The word “invest” is typically attributed to the act of putting your money to use in some way, often with the goal of making more money. But I like to think of investing a bit more generically sometimes.
A huge mantra in my life is Walt Disney’s famous quote “keep moving forward.” And I like to approach all aspects of my life as opportunities to continue to grow and improve continuously over time. That includes my pool of knowledge, my personality, habits and relationships, and of course my finances.
And in my life I’ve found that often investing in myself will ultimately reap financial rewards later on.
So here are my 50 ways to invest to keep your life and money “moving forward.”
Invest In Your Knowledge
There’s a saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” I find this saying to be quite misleading. I prefer another saying:
“Knowledge is power.”
Studying real estate investment gave Kate and I the knowledge and confidence to buy our first investment property. And when you take the “keep moving forward” mindset to accumulating knowledge, it’s only a matter of time before you know how to achieve your goals.
There are a lot of great humans out there. Women and men who have achieved fame, fortune and happiness. Many of them have written about their experiences.
If you’re new to a particular topic, reading can teach you the basics of that skill. Reading can point you in the right direction.
And if you’ve already accumulated knowledge in your area, then reading can introduce (or remind) you to new ways of thinking. Often when I find myself stuck in a rut, when I can’t think of a new way to improve my craft, reading sparks new ideas.
Consistent reading is one of the staple habits of a lifetime learner.
2. Read a book that’s hard to read
Reading is so important, that I wanted to mention a type of reading that few ever attempt. Have you ever started one of those books that you know is just packed with juicy information, but you can’t seem to make past the first few chapters?
Textbooks are like this. Who would ever read a textbook for fun? Not many people would.
Reading these books can make you an expert. When you start feeling like your normal reading is monotonous and you’re not growing, it’s time to pick out a book that’s hard for you to read.
3. Study those who came before you
No matter your goals, someone has either achieved them already, or has achieved something similar.
If you want to be a stock investor, then you can probably learn something from Warren Buffet’s life. If you want to be a great chess player, then you’ll want to study the games of Garry Kasparov. Is bodybuilding, acting and politics in your future? Might want to study up on Arnold Schwarzenegger.
4. Learn by doing
Here’s my personal favorite way to invest in my knowledge, just do it. Have you ever had a big test approaching? One that you knew about weeks ahead of time, but you didn’t end up studying until the day before?
There’s something about the impending doom of the test tomorrow that just kicks all your senses into high gear. You can focus and put all your energy towards studying because if you don’t then you’ll fail.
The same thing happens when you put yourself out there. When you buy an investment property, failure means bankruptcy, so you focus and learn whatever you have to learn to make it work.
Put yourself in a position where you have to focus and learn, or you’ll fail. That’s when your brain goes into overdrive and you learn the most. When you have to learn to survive.
5. Find a mentor
I’ll be honest, I’ve never had a mentor. At least not in the traditional sense. However, I have a friend (and read many stories online) who got a ton of value from a mentor.
When you read a book from someone who has been there and done that, you get generic information. But a mentor can apply their knowledge to your specific goals and your situation.
Finding a person willing to invest their time with you could be a difficult ask, but if you can manage it (or pay for it), your mentor could be exactly what you need.
6. Become a mentor
Both sides of a mentorship benefit from that relationship, though in most cases the mentee will benefit more. But the mentor can also learn.
When the mentee asks questions it can force the mentor to turn a critical eye on their own processes. And when the mentor explains something, they may need to find new and simpler ways to think about it. This can lead to a deeper understanding of their craft.
7. Go through the motions
In investing, money is often a necessary part of the puzzle. But if you don’t have money, then you can’t move forward with your investment, so you can’t learn by doing.
But you can act as if you do have the money and take all the steps you would take if you were actually investing.
8. Online course
Invest in your knowledge with an online course. Yeah there are lots of courses ready to take your money on sites like Udemy, but you can also get free online courses offered by universities.
I took a Python programming course several years ago from MIT OpenCourseWare. It was a free version of an actual MIT programming course. And I’ve also found real college lectures on YouTube. You can get a university level course for free online.
9. Converse with others
You’ve got friends and/or family, right? And if you don’t, you occasionally find yourself around other people.
