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Investing In Self-Improvement

When you invest in self-improvement, you're choosing to make key plans and life changes that benefit you today and in the future. Our blog posts often seek to answer direct investment questions like Why should you pay for a retirement planner? or How do I begin investing? However, this post will focus on a different kind of investment, where you not only invest your dollars, but also your time and energy for a multifaceted payoff that goes beyond simply improving your financial well-being.

Woman meditating

With the growing self-care industry, estimated to be worth over $10 billion, many are starting to realize the importance of self-improvement and focusing on one’s own needs as a key to success both at work and at home. As the Chicago Tribune writes, “If we’re not taking care of ourselves, how can we do jobs, parent children, [or] care for loved ones?”

When you invest in self-improvement, you're choosing to make key plans and life changes that benefit you today and in the future. In this post we’ve focused on three key areas—health, education, and financial planning—where you can improve your life in affordable and effective ways. Keep reading to discover some simple ways you can make yourself healthier, happier, and more financially 

Invest in Your Health

We often think of taking care of ourselves as an expense: buying healthier foods, paying for a gym membership, purchasing exercise gear. Self-care can also be seen as consuming, especially when we have a limited number of hours in each day to complete all the obligations we already have. Shifting your mindset into thinking of your health as an investment rather than an expense can have a major impact on your relationship with healthy habits.

In truth, spending time on your health and wellbeing is not only beneficial for you today, but also in the years to come—both in terms of your own sense of happiness and fulfillment, and for your financial stability. This is because poor health costs you in many ways, from higher out-of-pocket expenses on prescription drugs to lost productivity and shorter life expectancy. On the flip side, healthy lifestyles can not only save you money, but significantly increase your wealth. As Rutgers University points out in their article “The Financial Impact of Improved Health Behaviors”, being sedentary can cost you $670 to $1,125 each year, while losing just 10% of your weight can reduce your lifetime medical costs by up to $5,300. Quitting smoking might have an even bigger impact: “A typical non-smoker's net worth has been found to be about 50% higher than that of light smokers and about twice the level of heavy smokers.”

Here a few low-cost, high-impact things you can do to invest in your health:
  • Make Dietary Changes: Eating healthier foods can make a huge impact on your wellbeing, and doesn’t have to break the bank. According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health, it only costs $1.50 a day more to eat a well-balanced diet. Why? Because, as the US Department of Agriculture explains, even though junk foods cost less per calorie, calories aren’t the most important measurement when you take health into consideration. The cost of healthy foods per portion is comparable to that of junk food. Stick to whole foods, avoid processed products when possible, and you can see major changes to your health without a huge hit to your wallet.
  • Exercise: It’s no lie that exercise habits can be expensive, from $250 running shoes to thousand dollar stationary bikes. But there are good fitness options out there for every budget. Pick up a pair of affordable running shoes and make a commitment to go on regular walks or runs with friends. Purchase a reasonably-priced fitness tracker for added motivation. Consider joining a gym; there are many affordable gyms out there, and some jobs even reimburse you for your membership. But also look into these low-cost gym alternatives from Healthline. Considering that regular exercise could save you $2,500 per year, it’s well worth it.
  • Support Your Mental Health: We are finding out more and more how important mental health is to our overall well being. According to verywellmind, good mental health can lead to stronger relationships, higher productivity, and a better quality of life. On the other hand, as NerdWallet points out, poor mental health often results in overspending and lower retirement savings, on top of all the other associated negative outcomes. Taking the time to take care of yourself doesn’t have to cost a lot. Some easy and affordable suggestions include walking, journaling, and yoga.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a literal investment in your health, consider opening a health savings account (HSA). Anyone with a high-deductible health plan is eligible, and you can set aside money each year—pre-tax—to be used for any eligible healthcare expenses. As HSAs are interest-bearing, many are beginning to use these accounts as long-term investment strategies to pay for health costs in their older years. And if you are fortunate enough to never need your funds, you can use them for other expenses without a penalty once you reach 65, similar to traditional retirement plans. Visit our Health Savings Account page to learn more about opening an
HSA for you or your family.

Invest in Your Education

Investing in your education can yield monumental benefits. And, as the Social Security Administration spells out in their analysis of education and lifetime learnings, there are “significant long-term economic benefits associated with college education.” After controlling for socio-demographic factors, they found that men with bachelor's degrees earn on average $655,000 more over their lifetime than high school graduates. College-educated women earn less than their male peers, but still much more—$450,000—than female high school graduates. College graduates are also more likely to be happier and healthier.

