A lot of posts on this blog are spent talking about saving and investing money. The goal is to get into a situation where you can generally take care of yourself and your family even if your regular source of income – your job – goes away. This is known as being financially independent. Being in this state opens up a lot of possibilities not available for those tied to their jobs such as great freedom in what you do, opens up options not available to those without money such as private schools and home healthcare, and allows people to get more for their labor by reducing the amount that is lost to interest. Regarding that last point, you can easily get twice as much “stuff” for the same amount of labor if you just don’t borrow to buy things.
There is another type of investment that is equally important, however, and that is investment in relationships. While there are a lot of things money can provide, there are also times when everyone has a task they cannot do alone. In rural communities, while each person is expected to generally take care of themselves, it has always been the practice to help others when they needed to build a barn or do some other large task.
Even if you don’t need to raise a barn, you might need someone to watch your pets when you’re out-of-town or take you home from a surgery at the hospital. One thing that has really surprised me as I’ve gotten more experience is how much the medical system relies on family and friends to do all kinds of things for the patient. One would think that if there were a need for something as a ride home from the hospital or medical aid in the house during recovery there would be plenty of quality services to meet the need. For most other needs there are many companies to choose from. For whatever reason, however, often many of the needs of the sick and elderly fall on family and friends. (Maybe this is an area a budding entrepreneur should look into.)
Sometimes the people you help may fall outside your circle of friends or acquaintances. When you help the stranger at the side of the road you may never see again, you start to create a society where people help others. Perhaps the person you help will “pay it forward” to another person, who in turn will pay it forward to another, until eventually someone will help you when you are stuck at the side of the road. Unfortunately the creation of cell phones has reduced people’s willingness to help since they think the person in trouble can just call someone. I think it still never hurts to stop and ask because not everyone has someone they can call or even has a cell phone.
People in cities tend to be more closed-off than people in rural communities and suburbs. Most apartment dwellers say, “hello,” or nod to their neighbors in the halls (sometimes) but probably don’t know their names or anything about them. Maybe because there is little privacy and solitude people put up virtual walls to keep separation from others. Doing so, however, keeps a community from being established where people can share talents to make things better for everyone.
Relationships are also very important in your work life. Often that next job, promotion, opportunity, or sale depends on who you know and who knows you. This isn’t “kissing up.” How can someone select you for a position or contact you about a product if they don’t know who you are?
One opportunity people miss at work is participation in trade groups and technical societies. In the past it was just expected that you would join the trade group, but many today as what’s in it for them. More than just being a member, taking an active role in planning and setting up for events and doing the daily work of the group like taking meeting minutes or sending out newsletters helps establish important bonds. You may not get the opportunity to show your boss some of the big things you can do at work because of your position, but you might be able to organize a great event or produce a great product for your trade group where there is a lot less competition for the assignments. You will also get the opportunity to perhaps work on a team with your boss’ boss and others in senior roles who might remember you the next time there is a position to fill.
So, while you’re building up your portfolio of stocks, don’t forget to also build your portfolio of favors. Help out neighbors and others in your community when you have the chance. Get away from the office and spend time building relationships outside of work. Not only will this enhance your life, it will create the important social network you will probably need at one time or another.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.