The Safest Investment

The Sky is (supposedly) falling! Banks are closing. Wall Street is panicking. Governments are inflating. 401Ks are in free-fall. People are freaking out. Chances are good that your anxiety level is higher than normal.

What should you do in these troubled times?

Three Simple Steps to Peace of Mind

  1. Turn off the news. It’s all too easy to get sucked into the 24-hour news cycle of reporters breathlessly expounding on the latest non-event. Turn it off - the media is rewarded for sensationalizing events to increase viewership, not for providing actionable information. Select a few low-volume trusted sources to stay informed about what’s happening, and ignore the rest of the noise and hand-wringing.

  2. Determine what you can and can not control. You can control your own actions. You can’t control the next bank failure. Take what actions you can (like telling your Representatives in Congress which way you’d like them to vote on proposed legislation , if you’re an informed US Citizen), then consciously let go of the rest. The quickest path to constant anxiety is to focus on what you can’t control.

  3. Allay your fears with scenario planning. If you’re worried about your prospects in this market, a bit of strategic thinking is the best way to decide what to do next. Do a “mind dump" of everything you’re worried about, then construct your worst-case scenario: what will happen if everything goes wrong? Chances are, it’s not nearly as bad as you fear, and there are a few simple things you can do to improve upon the worst case. (I recommend Learning from the Future if you’re interested in learning more about scenario planning.)

Invest in Intangibles: Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

The safest investment you can make right now is an investment in your own knowledge, skills, and abilities. Knowing how to build and improve any type of business is one of the best general-purpose skill sets you can have: there have always been opportunities for people who understand how to create value for others, even in the midst of the Great Depression. (Which, for the record, I don’t think we’re even remotely close to repeating.)

The wonderful thing about investing in yourself is that your investment’s worth doesn’t fluctuate with the fickle market. If you focus on making yourself more valuable, you’ll be well prepared to improve your situation in even the worst of markets.

Read more essays by Josh Kaufman →

Published: October 1, 2008Last updated: October 1, 2008

Books by Josh Kaufman