There are many ways to continue your education and reap those financial and health benefits.  Some may require more time and money, while others can enrich your life and help you build your skill sets with a smaller commitment. Consider whether you would benefit from any of the following in following intellectual investments:
  • Pursue an advanced degree or certification. Whether in your field or in an entirely different profession, returning to school is one of the best ways to advance your career or set out on a new path. Many universities offer professional programs designed to fit around your lifestyle, with online classes as well as courses offered at satellite campuses throughout the region. Explore the local campuses of the University of Wisconsin and University of Illinois to see what they have to offer. 
  • Attend professional development courses and events. Maybe you aren’t in the market for a degree, but still see the benefit in gaining new skills in your area of expertise. Many employers will even reimburse you for professional development. Examples can include individual courses at local organizations and schools, conferences, seminars, and workshops. Browse the Wisconsin and Illinois Eventbrite pages for nearby conferences in your field.
  • Invest in your financial literacy. Familiarizing yourself with personal budgeting and investment strategies will have a positive impact on your day-to-day life, as well as help  you prepare for your future. There are thousands of courses available to you, many of which are offered for free by organizations and financial institutions. Check out this roundup of our favorite free online financial courses to find something right for you. 
  • Take classes for fun. Not everything has to have a clear monetary benefit, and you’ll never regret taking the time to enrich yourself and expand your horizons. Community colleges and local universities are a great place to start, as classes are more affordable, and many offer noncredit or audit-only (you won’t get a grade) options if you aren’t seeking a degree. Check out the noncredit course options at the City Colleges of Chicago or University of Wisconsin for examples and opportunities throughout the region.
  • Take a free class. Take advantage of free how-to classes to pick up a new hobby or develop an existing skill. From Home Depot’s free in-person and virtual workshops to free online academies like those offered by LinkedIn and Udemy, there are no shortage of places and topics that you can learn about without spending a penny.
  • Pick up a book. Reading is the ultimate affordable education, and an excellent pathway to self-improvement. If you’re looking to increase your knowledge on a subject, books can provide an easy-to-access option that can fit into any lifestyle. And getting a card at your library can not only give you access to thousands of physical books, but also online resources, eBooks, as well as a host of special interest clubs, groups, and classes. Click on your town name to see what your local library has to offer: Beloit, Clinton, Darien, Delavan, Elkhorn, Janesville, Argyle, Rockton, Roscoe, Walworth, Williams Bay, Winnebago, and Monroe.

Invest for Your Future

Furthering your education and taking the time to focus on your health and wellbeing are excellent, indirect ways to invest in your future. But it’s equally important to consider your direct options as well, that will not only bring you peace of mind as you face challenges in life, but also financial security as you reach your older years. As HelpGuide explains, financial stress can have serious negative consequences on your mental and physical health, from insomnia and depression to physical ailments. Consider financial planning as an equally important self-improvement investment.

Creating a successful financial strategy doesn’t just include saving for retirement (though that is a big part of it!), but other investments and actions to ensure a stable financial future. Here are some key things you can do to invest in your fiscal wellbeing:
  • Open an IRA. Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are the most common retirement investment strategy, outside of employer-sponsored 401ks. Both Roth and Traditional IRAs are tax advantaged. With a Roth IRA, you won’t pay taxes on your withdrawals after you reach age 59 ½, with Traditional IRAs you won’t pay taxes on the money you invest today. With an average annual return of 7-10% over the long term, IRAs can be a substantial part of your retirement strategy. You can also rollover your current 401k into an IRA, a common practice for those who change jobs. Visit our IRA and 401k Rollover page to learn more about your options through First National Bank and Trust.
  • Start an annuity. Another common long-term investment strategy are deferred annuities. Annuities, like those offered by First National, are issued by insurance companies and can be both variable (interest fluctuates with market rates) and fixed (interest rates are set). You can also receive regular payments from your annuity through your retirement, and they are often considered a good, stable source of income. Annuities are complex, but useful retirement products, so it’s a good idea to take the time to read an introduction to them, like our recent post "What are Annuities and When Should I Start One?" or this thorough guide from the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.
  • Explore other investment accounts. At FNBT, we offer numerous investment options, from stocks and bonds to CDs and mutual funds. If you would like to get started investing, but you’re not sure where to begin, talking with one of our wealth managers can give you a great overview of your choices and match your financial goals and risk-tolerance with the right products.
  • Plan your estate. There is no greater stress in your golden years than worrying about how your loved ones will handle your passing. Additionally, having to navigate a complicated estate settlement in the wake of a loved one’s death is an unnecessary burden your family shouldn’t have to face. Consider meeting with an estate planner to avoid the stress and financial consequences of poor planning, for the wellbeing of yourself—and the people you care about.
  • Pay down debt. All of the above are great options for those who already achieved some level of financial stability, but what about the large number of people whose debt prevents them from getting there? Depending where you are in life, you may want to consider consolidating or paying off debt as a first step in investing in your future. As Forbes Advisor explains, if you have several high-interest loans or credit card balances, debt consolidation can save you substantially in interest alone. However, if your credit score or income limits prevent you from qualifying for a consolidation loan, it’s possible to effectively pay down your debt without one, too. Once you have your debt under control, the money you spent on those payments can even be redirected toward long-term savings.

We Can Help

Whether you’re looking to open a health savings or retirement account, meet with a wealth manager, or consolidate your debt with a personal loan to get back on the path to financial security. We are here to help you make an investment in yourself. In fact, our mission  is to do just that: help all our families and customers succeed, through exceptional service and Sound Advice. If you have questions about how you can use our resources to improve your financial picture, contact us today.

Check our 11 tips to help you save more money this year. 

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