woman with a giant smile and healthy teeth

How to invest in yourself: different types of investing

There are different types of investing.

We’ve all heard about stocks, bonds, crypto, real estate, art, and so on. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, though. I’m no psychologist, but in my experience there are lots of vital parts of life that many people overlook, ignore, and don’t spend any time on. (Or money, for that matter.) Neglect those things long enough, and either they’ll backfire, or someday you’ll suddenly realize that your standard of living is pretty atrocious, and you’ll wonder why. There are different types of investing, and a lot of us often ignore them.

I fancy myself a strategist and a great investor, having retired at 34 after planning my escape from the rat race for about 10 years. (Though, granted, luck also played a part.) That said, there are other kinds of investing out there – the kinds that never get taught in MBA schools, and that would get you laughed out of any business class. I’ve identified some of them, and decided to share them with you below. I’m sure there are many others, and I look forward to discovering them.

And so, without further ado:

Dental care. If your investment stash has just $5, you should buy some dental floss and start a-flossing if you don’t already do that. According to this dental study, aspiration pneumonia (caused by poor dental health) is one of the leading hospitalization causes among the elderly. According to the CDC, the US loses over $45 billion in productivity each year due to untreated dental disease. And on top of that, I’m pretty sure you know people with their own dental horror stories. Flossing is nobody’s idea of fun, but think of it as a quick insurance policy. Three minutes a night can save you a lot of misery down the road. (Who knows, it might even save your life.)

woman with a giant smile and healthy teeth
Okay, this picture is a little horrifying – but just look at those gorgeous gums!

Companionship. This could be as simple as getting a dog (or, in my case, a few guppies; Fishmael and Fishabella say hi!) or, hopefully, finding a partner – or multiple partners, as long as all the parties are aware of one another. (Hey, you do you.) You’ve probably heard the term “loneliness epidemic” before, but do you know how widespread it is? According to this 2021 Harvard study, “36% of respondents reported serious loneliness—feeling lonely ‘frequently’ or ‘almost all the time or all the time’ in the four weeks prior to the survey. This included 61% of young people aged 18-25 and 51% of mothers with young children.” Maybe getting a pet won’t cure your loneliness, nor inoculate you against it. Find a community service organization that you click with. Join a hobby group. Try to get out of your bubble. What good is wealth if you are all alone?

Your community. There are so many ways to get involved and invest in your community. It could be a political or social cause you’re passionate about. It could be your neighbourhood soup kitchen. It could be something a bit more extreme, like your county’s Search & Rescue group. I’m biased on that last one: graduating from KCESAR’s eight-month training program with my younger brother was one of the proudest moments of my entire life. I’ve learned some pretty fun new skills, became a badass in that very narrow skillset (at least compared to a baseline person), and made great new friends. I cannot describe the feeling of knowing that you’re helping somebody on the worst day of their life… If you can, I highly recommend that you try it. If you can’t, then look for other ways to help your community: it takes many individuals to make progress.

Your overall health. Does your health plan cover annual physical exams? Go get one, even if nothing hurts. (As they say in the military, “proper preparation prevents poor performance.”) Are you aware of how your current diet could affect your health 5, 10, 25 years from now? Are you as physically active as you should be? Think of the last vegetable you ate – was it a French fry or something from the actual produce section? (And no, onion rings don’t count, sorry.) There are different types of investing, and one could argue that none of them are as important as your health.

I used to have workaholic coworkers (think 20-hour days) who sacrificed their health for something that ultimately didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Don’t be like that, but also don’t neglect your body’s upkeep and preventative maintenance. If you could have only one car your entire life, you’d probably keep it in tip-top shape, getting frequent checkups, oil changes, looking for rust, etc. Then why not do the same with the only body you’ve got? 

Your skillset. Earlier, I wrote about getting a tech job without learning how to code. (Hint: it involves a lot of Excel.) Theoretically, if you had enough time and motivation, you could become an expert in almost every field out there. (You might end up on a watchlist if you google how to make a nuclear bomb, sorry.) With the internet, youtube tutorials, Wikipedia, and even plain old public libraries, we have more access to knowledge than any generation that came before us. I’m not shaming those who use the internet to watch cat videos and share memes (hey, whatever makes you happy), but there is so much more to it.

Personally, I carved my way up the career ladder by teaching myself Excel and data analysis. Other people learn marketing, social media management, coding, etc. For example, right now I’m slowly (ever so slowly) improving my photography skills using all the free workshops and tutorials I found online. Try to learn something new and useful and applicable every single week. See where it takes you. You don’t need a fancy degree to succeed (though it definitely helps) – if you have any spare time and internet access, you too can learn more about your field, or learn something entirely different. My younger brother’s degree was in engineering (the old-fashioned kind, not software), but he learned enough coding to get an entry-level job in a tech company, and now he has to fight off recruiters left and right. Whatever skill you choose to study, it will not be a fun or easy process, but eventually you’ll be rewarded for it.

rubik's cuve solving - skillset
Probably not the most marketable skill out there, but you’re on the right track!

There are different types of investing, and they vary depending on whom you ask. Maybe the unusual investments I’ve just described won’t work for you. Maybe you know about some other non-financial investments I haven’t even thought of. What do you think? Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments – I always appreciate your feedback!

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