Table of Contents
- Lending Club: Peer-to-Peer Lending
- Online Savings Accounts
- Retirement Fund (Employer Sponsored)
- IRA or Roth IRA
- U.S. Treasury Securities
- CD (Certificate of Deposit)
- ETFs and Short-Term Bond Funds
- Cryptocurrency Trading
- Online Brokerage Firms
- Money Market Account
- Investing to Start Your Own Business
- Invest in Art or Antiques
- Municipal and Corporate Bonds
- Real Estate
You can broaden your investment portfolio by spreading out your investments and reducing your risk by investing through peer-to-peer lending websites. These websites essentially connect investors to various consumers who are qualified and require a loan. Peer-to-peer lending allows investors to act like a bank and provide a small percentage of the loans of multiple borrowers.
As an investor, you purchase notes and you will receive a monthly income in the form of a repayment of the loan and interest. Lending Club is a very popular online lending platform, which pegs the interest rate on the notes on basis of specific credit criteria. You can invest even $25 in a single loan or note and increase the amount of money depending on your comfort.
This is an investment platform where you can invest in or build mutual funds which already exist on basis of specific investment criteria. Motifs are mini mutual funds and there are hundreds of motifs available in which you can invest. For instance, you can make an investment in a motif which has been built on recycling waste in Panama or one related to solar energy in Alaska. And, the best part is that if you cannot find a motif that you want to invest in, you can create your own. You can invest a minimum of $250 in a single motif and each of the motifs can be invested in around 30 securities. To either invest in an existing motif or create a new one, you need to pay a $9.95 as the transaction fee.
Betterment is a popular “robo advisor”, which is ideal for small investors. Robo advisors are essentially online investment platforms which manage your investment portfolio and charge you very low fees. You need to first fill an online questionnaire that allows the site to assess your risk tolerance level. On basis of the evaluation, Betterment creates your portfolio which includes several ETFs (exchange traded funds). Your only responsibility is to add funds to your account and you need not worry about the investment selection or rebalancing of investments, which is done by Betterment for you.
There is no minimum initial deposit required and you can open an account by contributing as little as $100 per month. To maintain your account, Betterment charges you 0.35% of the balance in your account, if your account has an amount less than $10,000. As your account balance increases, the management fee reduces.
If you want a guarantee that you will not lose any money on your investment and at the same time you will get a return, then online savings accounts are excellent options to help you achieve that objective. By using a savings account for short-term investments, you will have a guarantee that you won’t lose your principal as long as your deposit is less than the FIDC coverage of $250,000.
The return on investment is risk-free. And, online savings accounts offer high liquidity and you can make up to 6 withdrawals in a month, which means that you can withdraw your funds without any hassles or expenses. However, although online savings accounts are low risk in nature, the drawback is that the returns are very low and you may earn better if you invest in some higher return yielding options.
This is possibly the simplest way in which you can invest money in small amounts as this is usually a deduction from your payroll, where a percentage of your pay is allocated to your retirement plan. You can decide on any amount you want to allocate to the retirement fund depending on the rules of the employer plan.
Each month, you can put in small amounts into the account and then invest in any other investment with the money that’s available. The amounts that you contribute are tax deductible; however, the income that you earn is not taxed until you start withdrawing the money after your retirement. Sometimes, employers also offer an equal contribution and this is an added bonus.
You can set up a retirement plan of your own if you do not have an employer-sponsored one. To qualify for a retirement plan, you need an income and the 2 best plans to choose from are IRA or Roth IRA. Usually, all the contributions you make to the IRA is tax deductible, while Roth IRA investments are non-tax deductible. However, the withdrawals are tax-free if the investment is for at least 5 years and you are 59.5 years old at the time of withdrawal. You can invest up to $5,500 every year in the IRA or Roth IRA fund and invest up to $6,500 (if you’re 50 years or older).
This works in a similar matter to the Lending Club and you can make an investment of an amount even as low as $25. Prosper has a least net worth criteria according to your state. Usually, the average per annum return on Prosper is around 16%. However, with Prosper, in the case that any of your loans go into default, you can lose your principal. Unlike bank investments that are protected by FIDC insurance, your Prosper investments do not have any protection.
You can opt to invest in the US Treasury Securities in case you want to invest more conservatively, and your principal amount is not affected by the market fluctuations. The Treasury Securities are basically debt obligations which are issued by the Treasury Department of the US in order to fund the country’s national debt. The maturities of the securities range anywhere from 30 days to even 30 years.
Investments in the US Treasury Securities can be made via the Treasury Direct portal, via which you can buy the government securities for as little as $100 and also sell the securities here. You can even buy TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities) via the Treasury Direct portal. TIPS pay you interest and adjust your principal periodically to justify any inflation on basis of the CPI (consumer price index).
