This is a phrase that I’ve heard a few times over the past few weeks. It comes in different forms, but that’s what it essentially amounts to. Perhaps not so surprisingly, it has come from people with a vested interest in making that “investment.”
It’s made me think, are these investments really worthwhile?
Over the years, I’ve invested in myself several ways, with my college degree being the biggest. (Though, I earned a full scholarship covering the tuition.) The value of college is a huge topic that I can’t do justice in a single post.
I’ve also bought a lot of eBooks… some of which I’ve actually read. That should give you an idea as to how those investments in myself worked out. Usually, I have limited time to take advantage of everything that’s out there. Of the ebooks I have had the time to read, I’ve found that like everything, the results are hit and miss.
One case this recently came up was in discussing the Contactually service with John Corcoran of Smart Business Resolution. He’s a big fan of how it organizes and helps you build and maintain business relationships. I currently use a spreadsheet. So I’m on the fence if I want to spend nearly $20 a month do something similar, maybe better. The $20 a month may not seem like much, but these subscription services add up over time. I try very hard to limit them because they push me away from being financially free… having my passive income surpass my expenses.
So is Contactually a good investment in myself? I don’t know. I’m in the free trial right now, but it seems to require so much time to set-up the hundreds of contacts that I have, that I don’t know if I’ll actually get a chance to use it. When I run into difficulty there’s usually a video to help, but watching that is more time gone. I’ve been emailed by at least 4 members of the support team offering to help, which is great, but again, requires more time to write them back and explain how slow it is to set up when you have so many contacts.
I was listen to Jim Wang’s awesome Microblogger podcast which had Billy Murphy as a guest. Murphy built a poker training site that has made more than a million dollars. He made a brilliant comment in the podcast about how the first version of the site cost $16,000 to make and the second version required $60,000. He said he could have made a lot more money by spending the $60,000 upfront, but made the excellent point of (paraphrased) “You don’t know if it is going to work, and $16,000 is a lot of money when you are starting out.”
Even when you invest in yourself, there’s the question of how much you should invest and what happens if the investment doesn’t produce a return.
Perhaps the best example of a “bad” invest in yourself is what Bill Ackman revealed is going on in the Herbalife nutrition clubs. He showed that the clubs lose $12,000 a year on average making it a terrible business “opportunity” (if one can even use that term). There is a training program that looks like it takes 4 weeks to complete, but due to strict rules it can take years. While in the training program, the trainees have to buy numerous product estimated of costing more than $3,000. It’s billed that if you invest that money in yourself, you too can open up your Herbalife nutritional club… where again, you lose $12,000 on average. The people getting taken by this are generally poor with little education.
This is from Bill Ackman’s extensive research, but is hardly surprising if you know the MLM industry. As Harper’s Magazine once wrote about Mary Kay, “The women I interviewed for ‘The Pink Pyramid Scheme’ told me stories about struggling to patch together daycare or to survive high-risk pregnancies while working long hours scouting prospects and hosting parties without any guarantee of a sale. Debts mounted, marriages failed. They couldn’t have it all because Mary Kay’s business model (like that of any multilevel-marketing enterprise) is designed primarily to profit from, rather than enrich, its workforce.”
And then there is the Flip This House seminar scam that I’ve written about before.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what is a scam and what isn’t. If you have a high level of intelligence and some critical thinking skills you can eliminate some of the easy-to-spot scams and throw those aside. Then you are left with legitimate educational options that may or may not give you a return on your time and money. I don’t know how to navigate those waters. In some cases you could ask someone who has taken the course, but you might be at a higher level than they are. For example, I’m not likely to get much out of investing in a beginner level blogging course, but that isn’t to say it’s not valuable for someone else.
At the end of the day, I think I’m left with more questions than answers when it comes to investing in yourself. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.