Column by Mitch Anthony in Market Watch.

Few conversations are more fascinating than those about what money means in our lives.

People constantly mull, study, worry, regret, scrutinize, second-guess, hope and fantasize about money. Sometimes it becomes an obsession.

“What are you invested in?”

“What do you think of the stock market right now?”

“Where is the safe haven that pays anything these days?”

That’s what I hear these days when I talk about money, especially among people who are approaching what has traditionally been called retirement age. But I propose a different question; one that gets past money and gets to the quality of your life:

“What is the greatest investment you can ever make?”

The answer, as some of you may have already guessed, is the YOU Fund.

How do you start investing in yourself? It’s a simple question that requires a complex array of answers. My goal with this column is to provide some of them. I want you to think not so much about your returns on investments, but about your return on life.

Millions of us are working in jobs we can barely tolerate, toiling away in search of a dollar we can’t enjoy because we are stressed, discouraged and indebted beyond our means. If this sounds like you, it’s time to take control of your financial life so you can make the most out of your personal life.

If you really think about what life should be about, it is just wrong to have missed out on life’s experiences just so you can amass enough money to allow you to “retire” and do nothing for about 30 years. Of course you need to have a financial plan for the future. But you also need to balance that planning with living a fulfilling life.

We’ve all heard that you’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul. But chances are you know of somebody who ended up in that hearse because of financial stress.

According to one study, people who work more than 10 hours a day are about 60 percent more likely to develop heart disease or have a heart attack than people who clock just seven hours a day.

So why are you working so hard? If it’s simply to make more money, you’re dead wrong.

I’m not against people having money. I just see too many people squandering it on things that add little of importance to their lives. Managed unwisely, money can hinder your chances of living a full life. You work harder — and you can’t have the experiences you want — just to pay interest on more debt.

A healthy conversation about money must begin with the correct starting point: How can I live the best life possible with the money I have?

Chances are your thoughts quickly turn to living healthier, eliminating or managing stress, spending time with family and friends and having some ‘me’ time to just enjoy a sunset or a ballgame.

And chances are your thoughts do not turn to all those expensive things you bought on credit before experiencing buyer’s remorse, or those investments you wished you hadn’t made, or the deals you missed because you were too impatient.

You need to invest in yourself. The best parts of your life probably are not those things on which you make payments, but on the relationships and experiences you invest in along the way.

These experiences and relationships, and the good you create with them, are how you invest in the YOU Fund. In these columns we will talk about the best ways to make a commitment to increase your experiences while decreasing your obligations. That puts you on the path to getting the most life for your money—in other words, moving from return on investment to return on life.