If you’re like me, then talking can sometimes help you clarify your thoughts. I tend to do my best thinking when I’m talking out loud. Don’t be afraid to bring up your goals, investing or otherwise, with others. You’ll find a few who will offer new insights, ideas, or ask questions that challenge your own way of thinking.
Anytime I try to explain something, I find myself attempting to communicate what I know in a different way. And you don’t have to go sign up to teach a legitimate course, you can just try to teach someone you live with something you’ve learned recently. Ultimately, teaching can create a deeper understanding of a topic.
11. Talk to professionals
I started my journey investing in real estate, and in many ways that’s still the core of my investing strategy. It’s easy to think that the only way to learn is to study your specific topic (in my case real estate investing).
But I’ve found that I learn just as much from talking to professionals that are only related to my path. When I meet with my accountant each year, I often learn new ways to approach investing. If I accidentally did something to earn a tax deduction, then next year I can do it more, or at least make sure I document that thing every time it comes up.
When I talk to a lawyer about an upcoming investment, I learn more about the various risks associated with it.
Using the expertise of professionals can make you a better investor, or a better whatever you’re working towards.
12. Experience a day in the life
The first job I worked out of college was as a lab technician at a wastewater treatment plant. My job was to run various lab tests on actual samples from around the plant, and yes, some of the samples smelled disgusting. But that’s beside the point.
One of my coworkers traveled around the city and inspected the waste being expelled from businesses. I never really knew what he did or how he did it, but one week I got to ride around with him every day and watch. Then eventually I participated and helped him do his job.
I honestly believe that there’s no better way to learn a skill than to observe someone else do it and then integrate yourself into their work day. Learn by watching and then reinforce that learning by doing it.
13. Mastermind group
About 2 years ago Kate got in touch with our friends, family, and acquaintances that she knew had an interest in finance and investing. She put together a meeting and the group just started talking and creating an agenda.
We ended up with a group that met every two weeks and discussed all different aspects of investing and personal finance. I learned a lot about choosing publicly traded companies to buy stock in, and I also learned about several different methods for budgeting.
I learned something every meeting and it’s something I think someone at any point in their journey can benefit from.
14. Ask for recommendations
Sometimes it’s enough to just tell people “I’m trying to buy my first business” or “I want to create a financial plan to retire by age 45.” People love giving advice and sharing experiences.
If I’m honest, this is one that I tend to avoid, because sometimes people like to play the expert and give you advice about things they’ve never done. One of my pet peeves is when someone who has never invested tries to tell me about all the terrible things that can happen to me.
But still, you can hit the jackpot sometimes if you ask the right person. You never know who is an expert in your field.
15. Learn tax law
For many people, taxes are the biggest expense in their life. I can only speak for myself, but I pay more in taxes each year than I pay to live in my home.
I live and work in the U.S. I don’t know much about the tax code in other countries around the world, but in the U.S. there are a lot of ways to legally ease your tax burden each year.
The catch is that the vast majority of these benefits are only available to investors and business owners. The more you know, the more you can tailor your financial strategies to keep more of your money in your own pocket.
Related: My favorite tax book is Tax Free Wealth.
Invest In Yourself
Knowledge is only a part of the puzzle when it comes to success. You must also cultivate habits and a mindset that allows you to become better today than you were yesterday.
Here are some suggestions for turning yourself into the kind of person that attracts success.
I grew up playing sports, so in my youth I got a lot of exercise without even thinking about it. But once you get out into the professional world, you have to create time to stay in shape.
I’ve spent time with a consistent workout routine, and I’ve spent time as a full time couch potato.
In my experience, when you make time to workout, you have more energy the rest of the day.
Mental health is probably even more important than physical health. I’ve never properly learned to meditate, but I can say that spending time reflecting on yourself and your life is incredibly valuable.
Meditation helps you learn to be present or mindful. That just means that you thoughts are in the now rather than in the past or future.
And since we create our future only by a series of choices we make in the present, meditation can help us improve the quality of those every day choices.
I’m a person who figures things out best by talking, but some people process their thoughts better through writing. Putting pen to paper can help remove the filter that we often put on our speech.
