve been teaching elementary school for 11 years, but you’ve always had an interest in graphic design, marketing or entrepreneurship.

Well then, start reading about it. Learn everything you can and spend your summer break attempting some small projects that involve one or more of your interests.

Stay Open to the Possibility of Investing in You

Maybe you love your job and have no desire to climb to the next rung in your organization’s ladder. Good for you.

But don’t ignore the possibilities that open up with additional learning and earning. Maybe you can start a side gig earning some extra money by selling things on eBay or Etsy, or you could try to sell some of your homemade cookies that your family and friends always rave about.

If nothing else, exploring new avenues and seeking out new experiences and learning opportunities could provide more satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. That would make adding to your bank account just an added bonus after that.

So let’s say you’re intrigued or maybe even inspired. You want to learn, you want to grow and earn more, and you want to start yesterday.

Well, you might have to make some tough choices. Time is a finite resource that we’re all constrained with. However, if something is important enough to you — whatever it may be — then you can typically find a way to make it happen.

Remember, always be learning. It can lead to bigger financial opportunities, and who knows where your path may take you along the way.

Originally published at on April 13, 2016.

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