New Tricks for Old Dogs – Investing in EducationPosted on March 10, 2014 by
“I accidentally forgot to graduate from college.” ~ Anne Lamott
Last week my Aunt Blanche came to dinner and told us all about a class she was taking: Financial Markets, at Yale. Really? THE Yale? Blanche is pretty imaginative, so I thought she was making it up. Sure enough, though, she proved it: She’s got a certificate in Financial Markets from Yale University. I have to admit I was impressed. It had to have taken work and dedication, and, I imagined, lots of money, too.
That got me thinking about how important it is to invest in ourselves, particularly in our own education. So many of us think we don’t have the time or money to spend on ourselves. We feel overwhelmed just facing the details and expenses of daily life. In my experience, though, learning something new gives me new energy and motivation to spend on all the mundane stuff.
Maybe you’d like to invest in yourself, but someone else has told you it’s just silly. That sounds like a naysayer to me, so let’s talk about naysayers for a minute. You know who they are: the folks who tell you it’s dumb to spend 15 weeks on a college course. The ones who say you’re too old, you’re too busy, you’re not smart enough. There’s a naysayer in every family. And too often, the worst naysayer of all is YOU.
Don’t give naysayers free rent in your head. When I started my real estate investment business, every single person (with the exception of my wife) said I was absolutely nuts. They told me to get a regular job and forget all this real estate nonsense. If I’d have listened to them, where do you think I would be right now? Probably running a warehouse again. Instead, I have a great income and plenty of time to enjoy my family. Investing in myself – investing time, money, and effort – has given me a life I never could have dreamed of otherwise.
Which brings me back to education. The cost of a single real-estate investment course or seminar may seem high, but if the instructor has a good reputation and the topic is closely related to your business, you’ll get your money back ten times over. You can’t really afford not to educate yourself – not when some of your competitors have already taken the same courses and have hit the ground running.
How do you spot a good course? A really good real-estate investment course includes lots of specific details, with helpful materials to use once the course is over, such as forms, reference materials, and even software. In addition, I design my courses so that they have something to offer both “newbies” and experienced investors.
But let’s say you don’t need a lot of detail. Maybe you’re just looking for a broad overview of a subject. Maybe you need to brush up some math or accounting skills. Or maybe you just want to learn something for the heck of it. No matter what your motivation, you’ll find plenty of resources out there, and many are absolutely free.
In addition to full-scale REIA courses, there are lots of free presentations given by experienced real-estate investors. These tend to be general rather than specific, but they’re terrific for understanding the “big picture.” If you’re lucky enough to have an active REIA community, as I do, you’ve got lots of opportunities to learn this way.
But what if you want to learn about something that’s not directly related to real estate or investing? Let’s say you want to learn HTML, the programming language used for building websites. In that case, just go to your favorite search site and enter “HTML tutorial.” You’ll find all kinds of lessons, and for the most part, they’re free.
Some of us feel the need for more structured classes, or would like to study a subject in more depth. Then I recommend MOOCs. A MOOC is a really exciting development in higher education. MOOC stands for “massive open online course.” MOOCs are college-level courses taught online via some of the best schools in the country, including Georgia Tech, Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Yale, University of Michigan, and many, many more. MOOCs might include homework assignments and perhaps even exams. Most of these are free courses that last several weeks; but for a nominal fee and some hard work, some courses offer certification directly from the school. You can find MOOCs at www.coursera.org, www.edx.org, and www.udacity.com.
Now, MOOCs aren’t meant to be a substitute for college, especially for your kids. But they’re a great way to bolster your brain power, or your resume, or both. They’re also great for someone who’s thinking about going to college but needs to get a feel for the commitment it would take, or someone who’s already been to college but wants to update their knowledge.
Not everyone is up to an eight-week commitment, of course. But you can invest in education – and in yourself – even if you’ve just got 20 minutes to spare. For quick “brain snacks” check out www.Ted.com, which has hundreds of video talks by experts touching on every possible subject from creativity to quarks and from politics to penguins.
Aunt Blanche’s resume now includes a Certificate in Financial Markets from Yale University. She has also taken Jazz Improvisation, Art History for Gamers, and Nanotechnology. I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next!
Blanche’s education has come from some of the best minds in the world, and so can yours.
Trust me: you’re worth the investment.