A friend dropped by for dinner. Yes, even in hard economic times it is possible to have a social life. Friends plus food plus wine plus time equal an evening better than any Hollywood production. And, even in hard economic times, good news happens. She sold her house and was wondering about how to invest the money. Time to step in with the familiar disclaimer, “I am not a certified financial planner, nor a certified financial advisor.” She knows that. She also knows that I don’t like to give advice about anything else either, but I do like to ask lots of questions. I am a curious guy. What would she do with the money?
Amidst dire economic news it is hard to remember that people have jobs, despite unemployment; companies are making money, despite depressed stock markets; and houses continue to sell, despite underwater properties and a seemingly fatally flawed mortgage industry. The job section in the local paper is taking more space than it has in months, maybe even a couple of years. The revenues of one of the major stock market indices, the S&P 500, is on track for 17% growth this year. I’ve even seen real estate agencies hiring more realtors. I’m considering jumping into that job market, but then, I’m considering many job markets because, despite the good news, my stocks are down and I want to keep my house.
She was lucky though. Of course, her luck stems from good living, and an open-minded approach to defining her lifestyle. She’s managed that amazing balance of having fun and being careful with her money. The windfall of selling her house was a new experience. That’s what happens with a windfall. Even if it is expected, the reactions it creates can be completely new and novel. From what I could tell, this was the first time she could invest years worth of living expenses.
Ah, and she’s a smart one. She’d already visited a professional. And she came away from it with a thoughtful brow and many more questions. Professionals exist because financial advice should be taken seriously, its regulated, the list of possibilities is overwhelming, and people have better ways to spend their time. I’m a fan of financial literacy, independence, and integrity, (hence my work for New Road Map Foundation) and while I think most people can find a way to handle their money, frequently it is best to have someone else step in, that’s when I’m a fan of the pros. But my friend didn’t feel as energized as she thought she should.
We started playing around with what she’d been told and what she wanted to do. She’s a sole-proprietor/businesswoman/entrepreneur who helps other people figure out to live other aspects of their lives, and she’s very good at it. She’s known world-wide. Nicely done. One book that strongly influenced me was The Millionaire Next Door, not for any fascination with wealth, but for the insights and data they referenced. I no longer have my copy, but I recalled that many of the millionaires were independent business owners, people who invested their time and money in themselves by investing in their businesses. They took what they knew and built upon that. Businesses aren’t guaranteed of success. No investment is guaranteed of success. But they were able to work from a comfort zone and get to the potential for great comfort.
Money doesn’t mean happiness either, but happiness does correlate well with being able to pay for the necessities and a few luxuries. The correlation falls apart when luxuries are piled on luxuries. More is not always the answer, but having enough is powerful.
She realized that she had enough for years of living expenses, for her current lifestyle. She also lit up when she talked about her business. I mentioned that and asked how much it would take to expand her business to make it more fun, profitable, and sustainable. After she’d run through a long list of improvements and included some that I asked about, she’d come up with a total that was less than 5% of her windfall. Her business doesn’t require expensive facilities. A bit of coaching, some extra training, some exploratory trips to expand her markets, definitely a new computer and maybe a new web site, and she’d have a re-energized business that would match the energy in her smile.
She was smiling. Investing doesn’t have to be done with furrowed brows. I invest in small companies, and regular readers know how high and low that experience can extend. Can you remember back to the up days? Stock markets don’t go on forever in either direction. It merely feels that way. Oy, does it feel that way. Anyway, of all the investments she’d talked about, investing in herself brought the biggest smile.
A person investing in themself has an advantage that they can never match when trying to invest in someone else’s company. Knowing thyself is hard enough. Knowing the mind of management and the market is definitely harder. A person investing in themself can also fall into a trap of being too close to the business. Good and bad things can be overlooked. Expansion opportunities may be just past the horizon. Extrapolations from positive possibilities can create an exuberance that ignores dangers and cautions that are within arm’s reach but out of sight. Others might have a better vantage point. Investing in self is powerful, but doing it amongst others is a very good idea.
I’ve invested in myself like many people: education, counseling, exercise, self-care, and starting my own business (Trimbath Creative Enterprises). Much of the early work produced my Boeing career. I actually got to use my degree, and even the specialty that I studied for my Masters. The work I’ve done since leaving Boeing in 1998 is coming to fruition. My writing, photography, and speaking are not only keeping me busy, but paying their own bills and soon may pay mine too. (Whidbey Island Open Studio Tour – October 8th & 9th) (Modern Self-Publishing October 15th, which is also now a book) (busy, busy).
Investing isn’t just spending money to make money. That’s why I listed counseling, exercise, and self-care. Clearing clutter from a life, untangling internal knots, and exercising all aspects of what we’re given can make easier to appreciate the value that already exists in every moment.
I don’t know if she’ll follow through with her plans. Even if she does, the great majority of that windfall could still follow the professional advice she paid for; but in the meantime, the more valuable part may be the joy she finds by investing in herself. Her business probably will do well too. Very cool.
PS She called and told me she’ll probably buy one of my photos too. Happy dance.