What’s the best investment?

Over the weekend, having recently returned from our overseas odyssey, I was thrilled to attend the opening of Hope: From Robe to Riches. The brainchild of my dear friend, and one of Enrichmentality’s first believers, Dr. Joanne Sullivan, the exhibition is currently on display at Gum San (金山) in Ararat. And it’s an  exhibition that got me thinking about the concept of investment.

Most of us think about investment in terms of ‘property vs. shares’. That’s certainly how many of the seminars I’ve attended over the years frame it. Of course, the answer is probably ‘both’ rather than either. But they’re not the only investments that are important.

In 1857, over 14,000 men arrived in Australia from China, to seek their fortunes in the gold rush. A single female passenger accompanied them. More than 40,000 followed in their footsteps until 1868.

The exhibition, with works by David Chen, Hugh Foster, Gwen Krumins, Clive Sinclair, Joanne Sullivan and Norma Sullivan, depicts scenes along the 400km from the South Australian coast to the Victorian gold fields. An estimated 11,000 died during their journeys to seek their fortunes.

Why did these men decide to walk all this way? Was there no suitable port in Victoria Were they forced at gunpoint?

The answer, as it so often is, was money.

In June 1855, a radically discriminating tax was imposed y the government of the Colony of Victoria on all Chinese entering Victorian ports. The Master of any ship landing in Victoria had to pay a ‘colossal’ ten-pound tax (equivalent to the cost of the sea journey) for every adult male Chinese aboard.

Hope – From Robe to Riches Exhibition Catalogue

All it took was the stroke of a pen, rather than the flash of a weapon.

Out the front of the Gum San (literally, ‘mountain of gold’ in Chinese) cultural center are a number of statues which commemorate the area’s Chinese heritage. The brave immigrants who invested so much for a chance at making a fortune. The statues include a Chinese gold miner, and a statue of Confucius.

This statue is of course accompanied by a plaque bearing one of Confucius’ proverbs:

If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.

As the tagline ‘learn the language of money and enrich your future‘ highlights, Enrichmentality is all about education. I believe that investing in education can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

But ‘investing’ in education doesn’t necessarily mean investing money.

Time and effort

It is far more important to invest time and effort. To truly learn.

My only formal education in finance is my Diploma of Financial Planning. Completing this qualification cost me less than it would to obtain a single statement of advice from a financial planner. Of course, professional financial planners come with years of experience and can leverage the knowledge of their colleagues. But there’s nothing like committing the time and effort to learning something yourself.

At the exhibition, as we often do, my husband and I got to talking about our recent travels, and we were asked how we did it. As always, my recommendations take the form of books. Reading has always been my number one form of education. So I thought I’d share a few with you here:

  • Living Frugally: Anita Bell’s Your Money (Australian audience, great for anyone teens and above)
  • Eating Well: The $21 Challenge (for everyone), Feed Yourself on $35 a Week (for singles & couples), Feed Your Family on $70 a Week (for families)
  • Buying a Home: Anita Bell’s Your Mortgage: And How to Pay it Off in Five Years or Less (specific to an Australian audience)
  • Retiring Early: Dominguez & Robin’s Your Money or Your Life (American  audience)
  • Property Investment: Anita Bell’s Your Investment Property (specific to an Australian audience)
  • Sharemarket Investment: Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor (American audience)

These books collectively have saved me well over their cover price, and offer the best returns of any investments I’ve come across.

Start investing today

The list above is roughly in the order I think most people should read them – in an approximate order of difficulty and life stage. (Unfortunately, it’s not the order I read them in!). Your Money or Your Life and The Intelligent Investor in particular may take a bit of digesting. Both are well written, but require the reader to invest time and effort.

Those who want to take these topics further may wish to follow up with Early Retirement Extreme (best read in your 20s) and Security Analysis. Few people I know have been able to finish both of them, but the information they contain is valuable. And much less arduous and dangerous than making your way from Robe to Riches in the 1800s.

When investing, plan for a lifetimeWhat do you consider the best investment? Stocks? Real estate? Books?
What’s your favourite finance book or other resource? Let me know in the comments below!

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Today’s featured image is of the Confucius statue at Gum San.

Hope: From Robe to Riches will be on display at Gum San until October 20, 2017.

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