The best time of our lives are when we are ‘young, poor & single.’ After that, it all gets a little messed up. Once the straight out of college, 20-somethings have gotten over their hangover from the recently-found inflow of money from their respective relatively new jobs, the entire populace gets gripped with one common obsession: Savings.
A potential master’s degree, a wedding, kids and a retirement fund are usually the most common elements that form the bucket list of a young professional. Then, there are people who go one step beyond the usual and rather skeptically resort to a shoestring budget. Their aspirations? Add an expensive hobby, a startup idea or a foreign trip to the ones mentioned above. It is all too easy to get caught up into the fear of never having enough money around to use ‘just in case’.
The other important and a relatively more aggressive aspect of financial planning is ‘investing’. Less conservative opportunities like stocks, mutual funds et al find a lot of suitors among the folks who are probably looking at 20 years down the line hoping that they’ll have sufficient financial cover and the nerve to slip into an early, lavish retirement. I am no alien to these circumstances. A quick search through my browser history will tell you exactly how frequently ‘How a 22-year-old should invest his money?’ features on my Google search results.
But something seems a bit off here. Any individual with even a basic understanding of economics will tell you that investing in ‘human capital’ will give you better returns than investing in ‘financial capital’. Not many experts will tell you this but if you have just started your career, the biggest investment opportunity is you. Yes you, staring at the screen right now.
Educate. Self-education is the best form of education. Ever come across a certification course which costs a few thousand rupees? It seems like an interesting prospect but the thought of putting that extra few bucks in the PPF account or making an additional installment to the credit card bill pulls you back. Yes, we have all been there. Mutual funds and stocks can be played with later in the career, skills will only give you more wealth to invest. If you can afford the choice, it’s better to choose value.
Read. We are living in a world where there is a glut of information. Filter out the noise and read about anything relevant that interests you. It works in ways that you can’t even possibly imagine. And the best part is that majority of it is available free online. The only expense to be made is with time and the same will eventually snowball into a huge chunk of knowledge.
Network. I am not advocating the idea of being at the biggest hotspots around town, every weekend. Although fair play to you, if that works at a personal level. Meet new people, both like- minded and otherwise. It gives you a sense of perspective. If that means picking up the occasional tab for a meal, do it. Somewhere down the line, it is extremely likely to work in your favor.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against the idea of monetary outlining here. Spouses, kids & sick parents might seem a lifetime away but they are closer than you think. You don’t want to get to that stage and find you have no money in the bank. But from time to time, it is okay to let your gut take control because when you invest in yourself, you are not afraid to bet on yourself.