Updated on 02.29.16

Good Investing Goes Beyond the Stock Market

When people talk about investing, they almost always talk about the stock market. Heck, if you check out my archives here at The Simple Dollar, you’ll find they’re almost exclusively articles about how to get better at investing in the stock market.

And that’s great. The stock market is a fantastic way to build wealth and it should be a part of just about everyone’s long-term financial plan.

But it’s not the only option. There are other ways to invest that are not only less risky, but can offer a bigger return. Here are four of them.

1. Invest in Yourself

The stock market won’t do you much good if you don’t have money to save. In fact, when you start investing, the amount you save has a much bigger impact on your end result than the investment return you earn.

The more you save, the easier it is to reach financial independence. Simple as that.

In most cases, the quickest way to increase your savings rate is to cut expenses. There are almost always a few simple changes you can make to free up room in your budget.

But over the long-term, the most powerful way to save more money is to increase your income. The more you earn, the more you can save.

So in many cases, the best investment you can make is an investment in yourself. Improving existing skills and adding new ones can have a big impact on the amount of money you’re able to earn, which in turn can have a big impact on the amount of money you’re able to save.

2. Invest in Relationships

Skills are important. You need to be able to do high-quality work in order to get recognized.

But skills alone aren’t enough. As the saying goes, it’s often who you know that matters most.

I got my first job out of school from a family friend. I started my business in large part because my wife pushed me to take the risk. I’ve improved as a business owner because of the mastermind groups I rely on. And some of the biggest opportunities I’ve had to promote my work have come through people I already knew.

The skills and the quality of work had to be there. But the big steps forward have almost always come from my relationships with other people.

Jim Rohn is famous for saying that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Surround yourself with good people and good opportunities will come your way.

Tech Cocktail networking event in Chicago

Surround yourself with good people, and forge new relationships with other professionals in your field. Photo: Tech Cocktail

3. Invest in a Business

Anyone who tells you that entrepreneurship is easy is full of it. There is no quick path to riches.

But in today’s world, it is easier than ever to make at least a little money on the side and potentially even start a full-time business.

J. Money at Budgets Are Sexy has chronicled over 60 ways people have made money on the side. Catherine Alford teaches people how to make money writing online. The gang at Fizzle has developed an amazing set of training courses and cultivated an entire community around building a honest business you believe in. And of course Trent here at The Simple Dollar has detailed 50 small businesses you can start on the side and scale upward if they succeed.

Building a business isn’t easy, but what if you could find a way to make money doing something you love? What if you could not only earn more, but also have more freedom to spend your time as you please?

The best part is that you don’t have to do it all at once. You can start small, test your idea, see if you like the work, and then decide to grow it (or not) depending on the results.

4. Invest in a Mission

I’ve found the most personal and professional satisfaction when I have a mission attached to what I’m doing.

At home, my mission is to raise children who will have a positive impact on the world and to support my wife in all of her endeavors.

At work, my mission is to help other parents take control of their money so they can take care of their families.

When times are good, my actions are advancing these missions and I feel good about the work I’m doing. When times are tough, I remind myself of the mission I’m on, which helps me re-energize and get back on track.

Invest in a mission that makes a positive impact on the world. Allow that mission to guide your decisions across all areas of your life.

Not only will you see better results, but you’ll almost certainly feel better about them as well.

Matt Becker is a fee-only financial planner and the founder of Mom and Dad Money, where he helps new parents take control of their money so they can take care of their families. His free book, The New Family Financial Road Map, guides parents through the all most important financial decisions that come with starting a family.

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