The world we live in today gives us the opportunity to never spend a second in complete silence. Between all these streaming services, the internet, and the ultimate boredom cure, smart phones, a person can go most of their life without ever having to sit with themselves.
When I sit in silence with myself, I’m faced with my flaws and failures, I’m faced with the smallness of my life and my dreams. Being reminded of these things can be scary and depressing, but it can also free you to be brave in the face of this question:
What’s the worst that can happen?
If achieving all your wildest dreams really doesn’t amount to much, then falling on your face isn’t that bad, is it?
That’s how I see it, at least.
Affirmations are my current favorite personal investment. So much of our everyday decisions are directed by the stories that we tell ourselves.
“I’m not smart enough. It’s too risky. So much can go wrong. I can’t do that.”
We all have stories we tell ourselves that keep us from becoming the best version of ourselves. Affirmations are a great way to change the way you think about yourself. If you spend time every day telling yourself (out loud) new stories, then your stories start to change.
“I’m smart enough to do this. My research will mitigate the risks. So much can go right. I can do this.”
The more you say it, the more true it all becomes. I’ve even started experimenting this year with recording my affirmations and listening to them every day.
I first heard about the power of visualization reading about Arnold Schwarzenegger. I’ve tried visualization, but for me, affirmations have been more powerful.
The goal of visualization is the same as affirmations. You imagine yourself doing the things necessary to reach your goals, and enjoying the process. You see yourself achieving those goals.
By forcing your mind to imagine that version of yourself, you start to align your mind and actions with that reality.
22. Weed out bad relationships
Being around the wrong people can significantly hinder your ability to move forward and grow. If you’re around people that constantly pointing out your flaws or telling you you’re not good enough, you’ll start to believe them.
Being around those kind of people is basically the opposite of visualizing and affirming the better version of yourself that you imagine.
Cutting out negative relationships can be emotionally difficult, but I firmly believe that successful people MUST cut out the negative people in their lives. And I think you’ll be happier, too.
23. Seek out challenging relationships
In the same way that cutting negative relationships can be a net positive, adding new relationships can have the same effect. If you happen to run into someone who is incredibly motivated and inspires you to do more/be better, then you should make the effort to cultivate that relationship.
Being around the right people can have just as much positive impact as working on your own personal development individually.
24. Critique your diet
I can’t speak for the entire world, but I’ve seen many times how changes to a person’s diet can change their energy level, motivation and ability to problem solve.
I can’t tell you how to change your diet, but I can tell you that observing what you eat and making minor improvements can make a real impact on your ability to stay focused.
25. Introduce a routine
Routines work great for me, but they don’t work at all for Kate. Almost a year ago, I challenged myself to write every day for 1,000 days straight and while I haven’t yet reached that goal I’m at 287 (as of January 2021) and still going strong.
My routine of writing has helped me grow this website each and every month.
The thing I love about this routine is that I don’t measure success by my results (how many visitors I get, how much money I make), but I measure success by my ability to stick to the routine (the goal is 1,000 straight days).
Sometimes it helps to measure your success by how well you take consistent action rather than your results.
26. Replace a bad habit with a good one
Maybe you have a habit of watching TV during dinner. Say you could start listening to a podcast during that time, related to your goals. Do you think that would be a step forward? Of course!
I’ve been replacing bad habits for 5 years now, and guess what? I still have plenty of bad habits. You’ll always have an opportunity to improve your habits, and the things you do every day are what determine your future.
What I love about podcasts is that it’s something you can do while you do another thing. For me, I like to listen to a podcast while I do my exercising.
Before buying our first investment property, I listened to the Bigger Pockets podcast several times a week. I also attribute the idea to start an Airbnb to one of the Bigger Pockets episodes.
I’ve learned about investing, entrepreneurship, online business and SEO all from listening to podcasts.
28. Follow a content provider
It’s not always easy to find quality content online that is delivered in a way you connect with. When you do find that, you want to hold onto it. Usually, there’s a particular person that just really speaks to you and maybe even gets you excited.
The content those kinds of people provide can spur you to action. Consume as much of that content as you can.
29. Attend a conference
The great thing about conferences is the immersion. They say the best way to learn a second language is to go live somewhere that forces you to speak it to survive.
