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My Best Non-Traditional Investments

Here are a list of investments which have been among the better ones. Some may not be considered investments, perhaps not tangible enough to be so. But they required time, practice, and attention, and I profited from them. 

1. Budgeting

I started budgeting with YNAB. And it was more about unlearning mental accounting than the act of budgeting itself. I always thought that I knew what I was doing. But it wasn’t until I took a scientific approach to it, that’s when I really started torpedoing toward my financial goals. 

As physicians our incomes are so damn high that the return on investment from index funds or real estate won’t matter much. All we need to do is hold on to a decent percentage of what we make (savings rate) and we’ll do quite well for ourselves.

With YNAB I learned to tackled debt, I learned to manage credit cards, and I learned to anticipate my spending for the year. It helped me achieve a 75% savings rate which helped me become financially independent. 

And, of course, the less you spend, the more you realize that you don’t need to spend money to enjoy life. That’s the delightful side effect of budgeting. And so I still use YNAB. Though now it serves more as a guide and less of a budgeting strategy. 

2. Personal Finance Podcasts

My bike ride from Portland to Vancouver, WA took over 1.5 hours each way. Music was great but I was in a place in my life when I wanted to feel a little more secure. I didn’t have trouble with health or relationships – it was my finances that needed help. I had no intention of remaining of the hamster wheel of earning money and spending it most of it. 

I consumed many hours of the following podcasts:

I eventually realized that it wasn’t the podcasts subjects I cared about but the way these people thought about money. I always assumed that I had a relatively neutral attitude towards money. Later, by listening to people like these, I learned that I was ruled by money.  

3. Early Retirement Extreme Blog

The first blog I ever ready was the YNAB blog. From that I learned about Early Retirement Extreme. I bought Jacob’s book, titled the same, and learned a lot about self sufficiency and what it means to be a responsible citizen of the world. 

I don’t watch the news, I don’t read the newspaper, and I rarely get exposed to any commercials. And though books are a fantastic way of learning about a particular topic, a blog is a look into the author’s mind. 

Yes, it’s great that you wrote a book and had your editor fluff the shit out of it. And you sensored yourself and shaved the book down to something digestible. But I want to hear how you think and what your thought process was; I want the running commentary and not just the processed product. 

4. Learning on YouTube

I learned how to be a tool in high school, I learned how to get grades in undergrad, and I learned how to memorize in medical school. But I never learned how to learn on my own until YouTube. 

Perhaps because I didn’t know how to motivate myself. And I didn’t know how I best learned. From watching YouTube videos I learned how to do plumbing and electrical work on my condo and eventually renovated my own dilapidated apartment in San Diego. 

I learned how to fix cars and restored my own 1971 Ford Maverick and eventually opened an auto mechanic shop. Ever since then, YouTube has been a way for me to learn everything I ever wanted for only $9.99/month. 

5. Writing

The last investment is a skill, it’s writing. I started writing in my journal when I was young – maybe 15. And by 1999 I had my own website on Geocities and was writing for that website regularly. 

I started writing again in 2012 and eventually started my own website in 2014. Writing has been a lot more important than I ever anticipated. It’s crucial to get your point across concisely and effectively. 

It’s not that my writing is great, it’s that I can on most days put my thoughts on paper exactly the way I want it to be conveyed. It’s that I can stand out with my cover letters and personal statements and emails. 

6. Downsizing

I have to throw this one in because no way in fucking hell did I ever think this would come in handy. Sure, it’s not easy to do if you have kids or live in an expensive city. But there is a very clear line in the sand beyond which your overhead is so minute that you can support it with damn near any work.

It’s not that I can’t live a luxurious lifestyle and enjoy it; who knows, 10 years from now maybe I’ll be living in Luxembourg in gorgeous villa, with a Ferrari parked in my stone garage. But because I was able to downsize, I have options. Especially when faced with career disasters.

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