I’ve been writing about investing for several years, so it’s easy to forget that the term applies to much more than money.
The concept of investing may be intimidating for many of us, but the reality is, we invest in some way or manner every day.
When you call your best friend just to check in, you’re investing in a relationship. When you volunteer, you invest in an organization or cause that matters to you. In fact, right now as you read this, you’re investing in something important — yourself.
Investing in yourself means spending time and energy to not just grow, but also rest when you need to. Investing in yourself can give you the confidence to make big decisions in life, such as buying a home or pursuing a new career, as well as permission to slow down and recharge.
Here are 20 ways you can start investing in yourself today.
1. Set up an emergency fund
Perhaps you’re already saving for a down payment on a house. Maybe you’re planning ahead and setting aside money for your child’s education. These are great financial decisions. But what about all the future expenses you don’t see coming?
An emergency fund is your safety net when you suddenly pop a tire or lose your job. It’s the cash reserve you can fall back on when life doesn’t go as planned. To invest in the financial health of your future self and protect her from scrambling to cover an unexpected expense, use our emergency fund calculator to find out how much you should be saving.
Read more: Building your emergency fund: Why, how and where to keep it
2. Start a retirement plan
As a 20- or 30-something, you may not think about your future life as a 70- or 80-something-year-old — but you should.
Just as with your emergency savings, building your retirement fund now is another essential means of investing in your future self and her health and happiness. Thanks to compound interest, the earlier you start building a retirement plan, the better equipped you’ll be to retire later in life.
Whether we realize it or not, the time to begin saving for retirement is now (yesterday, in fact).
Read more: How much do you need to save for retirement?
3. Create a debt repayment plan
Next to saving for future goals and surprise expenses, paying off your debt is one of the best steps you can take to invest in yourself.
Debt does much more than limit our financial freedom, it can affect your overall well-being. Eliminating this financial burden will not only equip you to pursue other financial goals, but also free you from certain financial stresses and anxieties.
This guide can help you create a debt-repayment plan that identifies which debts to tackle first, how to adapt your spending habits to focus on paying down debts, and more.
4. Get health insurance
“Get health insurance” may seem out of place in this list, but I like to think of it as the helmet of the group — a little dorky, but absolutely essential for the adventures ahead.
Insurance, in general, can be a great means of investing in yourself, by helping you preserve your financial health and well-being when unexpected events occur. No one wants to be faced with a trip to the hospital under any circumstances, but a visit to the ER becomes even worse when you don’t have health insurance to cover the bill. Even if you don’t have a medical emergency, health insurance will enable to keep on top of your health without the stress of hefty doctor’s bills.
Use resources like Policygenius to compare personalized policy quotes from top insurance companies for free.
Read more: How to choose a health insurance plan
5. Start or join a professional networking group
I recently joined a local co-working space for female entrepreneurs. Not because I wanted another coffee shop to work at (believe me, the Pacific Northwest has plenty), but because I wanted to grow my professional network.
The time and energy you spend meeting professionals in your city and industry can propel your career in many ways. In fact, this week I attended a member meet-up event at my co-working space and made connections that could lead to new clientele and perhaps even a partnership with an editor and publisher to assist me with a future book I plan to write.
Start a networking group in your city or search for an established group through MeetUp. This resource connects people in a specific locale with others who share similar interests, passions, and more.
Read more: How to network like a pro
6. Educate yourself on personal finance
Just because you have money doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to use it. I’m not saying you don’t know how to handle your own money, but I am saying that healthy personal finance is much more complex than saving from time to time.
For example, did you know that you should be using your credit card for most purchases? Did you know that there’s such a thing as “good debt”? Did you know that buying a house isn’t always better than renting?
Educating yourself on healthy money management tactics can help you save thousands of dollars every year without sacrificing your lifestyle or future savings goals.
Read more: The power of financial literacy
7. Create a financial plan
For many of us, the word “budget” may have some stressful ties. In fact, when I review my budget at the end of the month, I make sure to grab a glass of wine first.
Fortunately, your budget doesn’t have to look like mine — or your parent’s or your mentor’s or even Dave Ramsey’s. Once your fixed expenses like rent/mortgage are accounted for, you can build a financial plan that meets your unique wants, needs, and goals. What matters most is that you take the initiative, sit down in front of your computer or notebook, and make your plan.
