Why you should start investing in yourself

Posted at 05/05/2014 11:41 AM | Updated as of 05/07/2014 9:14 AM

Seven steps to a better you

MANILA, Philippines - For parents with school-age children, May is that time of year when expenses start pouring in – from tuition to school supplies, in anticipation of the school opening in June.

And why not? Education is prized all over the world, not only for the learning, but also for the opportunities that it creates. Although it cannot be quantified or put into one’s personal net worth statement, education is an asset that could be worth as much as your bank account, the properties you own, or any of the assets you have accumulated.

Given the ever growing demand for new skill sets in the business world, learning should not stop after you graduate from college. It is imperative for people to continue to upgrade their knowledge and skills, and hopefully, create something of value in the process. So why not consider going back to school yourself? There are many ways to upgrade, either formally or informally.

Formal ways to upgrade your skill sets are done through higher education courses or any other training sessions in an institution. This would include post-graduate studies, executive education courses, diploma courses, certification programs, and the like.

Formal education courses have several advantages. The most important of these is that you are conferred a degree which can help raise your market value and allow you to meet the minimum requirements for some positions in some organizations. It also deepens your understanding of important areas in your field of specialization, introduces you to new concepts, techniques or ways of thinking, and allows you to network with people in the same field.

Formal education courses come at a price, which may vary depending on the institution or course that you have chosen. Many formal courses require full-time attendance, which may require you to leave employment.

There are also shorter formal education courses offered by organizations, running from as short as two weeks to six months, which may or may not require your full time attendance. Thankfully, technology has made available blended learning courses which allow a mix of face-to-face sessions and online discussions.

Informal training courses, on the other hand, may take the form of on-the-job training, apprenticeship or mentorship programs. They are often offered by companies to their own employees, although there are institutions that take in students specifically for this.

Some of these courses are focused on very specific skills, which may be most handy for immediate use in the workplace. Often, these run for a shorter period than formal courses, and may not cost as much. As such, you may not have to resign or take a long leave or sabbatical from your job when you enroll in such courses.

One of the biggest considerations of those who are thinking about pursuing higher education is the cost that it entails. Another is the time that they will have to allot for it, which may mean taking a leave from employment and subsequently, having no income during that period.

There are, of course, no hard and fast answers for those who are weighing their options. Each person’s circumstances and priorities are different, and decisions have to be made after careful consideration of many factors.

A single person in his third year of employment in a large multinational firm, for instance, has a different set of considerations from an individual with four dependents who is in his 15th year of employment in a microenterprise with a staff of 4. Your decision will also be influenced by your life plans, financial goals, and state of finances, among others.

If you would like to pursue higher studies now or in the future, here are seven points to help you in financing your plans to pursue higher education:

1. Look for scholarships. Many institutions offer scholarships to those who would like to avail of higher education courses in fields that they support. Apart from the universities themselves, look at foundations, industry associations, embassies, and the like.

2. Ask for a subsidy from your company. Some organizations will be willing to absorb the cost of your training, in exchange for time served in terms of employment. This is a win-win situation for you and your firm, as it allows the company to benefit from the training you will receive.

3. Ask for a sabbatical. Not only firms offer a sabbatical leave, but you can work this out with your employer if your concern is being out of a job right after your graduation.

4. Take out a loan. Just as you can take out a loan to finance a vacation getaway or a car, so can you take out a personal loan for your own degree.

5. Save for it. If your plan is to pursue a higher degree sometime in the future, begin a sinking fund where you can put in some funds regularly and invest it in a fund where it can grow. Draw on this when it is time to pay for your tuition.

6. Find some part-time jobs or projects. You may have lull periods while you are studying that you can use to take on some small projects, which can help fund your expenses while you are studying.

7. Consider other learning approaches, such as online courses. Online courses may allow you to keep your present job by not requiring your physical presence in the classroom. This will also help minimize your travel, lodging and other study-related expenses. What’s more, they cost less, if not come for free.

Here’s a to better you – and remember, learning is a lifelong process. Never stop!

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Grow Your Money is an editorial partnership between ABS-CBNnews.com and Citi Philippines to promote financial education and provide helpful information to Filipinos on how to better manage their personal finances.

Visit www.citibank.com.ph for more information.