How the “3% Rule” Can Give Your Career a Boost

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Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and personal development author, has a rule of thumb he says will “guarantee your future”: Invest 3 percent of your income back into yourself. The idea is that by investing in your knowledge and growth, you’ll improve yourself and increase your skills, thus furthering your personal development, career, and earning potential.

The key to this principle is that it can be applied at any income level. So whether you are making $10/hour or $1 million/year, investing 3 percent in yourself should always be a line item in your budget.

Of course, many things fall under the umbrella of “investing in yourself.” Here’s a look at three potential areas of personal and career investment, and how to execute at any income level.

Continuing Education

Your formal education may have ended, but that doesn’t mean your learning has. Investing in education allows you to solidify existing skills, acquire new ones, explore topics of interest, and even get an additional degree that could improve your career prospects.

Here are some ways to invest in your continuing education, broken down by (take-home) salary:

$25,000/Year (Monthly Investment: $63 / Annual Investment: $750)

  • Purchase three books every month to create a personal development or career library
  • Take online courses at sites like Udemy, Udacity, edx, and coursera
  • Subscribe to magazines, newspapers, or trade journals relevant to your field

$50,000/Year (Monthly Investment: $125 / Annual Investment: $1,500)

  • Take a class at a local or online college
  • Join a skill-focused or professional club like Toastmasters
  • Attend paid workshops and seminars

$100,000/Year (Monthly Investment: $250 / Annual Investment: $3,000)

  • Pursue an additional degree on a part-time basis
  • Hire a professional tutor in a subject you wish to learn


Developing and growing a strong network will contribute significantly to your personal and professional success. But it won’t happen unless you are intentional about it. Continually seek out ways to meet and connect with professionals in your field and with individuals who are doing what you aim to do. Your next gig just may come as a result of one of your relationships.

Here are some ways to put your investment towards networking:

$25,000/Year (Monthly Investment: $63 / Annual Investment: $750)

  • Join an online membership site
  • Extend a lunch invitation to a potential connection every month
  • Attend local networking events

$50,000/Year (Monthly Investment: $125 / Annual Investment: $1,500)

$100,000/Year (Monthly Investment: $250 / Annual Investment: $3,000)

  • Attend a major conference
  • Go on a themed cruise or retreat

Career Development

Taking your career to the next level—regardless of where you are now—is something that you should always be working towards. Whether you're self-employed or an employee, how your career progresses is up to you. Investing in this area will guarantee that your career moves in a forward direction.

Here’s how to apply your investment towards advancing your career.

$25,000 (Monthly Investment: $63 / Annual Investment: $750)

  • Hire a professional to help craft your resume
  • Sign up for a LinkedIn Premium account
  • Get a mentor

$50,000 (Monthly Investment: $125 / Annual Investment: $1,500)

  • Take advanced-level online courses
  • Attend career training workshops

$100,000 (Monthly Investment: $250 / Annual Investment: $3,000)

  • Join a paid mastermind group
  • Hire a career counselor or life coach
  • Pursue certifications related to your field

It might be a challenge to begin adopting this principle if you’ve never thought about spending money on your professional and personal development on an ongoing basis, but keep in mind this should be seen as an investment, not an expense. Just as investing in the market will allow you to realize a return on your investment, so too can investing in yourself yield dividends that will continue to pay throughout your career and lifetime.