Read more: How to build a budget that works for you
8. Hire a professional to help you invest
What better way to invest in yourself than to actually invest?!
If this tip feels daunting, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to go it alone. Financial advisors (both human and digital) are there to help you figure out where and how to best invest your money.
Now, to work with most in-person financial advisors, you’ll need at least $50,000 to $100,000 ready to invest — which is why many Millennials and Gen Zs opt for a robo-advisor first. A robo-advisor is a more affordable avenue for novice investors because your investments are essentially managed by a computer algorithm rather than a real-life advisor.
As your investments grow, you can “graduate” to a financial advisor and receive advice that’s more tailored to your goals.
Here is a comprehensive list of investing tools and resources to help you get started.
Read more: Robo-advisors vs. financial advisors: Which is best for you?
9. Volunteer or give back
When you contribute to your community, either monetarily or via service work, you invest in yourself in more ways than one.
The time and energy you spend giving back can make your community stronger. The stronger your community, the more well-equipped it is to support its members — members like you.
As an added bonus, the very act of giving can feel like a sugar high. It energizes you, and when you feel that boost of energy, you gain confidence in yourself and your ability to accomplish other goals and ambitions.
10. Find a mentor in your field
The phrase “When I was your age” typically leaves a sour taste in the mouth of Millennials and Gen Zs— but why?
Established professionals can offer us wisdom and lessons obtained after years in their industry, a gift we’ve yet to earn. Whatever your career may be, meeting with a mentor in your field is like free education. You’ll discover tricks of the trade but bypass the mistakes your mentor made along the way. You’ll also gain a seasoned sounding board you can consult as you make future decisions about your career.
Mentors, coaches, and trainers are available for a variety of areas in your life. Consider ways you’d like to grow personally and professionally, then think about who can help you pursue those goals.
11. Take care of your physical well-being
There are countless studies indicating a correlation between healthy bodies and healthy minds. When you’re not taking care of your physical health and wellness, you’re indirectly hindering your mental health and wellness too.
Investing in your physical well-being is a means of investing in your whole self. Start by adopting small habits to take care of yourself. Make sure you move your body on a daily basis. Drink lots of water and eat your fruits and vegetables. The choices you make for the benefit of your physical health will create a ripple effect that impacts your whole body and life for the better.
12. Create a positive mindset
Stress has a way of shutting our brains off. Even if we feel alert and active physically, our mindset may be lacking.
Alongside the healthy habits you adopt for your physical wellness, make sure you’re investing in your mind as well. Practices like meditation and therapy can help us remove mental roadblocks, some of which you may not even be aware of now.
When stress and anxiety threaten to derail your day, slow down. Tend to your mind.
13. Set limits on your spending
According to a report from the Federal Reserve, one-third of Americans would struggle to afford a surprise expense of just $400. An easy way to avoid becoming (or remaining) one of these individuals is to make sure you focus on saving first and spending second.
Create a monthly automatic transfer in your budget that moves a certain sum or percentage of your paycheck into a separate savings account. Once you’ve allocated a sufficient amount of your paycheck for savings and addressed your essential bills and expenses, you can then use the remainder (or a portion of it) for “fun money.”
You may be tempted to fudge numbers and dip into your savings from time to time, but, whenever you face a minor car accident or a hefty bill from your dentist, you’ll be happy you let your savings grow!
14. Do something that scares you
When was the last time you tried something new? Perhaps an exotic food? A challenging hobby?
When we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones, our comfort zones adapt and expand. For instance, I tried skydiving for the first time in 2015 — and not because it was on my bucket list. My family pushed me to try something outside of my comfort zone, and you know what? I loved it. In fact, I’ve been skydiving more than once now, and I would happily do it again.
Before you accept the box you’ve put yourself in, think about how much value you could add to your life by stepping outside of it.
15. Be mindful of the company you keep
I’ve known many people over the years who are quick to offer unsolicited opinions and unwanted advice. My guess is you have a couple names popping up in your mind as well.
