The best 3-letter investment

June 12, 2023

It has been a while since I regularly, almost compulsively, checked the performance of my company-sponsored 401k retirement account because … well, because I realized I just couldn’t do that anymore. I couldn’t ride the emotional roller coaster that accompanied the daily performance of some amalgamation of stocks, funds, indexes—whatever. I’m no day trader, and although I like to think I am diligent in choosing the avenues of investment for my retirement funds, I have casual rather than intimate knowledge of terms like ETF, LDI, and MBS.

So I leave the intricacies of Wall Street to the people who take a percentage of my portfolio every year to allegedly make good financial decisions on my behalf. Nonetheless, there is one three-letter investment vehicle I will tell you boldly, without reservation, should be your top priority when planning the future. Y-O-U. Investing in yourself is the best move you can make under any market conditions, including whatever we call the conditions we’re in right now. A couple articles in this issue underscore the importance of investing in yourself. One is Betsy Conroy’s article about the workforce challenges facing service providers who are on the cusp of building out their fiber networks. Check out the hourly pay rate for fusion-splice technicians in certain parts of the country. The pay isn’t the same everywhere, which is one of the article’s primary points. But one upshot of her reporting is that acquiring the skills and equipment needed to conduct fusion splicing is an investment in yourself. No fund manager required.

Results from our annual compensation survey reinforce the value of investment in self. In some industries, job-hopping is an effective way to escalate salary or wage. It doesn’t look like that’s widespread in the ICT trade. Rather, the possession of expertise and credentials correlates to financial advancement. Whether it’s industrial automation or outside plant, having a high level of expertise in an area of technology that’s in demand pays off. And in what is now a predictable outcome of our annual review of compensation in our industry, possessing the Registered Communications Distribution Designer credential carries a significant compensation boost.

Lee Renfroe is an example of what success can look like in our trade. He owns and operates the installation company GoFroe, and is a former multiple-time Cabling Skills Challenge Installer of the Year who went on to serve on BICSI’s board of directors. But Lee may very well describe himself first and foremost as a trainer, an educator of our industry’s essential skills. Recently he launched GoFar, an accredited Fiber Optic Association training center. You can check it out for yourself. I bring it up here not to favor Lee over the many other training providers that are available to you, but rather because I believe the name of his school is apt. With the right skills, you can go far. That’s an investment worth tracking on a daily basis.



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