It’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever be asked to speak at a commencement ceremony. I don’t have great academic accomplishments or a particularly storied Resume. I don’t even have a fancy robe with colored sashes and tassels. I guess I’ll never rise to that level of wisdom.

But frequently I am asked for advice and guidance.  Sometimes that advice is regarding investments, which I see quite a lot of. We have clients who invest in a lot of different types of investments, from commercial real estate to iron ore trusts, from hedge funds to options, from stocks and bonds to windmill farms, and so on. Some do very well, and some not so much.  The universe of potential investments is mind boggling and overwhelming, even for many experts, but the one thing that the experts will all agree on is that there is no one, singular perfect investment for everyone.

I disagree.

I believe that there is one perfect investment that will drive income to you for your entire life. This investment will not always pay well, but it will always pay something. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old, wealthy or poor, male or female, risk averse or aggressive. It doesn’t matter where you live or who your parents are. It doesn’t matter what your current income is or your current living expenses. This investment will keep paying dividends to you and your family potentially long after you are gone!

So, what is it? Drum roll please…The perfect investment is YOU. You must invest in yourself.

I knew a guy in High School, we will call him Tom. Tom was a popular good looking guy. He was a jock, smart, had a girlfriend and a great job. His job was a union gig as a checker at a grocery store. It paid great money for a high school kid. When the rest of us graduated and went on to college, trade school, the military, whatever, Tom stayed at the grocery store making good money for a teenager. He didn’t invest in himself and stopped advancing his net worth as an earner. At the last high school reunion Tom was there, and it was sad to see how he had failed to succeed financially. He stopped learning and growing intellectually which eventually limited many things in life including his career.

You don’t have to get multiple college degrees, but you do need to keep advancing your knowledge. A bachelor’s degree is fine, but it’s not the end. You should be thinking about advance degrees, credentials, and certificates. If college isn’t your thing then trade licenses and certifications should be on the list. If that doesn’t work what about independent learning of new skills, or just plain old reading everything you can?

It may not be easy forcing yourself to read Money magazine, or learning a new language, but the smarter you make yourself the more you will be able to earn your entire life in whatever you choose to do. Also being smart helps prevent you from stepping on the proverbial cow pies when faced with life’s daily decisions.

My advice to you, new grads and anyone else for that matter, is to never stop investing in yourself. Make learning a priority your whole life. It will pay dividends of all kinds.

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