Have you considered that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, the path of your career is headed to a single destination?
That destination is…another career. It’s a career for which you may or may not have been preparing. It’s also a career in which you’ll only succeed if you are prepared.
It’s not something new. Previous generations have all ended up in that career. Sometimes they had someone doing the work for them, sometimes they did the work themselves. In general, those who do the work themselves have done better, but that’s probably true of any business or profession; nobody does it as well (or as to your taste) as you do.
It’s a career for which you can prepare right now if you want to.
Given that everybody ends up there, it’s something anybody can do. It’s not rocket science, but it’s not sweeping floors, either. As in most careers, the more you put into it, the more you accomplish and get out of it.
There are peer groups and many people join those, but (like most professions) the actual job is done solo. Although you can do it “old school,” it’s best done these days on your computer or smartphone.
The good news is that you can start doing it now, part-time, to get up to speed. There are training opportunities aplenty, most of them free. Such are the riches of the Internet.
So, are you ready to hear it?
Your mystery career is investing
Does that surprise you? Does it surprise you that whether you’re a doctor, bus driver, rocket scientist or business executive, your ultimate job title will be none of those, but rather “investor”?
Think about it: most of us, if not all, have this vague notion that “one day” we will “retire”—both nebulous notions meaning different things to different people.
“One day” could be a magic age, such as 40, 50 or 60. It could be later in life because “you don’t want to stop working.”
And “retire” may mean golfing all day, traveling the world, starting a new business, being a painter or writer, or any other pastime of your choice.
Regardless, all of us will reach the day when we either can’t or don’t want to “work” (however you define your current occupation). Look it up: very, very few people stay in their careers until death by old age.
So, what are your options?
Everyone has just two potential sources of income:
- Income from your labor or business
- Income from investments
With the passage of time, smart people work toward a place where the income from their investments will be sufficient to cover their needs to the point where they no longer need income from a job or business.
In order to get income from investments, you need to have investments that produce income. Because, like most of us, you probably didn’t win the lottery of the womb. You started life with very little in the way of capital to invest.
The obvious solution is to start accumulating as much capital as you can as early as possible. That’s where saving, getting out of debt and utilizing retirement plans all come in.
What’s less obvious is that it’s possible to learn about investing while you do that. Investing is a bit like an airliner: there’s a lot of groundwork that needs to be done before it can take off.
It’s possible (indeed, advisable) to start reading up about investing before you’ll actually need to do it for a living so that, like that airliner, when it’s time to take off, all the groundwork is complete.
If you feel you’re too dumb to invest, think again. Can you buy a house? That’s an investment. If you can buy a house, you have the basics of what it takes to become a successful investor.
Investing is nothing but shopping. It’s a different kind of shopping, to be sure, but shopping nevertheless. Just like any kind of shopping, there are things to learn and things to become familiar with. But if you can shop, you can invest. Millions do it every day.
If you’re halfway successful in your current career, you can succeed at investing, too
If you simply don’t like investing, and you’d feel more comfortable handing it to “someone else” to do, you might want to think twice about that. Who pays those people? (Hint: it’s not the tooth fairy.) You pay them, directly and indirectly. Do you want to give away a third of your earnings?
When you buy a house, would you just tell a realtor to find you a house and call you when it’s ready to move in? You could, of course, but really, is that what you would do? No. You get involved, and you buy what will work best for you. And only you can judge that.
If you find this a scary notion—that no matter what you do today, you’ll end up being an investor—you shouldn’t. Think of it this way: the better you are at investing, the earlier you can achieve that ultimate dream each of us has—freedom. Freedom to choose what you want to do, when you want to do it and how you want to do it. If you want to work till you drop (and you can), that’s fine, but it’s nice to have the option to not to have to be a greeter at Walmart or clean tables at McDonald’s.
Investing doesn’t necessarily need to be the things you hear about everyday (stocks, mutual funds, etc.)
No matter what you end up investing in, there are universal truths regarding investing that every person needs to know.
The Internet is filled with free learning on different kinds of investing. If you don’t know what you’re interested in yet but want a general starting place, try Bite the Bullet Investing. There are also numerous free resources dedicated to specific investment vehicles, such as Motley Fool and and AAII (American Association of Individual Investors) for stocks and Learn Bonds for bonds.
Whatever you do, you owe it to yourself to be prepared for what may in the end be the most important career of your life.
The good news is that you have time. You don’t have to wait (in fact, you shouldn’t wait) until you have money to invest before getting up to speed. As with any profession, the earlier you start, the better you get. Wouldn’t it be nice, when you make the switch, to be comfortable with the notion and concepts of investing?
Why not start now?
William Cowie writes about the long view on careers and personal finance and is a previous contributor to Brazen Life. Check out his free introduction to investing at Bite the Bullet Investing.