Conferences achieve the same type of thing on a smaller scale. You get immerse yourself in a particular topic around other like minded people for a short time. This can allow you to dive deeper into your problems and find solutions that you wouldn’t be able to find otherwise.
30. Dance (have fun)
I’ve gotten very serious about my financial goals in the last 4 years, and taking things too seriously can create stress for me. I have two things I like to do to relieve my stress.
The first is karaoke. I’ll pull up karaoke versions of my favorite songs on YouTube and just sing along. The second is dancing. When I hear some great dance music I can’t help but move my body. And both of these things just make me smile and release that stress.
When I release my stress I’m often able to be even more productive when I finally get back to work.
31. Write down your goals
It’s been shown through several studies that writing down your goals makes you more likely to accomplish them.
Every year around January 1, Kate and I write down a new batch of goals for the upcoming year. And at the end of that year we review the goals we set.
Over the last four years we’ve accomplished about 60% of the goals we set for ourselves. Obviously, we’d be happier with 100%, but it turns out that even achieving some of your objectives is rewarding, and gives you the confidence and power to reach even higher.
The other reason I love writing down our goals is it eliminates all the uncertainty. It can be hard to decide what you want, but once you write it down a lot of that indecision seems to disappear.
32. Ask for feedback
Asking for feedback from others is difficult for two reasons. The first is of course that it’s not easy to hear your faults. I’m already self conscious enough, I don’t need anyone else pointing out that they also notice my shortcomings.
The second is that most people don’t like giving negative feedback, especially if they like you. It can be hard to get honest responses from friends and colleagues.
So try to ask in a way that makes it as impersonal as possible. Something like this could work:
“I’m trying to find time in my life to introduce a new good habit, what old habit or activity could I get rid of?”
“What do you think is most holding me back from getting promoted|taking my next step|achieving my goals?”
33. Clean your space/home
This is one that Kate took on herself. For one reason or another our house always seems to be a bit messy, and we have accumulated some things that we really don’t need. Sometimes just being in our house and noticing the mess or the work that needs to be done is enough to distract her from what she’s working on.
If that’s you, then you could increase your productivity by cleaning house. Create a space that doesn’t distract you, whatever that means for you.
34. Increase the average of the five
There’s a famous quote by motivational speaker Jim Rohn:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
In his words this extends to every aspect of life. Your ambition is the average of those five’s ambition. Your financial status is the average of those five’s financial status.
If you want to improve some aspect of your life, then find and befriend people who have great success in that area.
Invest In Your Finances
We’ve talked about ways to invest in yourself, but when it comes down to it, if you want to build wealth, you have to engage in some financial investing too.
35. The stock market
Not much needs to be said about investing in the stock market. It’s the style of investing that almost everyone is familiar with, and it can be incredibly passive.
I’m not a stock investor, though I have compared the return potential of stocks against other types of investing.
36. Real estate
Real estate is another style of investing that almost everyone is familiar with. Most people know that real estate investing is lucrative, but they never take the time to learn why, either because it sounds like too much work or they think it’s too risky.
I think both of these conclusions are largely misconceptions.
ROI for real estate investors can be 30% (compared to 10% in the stock market). There’s simply no comparison between the profitability of the two.
37. Start a business
We’ve all heard the stories of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos. They built software companies from nothing to the biggest companies in the world.
But we don’t always think about our neighbors who build their businesses from the ground up. According to Wikipedia, half of all millionaires are business owners.
The beauty of business is that the amount you make is not directly tied to how much time you spend working. If you build an effective business, you can make money while you sleep.
38. Buy a business
There’s another interesting statistic about start up businesses: 90% of them fail. One way to cheat that failure stat is to buy a business that is already proven to be profitable.
Not only that, but business investments can be even more lucrative than real estate investments.
Buy a business is no small task and should not be taken lightly, but done well, investing in business can be a fast path to financial freedom.
39. Start a website
Websites can be major cash cows, too. In fact, plenty of websites bring in over $1 million in revenue each year.
Like starting a business, most websites fail, but if you have the determination and skills, you can build up a profitable website in your spare time over a few years.