Usually, for their deposit accounts, banks offer a wide range of terms from 3 months to a period of 5 years. The choice of the CD that will work best for you really depends on your timeline and length of time you want to invest for and the longer the investment term, the higher the return. Usually, people investing in CDs allow the interest to accrue until the CD matures. The limitation of a CD is that if you want to take out the money before the CD matures, then you will have to pay a fee, which is usually equal to 3 months of interest, which is a huge chunk. CDs with online banks such as Discover Bank and Compass Bank offer the highest rates of interest.
Short-term bond funds are usually managed by professional financial advisors. Although these offer a higher return, they are not stable like money markets. These short-term bonds are dependent on the market conditions and the payout depends on the current market condition and is usually made as monthly payments which may not be a steady amount.
Usually, short-term bonds mature in 2 years or less, which makes them a great option for investors. However, to trade ETFs and short-term bond funds, you need to have a brokerage account such as E*Trade, Betterment or Ameritrade.
Dividend Reinvestment Plans or DRIPS are plans where you can make small amount investments in company stocks and you will receive dividends. Several corporates offer DRIPS and you can make investments in the stocks of these companies directly without paying any investment fees. By making small contributions, you can build your investments in the long run. DRIPS is a great way by which you can make big investments in some large companies and the money that you earn as dividends will be reinvested automatically to buy more stocks of the company.
This is an excellent investment platform for small investors. You can begin by investing in stocks as low as $10 and Loyal3 also allows buying fractional shares. Loyal3 lists the stocks of 66 companies on their website, which you can buy such as Apple, Walmart, Microsoft, Times Warner to name a few. You can buy and also sell the stocks of the companies without incurring any transaction fees or commissions.
The only drawback of Loyal3 is that as an investment platform, it’s not diversified and you are restricted to investing in stocks that are only available on their website. The site does not offer any ETFs, bonds or mutual funds. Nevertheless, the low investment and no fees makes this an excellent investing platform that enables small investors to buy stocks in large companies.
Cryptocurrencies are becoming extremely popular and there are over 3,000 cryptocurrencies that exist. Trading cryptocurrencies may seem to be a risky option; however, if you are able to hedge your bets well, you can make money out of it. Today, there are several platforms such as Teachable or Udemy where you can find a course on trading Litecoin, Bitcoin, Etherium, etc. and for the actual trading, you can use exchanges such as Kraken, Coinbase, etc.
There are many online brokerage firms that allow you to open a brokerage account with even less than $1,000. For instance, with E*Trade, $500 is sufficient to open a brokerage account and you don’t require any minimum initial deposit for an account with TD Ameritrade. The main advantage of making investments through brokerage firms is that you get a wider range of investment options, which you can only get via direct investments.
If you own a CD, then you are probably familiar with the terms of owning one. With a money market, you can earn a similar return as a CD and also have immediate access to your funds. When you open a money market account, you will receive an ATM card, deposit slips and checks. Usually, money market accounts are based on your account balance and are not dependent on the length of time of your investment. If the CD rates rise, you can remove your money form the money market account without attracting any penalty fee for withdrawing early. Money market accounts are a great way to invest as you can earn a higher rate of return without much risk.
One of the best investments that you can make is investing to start your own business that will earn you an income and grow in the future. You can invest small amounts of money to start your own business. For instance, you can purchase a van and start your own delivery business and earn a decent income.
Or, you could set up a portal to sell some product or service. Or, you could visit flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores, estate sales, etc. and buy unique products and sell them on websites like Craigslist or eBay. If you are creative, then you could sell your custom arts and crafts on websites such as Etsy and make money.
You could consider investing money and buying unique pieces of art or antiques which can grow in value with time and you could sell your collection in the future for a handsome profit. Or, you could just keep on adding to your collection to grow your investment. Similarly, you could start a stamp or coin collection and add unique, commemorative pieces to your collection, which can be a significant investment in the future.
Compared to investment options such as Treasury investments and TIPS, municipal bonds are riskier investments. The greater risk is the risk of the interest rate and if the interest rates rise, then the value of the bond will reduce. However, only if you sell the bond before it matures, you will be impacted by the reduction in the value of the bond. If you keep the bond until it matures, you will receive your initial investment amount along with the interest.
Similarly, corporate bonds are riskier compared to Treasury and municipal bonds as they do not have the backing of the local, state or Federal government. However, increased risk translates to a higher rate of return.
Investment in real estate is an excellent option; however, the initial investments in properties are quite high that not everyone can afford to make. But this does not mean that you cannot invest in real estate at all. A good way to invest in real estate is by investing in REITs (real estate investment trusts) which offers many advantages compared to owning property directly.
You can buy and sell shares in the REITS just like stock trading. REITs comprise a portfolio of various commercial properties rather than a single property. REITs offer a very high return and the capital gains are lower as the REITs do not sell properties very frequently. There are many REITs that you can select from such as Fundrise, which offers the easiest way to invest in real estate.
Today, there are several ways by which you can invest your money, whether short-term or long-term. The key to making a smart investment is to think “out of the box” and with today’s evolving online culture, there are several innovative online platforms that allow you to invest and make money.