A lot of people are wondering what the best investment will be for 2012. If you are afraid of uncertainty and want a guaranteed return, then the best investment you can make is investing in yourself.
I'm no economic expert, but with what is going on in Europe with the Euro crisis, and our own unsustainable levels of debt in the United States, I cannot envision a scenario where 2012 is a good year to invest in equities. We are not going to suddenly find a way to pay off our national debt. We will likely see the US dollar become stronger, which will weaken our export markets, leading to deflation and the devaluation of our currency.
So what do I mean by investing in ourselves?
The easiest way to do this is paying off your debt. If you have $20,000 in credit card debt at 10% interest, paying off that is a guaranteed to earn you 10%. It is highly unlikely that you could put that money somewhere else that will earn you more than that. This is because debt is like a negative investment.
It makes no sense to be piddling your money into an IRA earning 5% while you are sitting on high interest debt.
Investing in debt freedom pays more than money. It gives you freedom. Freedom to make big life decisions and to take advantage of new opportunities, without having to worry about the slave shackles of debt. This is especially true if you are not a homeowner. Once you are completely debt free, you can begin exploring a life that affords you a lighter work schedule, more time with your family, extended vacations, charitable giving and volunteering.
This can be viewed as investing in CURRENT you, not FUTURE you.
While it's important to make sure you are able to live the life you want to live when you are retired, what's the fun in slaving away at a job for 50 years only to find out you are so defeated by a life of worry and work that you cannot bring yourself to have a good time? Or worse, what if you have a debilitating stroke at the age of 55 and are physically unable to do the things you put on hold in order to earn a living?
If you are already debt free, you can begin exploring ways to become self sustainable. Maybe buy some books on building a green, off-the-grid ranch with animals in a garden. This would certainly cost you less than the $2 million that most financial advisers say you need to retire. What if you crunched the numbers and realized that you could build a new life in 10-15 years, retire at 50, and spend the rest of your days in a bucolic existence, tending to your homestead and pursuing your dreams?
This is also investing in YOU.
If you are an avid reader of lifestyle design gurus like Tim Ferriss, Dave Ramsey, Ramit Sethi and Chris Guillebeau, you may start to notice a trend: the things they talk about sound great, but they are a more suited to an unmarried person, or a married couple with no kids.
One of the things I want to accomplish with this blog – Married With Debt – is to show you a lifestyle design path that can be accomplished by a married family. Even though you have a family and a job, the underlying tenets of lifestyle design still apply – if you are able to look past the “rules” created by banks, retirement advisers and television advertising, you can focus on building a life that gives you what you really want, not what conventional wisdom tells you you need.