40. Buy a website
The ROI for buying a website is basically the same as that of buying a business. If your skill set and time availability is better suited for an online business, then a website may be your path.
A website purchase is my next planned investment.
Again, this strategy allows you to step past the initial failure rate of a new website, and it also allows you to skip the lead up time to creating that footprint online (usually at least a year).
41. Pay off debt
By paying off debt early, you accomplish a few things. First is that you save on all the interest you would have paid on your future loan payments. This is the reason most people give for paying off debt early.
There are two other benefits of early loan payment, and these are more important to me:
- Immediate increase to your cash flow
- It’s easier to get a loan to invest
For me, cash flow is the most important metric of my financial situation. Paying off debt allows you to immediately increase your cash flow by getting rid of your loan payments. It’s the safest and most predictable way to increase your cash flow.
Using debt well can significantly increase your ROI on investments, so making myself more attractive to lenders is always a great thing. And paying off debt is one of the best ways to improve your personal financial statement.
42. Refinance or consolidate debt
Sometimes you have an opportunity to improve your debt situation basically for free.
When interest rates for home loans are low, you can often refinance your mortgage to save money on your loan payment. This basically just means you get a new loan at a better interest rate.
Also, if you have many loans (like maybe school loans), some lenders will consolidate them to save you money. This just means they turn all your small loans into one big loan and lower the average interest rate.
43. Retirement funds
Retirement funds are great for some people. These accounts have tax benefits that allow you to avoid capital gains taxes in the stock market. And some employers will match money you contribute to your retirement fund.
Retirement funds are best suited for investors who plan to work until retirement age, because they incur fees for early withdrawal.
In order to live a financially healthy life, it is vital to have at least a basic understanding of how much money you bring in and how much you spend. Creating a budget and tracking your income and expenses is one great way to be aware of these things.
I’ve known many people who are literally too scared to look at their bank account. If that’s you then it’s time to tackle that fear. Getting comfortable and knowledgeable about your finances is a complete necessity for your money health.
45. Reduce recurring expenses
Once you become familiar with your bank account, you should look for expenses that happen once a month or once a year. You should find lots of things that fit this description, and here are some examples:
- Mortgage payments
- Other loan payments
- Utility bills
Write down everything. Then when you’re done go back through the list and highlight anything you don’t use anymore. You can also take note of any recurring expenses that you might be able to reduce.
46. Raw land
The longer Kate and I have been investing, the more I’ve started to think about what happens when we reach our current financial goals. As you build wealth, your focus begins to shift from “how do we make more money” to “how can we protect what we’ve built.”
I’ve heard the phrase “storage of wealth” a handful of times in reference to various investments. It just means that there are ways to maintain your current wealth accumulation without losing out to inflation.
In my opinion, raw land is the best storage of wealth investment out there. It’s virtually maintenance free, it’s a finite physical asset that will always have value, and it’s value has kept up with inflation forever.
47. Precious metals
Gold is the investment I’ve most often heard referred to as a storage of wealth. It’s supposedly an incredibly safe investment because it holds value outside currency and is often regarded as the standard for monetary value.
There’s no debating that gold is valuable, but the ROI on gold and other precious metals isn’t as great as you might expect. Still it’s hard to go wrong with gold.
Just about everything in the world holds some value, but certain types of things tend to grow in worth over time. Things like TVs and cars lose their value as they age, but things like wine get more expensive.
A savvy collectible investor can beat the stock market over the long run, though there’s seems to be more fraud in certain markets.
49. Become a lender
Banks make their money by lending out money with interest, and you can use their business model yourself.
You can of course find people to lend to yourself, but you can also use a service like Prosper that pools money from many investors and vets the borrowers themselves.
50. Have an investment account
There’s a famous concept in personal finance and investing called “pay yourself first.” It means that when you get paid, you set aside a percentage of that money before you pay any bills or buy anything.
So I recommend setting aside money specifically to invest every time you get paid. If you put $1 for every $10 you make towards investing, it’s literally only a matter of time before your finances improve.
There are so many ways to invest. Of course, you can use money to acquire assets that grow in value over time or create cash flow. But you can also invest in yourself by learning from those who came before and the people in your life. And you can invest in your habits and mindset to become the person that simply attracts success.