Investing in yourself means investing in the friendships and relationships that encourage you to be yourself and challenge you to be a better version of yourself. Who can you be authentic and genuine with? Who pushes you to chase your dreams? The people who want you to be you, even when they don’t agree, are the ones who deserve your energy and attention.
16. Make time for yourself
This past weekend, I filled my schedule with activities. Brunch with my girlfriends, a two-year-old’s birthday party, a friendsgiving dinner. When Monday rolled around, I sat down at my laptop to work, but my mind went blank. I was exhausted, and what I needed was to slow down — so I made space in my schedule for me.
Before you spread yourself too thin, carve out some time in your day and week to focus on solitude and self-care. For you, this may mean going for a jog, cooking, creating, or watching an episode of your favorite TV show.
It can feel good to be busy, but sometimes what we really need is rest.
17. Start a side hustle
A side hustle can not only give your budget some extra cushion, but it can also relieve you of certain financial stresses and free you up to make new decisions.
After I adopted my dog, for instance, I realized I would need to make a little more money to afford her — so I started a reselling business on Instagram. Now that I can make an extra hundred bucks or so when I need it, I can afford to pay for high-quality dog food, fun treats and toys, and even surprise vet bills.
Consider what type of side hustle you could pursue to add some extra cash to your budget. You could become a delivery driver or a dog walker. Or, search sites like Craigslist and TaskRabbit for a variety of one-off side-hustles, such as picking up someone’s groceries.
Read more: Side hustle ideas: 25 ways to make money on the side
18. Take a class
If you have the itch to learn something new, or to improve your education for your current career, try participating in a webinar or a college course. HubSpot, for instance, offers free webinars to help professionals expand their understanding of topics like SEO and startups. You could also check out edX or Coursera to take college classes from top universities like Harvard and Stanford.
Or, pursue a degree! Going to college — or back to college — can help you deepen your knowledge of budding (or established) interests, broaden your resume and experience, and become better prepared for our diverse world.
Read more: Should you go back to school as an adult?
19. Get some sleep
I have a bad habit. I get myself ready for bed, let the dogs out one last time, crawl under the covers… and grab my phone.
It’s too easy to stay up scrolling, getting lost in a book, or binge-watching a TV show. Unfortunately, the consequences of too little sleep are far-reaching, impacting everything from our memory to our heart health. Adequate sleep is imperative for our physical and mental well-being, so it’s vital that we prioritize sleep every single night.
If you don’t already have a set bedtime, perhaps it’s time to create one. If you’re like me and enjoy playing on your phone before bed, consider cutting off your screen time 30 minutes or an hour before you go to sleep. For your brain and body’s sake, sleep well.
20. Treat yo-self
On days when I feel down or overwhelmed, I have learned to give myself permission to do two things: (1) say “no” to obligations and responsibilities I can let go of, and (2) buy myself a treat.
The little things matter. Life has a way of throwing us curveballs, and it’s appropriate that we adapt and course-correct in those instances. It’s okay to cut ourselves some slack now and then. It’s okay to take a break from our daily to-dos. And it’s okay to buy a cookie or a cup of coffee when you need a little pick-me-up.
When life is a little sour, why not add something sweet?
What does it mean to invest in yourself?
To invest in something is to give with the expectation that you’ll receive more. When you invest $1,000, for instance, you expect that money to grow over time. When you invest in yourself, the same logic applies.
Investing in yourself means pouring into yourself in ways that produce a more successful, more fulfilled, and generally happier version of you. For example, when you spend time and energy seeking a professional mentor, you are actively pursuing future success in your career. When you spend money on a massage or time in meditation, you are tending to your mental health and preparing your mind to weather whatever the day throws at you.
Engaging in activities that empower and energize you results in a more empowered and energized you.
Investing in yourself is arguably the most important first step you can make towards improving your future.
The energy you spend building a financial plan will bring you closer to achieving goals like paying for the down payment on your first house. The time you spend on a side hustle can help you set aside more “fun money” for hobbies and other interests. Even giving back to your community can energize you and strengthen the confidence you have in yourself.
By focusing more time and attention on yourself, you’ll be better equipped to build a life and future that meets your needs and wants.
Featured image: Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock.com