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Today, I want to address a topic that can be sensitive to many, especially living in the economic times that we do here in the US, and that is the crucial difference between investment & expense(s).
This post will not go in depth into the textbook definitions, nor will it serve as a step by step guide, however, my goal is to just blow up a few myths and bad, or even obsolete, information re: these, and ideally, help you think deeply when it comes to your money.
First, high high level. What is an expense? I define it as something that you exchange your money for that doesn’t offer any long term value, return (ROI), or which grows your wealth or reduces your debt burden. Let’s briefly cover each of these:
1. Long term value. Many excellent authors/business owners/entrepreneurs have made crystal clear that money is NOT something you simply trade in exchange for a good or object; it is much more – money should create memories, and most definitely, bring something back to you that doesn’t simply last for a day, a week, or a month. What you get back must have value that carries on a least a year, and even better, a decade or more.
2. Return ( ROI ). Rate of return, for the purposes of this post, is simply summed up as — did/will you receive something of value back, over an adult time frame, for what you spent your money on? ROI is not necessarily just measured in financial terms (such as if you were able to pay down debt quicker by buying a financial pack to apply principles that you were never taught); it can also be measured intangibly: Did you sign up any new clients in your consulting business due to that seminar on people skills you attended? Have you been able to get on the career path/track that you wanted after pursuing more credentialist based (professional track) education?
3. Reduction of debt / Growth in wealth. Growing one’s wealth/assets runs inversely to lowering one’s debt(s)/liabilities. And, keep in mind, a mortgaged home is a LIABILITY, not an asset, unless you have rented it out and are receiving recurring rental income. From that perspective, expenses need to be reduced, including paying off consumer debt, and eventually investing in ‘hard’ assets, like bullion metals, later on down the line. Growing one’s wealth requires buying back time, having a systems based model, understanding the power of compounding (of interest, of invested monies, et al.), & delaying expense based gratification until you can truly pay or whatever you want in cash based equivalent(s).
Now, let’s move on to investments. Investment is not what you may think! Let’s start w/ understanding that investment in one’s mind most definitely counts just as much as investment in something paper-based ( like stocks, mutual funds, bonds, or REITs ). The vehicle of a 401(k) or its functional equivalent has only been around for 30+ years, yet it seems like it, or the becoming obsolete pension plan gets mentioned most when this word is discussed in the mainstream of society.
Don’t get me wrong: these are all investments, however, how much stronger is your mental fitness if you just put 10% of your W-2 income into a 401(k)? Will you be closer to true wealth? Unlimited time & money choices? Perhaps a step or two, or ten, yet think bigger and more metaphorical (in depth): what about directing some of these monies into your mind? That’s a key threshold to cross when it comes to understanding even better the critical distinction b/w expenses and investment.
Here are some examples of investment now that we’ve set this foundation in place:
1. Building a library. Whether its a virtual (read: e-book) library, meaning you invest in an e-reader/tablet & download books online or via app, or the other way, where you buy paperbacks or subscribe to receive them monthly, this is a perfect starter example for someone who wants to invest in the mind. We’re all worth minimum wage from the neck down; all the great leaders of history, from Napoleon, to Teddy Roosevelt, to Thomas Jefferson — they read. A LOT. Books matter. They expand your horizons, expose you to lessons you can learn from by living someone elses’ experiences, and you can apply what you read to your life immediately.
2. Audio Learning. Subscribing to, or buying audio material – whether books, podcast downloads, mp3’s, CDs from seminars – they all count. Audio is an excellent complement to reading, as it engages different areas of your brain, and rounds out further the investment in your mental fitness.
3. Attending Seminars / Streaming webinars. Association with other climbers, those who are on the success curve of life, and whom understand the critical importance of ‘You, Inc’ investing, know that being around others who are growing from the inside out, who value personal change, will put monies into this category.
4. DVD / web videos ( YouTube ). Another option as technology continues to evolve is to purchase, subscribe, or click on a link to have vids sent to you to watch. Visual learning on your own time is still another investment vehicle that will pay great dividends on your leadership development/self help journey.
5. The final one I’ll list is a BIG one. I would strongly and unequivocally urge everyone to do this: Start a business. Own something, an asset that is yours, which will generate income that is not subject to a third party and will allow you to direct monies away from expenses and into the above options I listed.
To put a capper on this post: I wholeheartedly believe that entrepreneurship and self-directed learning, investment understood in a much different way than what is the “CW” , and outside the realm of pure ‘credentialist’ institutions, is a crucial element to being able to maintain freedom (see my earlier blog posts) & to strengthen your financial standing in our internet/connected/information age world. The industrial age is gone, regardless of what the politicians are saying in this election cycle; the sooner you invest in ‘You, Inc’, and turbo-boost your mental fitness, the better off you will be.
All the very best & God Bless.