By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting
As a young professional, it is sometimes difficult to prioritize what to do with the limited surplus of money you have on hand after the bills are paid. With a sometimes-overwhelming number of possibilities, I have compiled a list of what I think are great investments to make as a young nonprofit professional.
Education and professional development
Personally, I believe that the ability to continuously learn and adapt will provide you with more opportunities and more security in your career. Investing your money and time in continuing education is always a wise idea. Spend your time reading articles from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the Nonprofit Quarterly and the NonProfit Times. Spend your money on a professional development track that fits your needs and goals and diversify your approach if time and money allow. Universities across the country offer nonprofit-centered master’s degrees, so do your research and talk to current students or recent graduates of the program. There are also specialized trainings and webinars available if you have already pursued higher education in the nonprofit sector or if your priority is to obtain particular skills in a shorter time period. For a list of trainings and webinars offered at JVA, click here.
When starting your career, it can be hard to think about retirement, but I have been told time and time again that if you start early, you will thank yourself later. If your organization offers a retirement plan, talk to the person in charge of the plan and consider participating. Do your homework—investing your money is not something to jump into. Ask people you trust, read articles online, hit the library for books on the types of retirement plans and what to invest in, and check your budget to see what you can afford to invest. For a great article I found justifying saving and investing early, click here.
This may seem frivolous compared to the other suggestions, but I feel that a professional wardrobe is important to note. If you follow Ask Amber regularly, you may have noticed that professional attire is a popular topic. While I don’t advocate tossing all the screen tees you accumulated from your college intramural team and heading out to Neiman Marcus for a shopping spree, I think slowly accumulating new items is a good idea. If you notice a pair of nice work slacks on sale that fit just right, avoid the urge to eat out for a week and instead put that money toward the pants. If you stain your favorite button-down beyond repair, forgo happy hour with friends to buy a new one. There is such a thing as responsible shopping. Dress for the job you want, but don’t live beyond your means.
As your income grows, so does the potential for more investments. When you are first starting out, however, it’s best to set priorities and a budget to live within your means. We would love your thoughts on investments and budgeting. If you are a young professional, leave a comment below to tell us what you invest in. If you have advice for young professionals, please share that, too.