With the new year finally upon us, you may be aching to make some significant changes in your life.
Maybe you want to start exercising more often and taking better care of your health. Or, perhaps you want to spend more quality time with your kids — time where you only focus on them and nothing else. And maybe, just maybe, you’re starting to feel like 2019 is the year you should finally start investing your money for long-term growth. Maybe you have built up a respectable sum of money in a high-interest savings account, but you know that saving cash isn’t enough.
But, where should you invest your money? This question plagues both beginning investors and established pros. While no investment is guaranteed, I wanted to share my thoughts on the best investment options for 2019 and beyond.
#1: Stock Market
If you’ve been keeping up with stock market twists and turns lately, you have probably heard the rumors that a correction is on its way. The S&P 500 will have lost all its 2018 gains by the end of the year and then some, and many believe that’s just the beginning of a spiral that might last years.
But, if you’re investing for the long haul and have a long time to ride the wave before you retire, you may not have to worry too much. Financial advisor and author of The 8 Biggest 401(k) Mistakes and How to Avoid Them Mitchell Bloom says that it’s important to develop an investment philosophy so you have guidelines to keep you on track when emotions get in the way of investing.
“Emotions can hinder a good investment plan in different market environments, whether you’re experiencing a bull run where the markets are up, or a bear market where the markets are off 20% or more from their highs,” he says.
That’s why many investors focus on dollar cost averaging — a term used to describe a strategy where you invest the same amount of money every month. Dollar cost averaging allows investors to take advantage of opportunities when the price of investments go down since you’re buying all along.
If you don’t feel comfortable buying individual stocks, consider investing in globally diversified, low-cost index funds. If you need some help and guidance along the way, you can also use the services of a robo-advisor like Betterment.
Betterment will help you outline your investing goals and figure out a long-term plan to achieve them instead of focusing only on returns. They can help you move into investments with lower fees than you’re paying now, and you can receive personalized advice for less than you’d pay a traditional financial advisor.
Finally, don’t forget that there’s an incredibly easy way to invest more money into the stock market that could also help you save money on taxes. By adding more money to your 401(k), you can reduce your taxable income and grow your wealth in one fell swoop.
Also remember that you may be able to reduce your taxable income by investing in a traditional IRA, and that you can invest after-tax dollars in Roth IRA too provided you meet income requirements.
Fortunately, the government has upped the amounts you can contribute to these accounts for 2019: $19,000 in a 401(k) and $6,000 across traditional and Roth IRAs.
#2: Real Estate
Just like the stock market, many experts believe that real estate is in a bubble across many parts of the United States. Prices continue to go up and up with no end in sight. Unfortunately, this type of scenario never seems to end well.
Still, many real estate investors that buy rental property don’t seem to be worried. Even if the real estate market tanks, people need to live somewhere, right?
If you’re not someone who wants to invest in physical real estate, you can always buy Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs. REITs allow you to take advantage of the upsides of the real estate market without getting your hands dirty or dealing with the hassles of being a landlord.
Real estate crowdfunding sites like Fundrise.com, RealtyMogul, and Rich Uncles also allow you to invest into real estate notes or shares. Fundrise in particular has offered returns between 8.76% and 12.42% the last couple of years, so it continues to be popular with investors.
Buyer beware, however. Real estate investing platform RealtyShares closed its doors to investors in November 2018, which may not be a good sign. Also note that your investments won’t be liquid if the market goes south— as in, you can’t just cash in your Fundrise account and walk away.
Fundrise CEO Ben Miller explains this sentiment in a blog post on the Fundrise website, “What You Can Expect from Fundrise During the Next Financial Crisis.”
If forced selling leads to a temporary plunge in real estate prices, everyone will wait to see where the bottom will be. In such circumstances, writes Miller, “Fundrise will almost certainly suspend our redemption program and investors should not expect us to provide them with liquidity.”
He also notes that, if you think you may need liquidity from your investments during the next financial crisis, then the company’s “long-term illiquid real estate strategy is probably not a good fit for you.”
On the flip side, if you have money to invest and are willing to ride things out, then one person’s financial crisis could be your golden opportunity. Fundrise keeps cash on hand so they can buy more high-quality real estate when prices are low, so you could be in an even better spot when the real estate market does rebound.
#3: Peer-to-Peer Lending
Another place to invest your excess funds this year is one that has been around for a while — peer-to-peer lending. Platforms like Lending Club and Prosper allow you to loan money to individuals like a bank does, and you get to receive the interest they pay in. While returns can vary depending on how risky the loans you choose to fund are, they can be upward of 6% or more.
If you’re worried about loaning money to one person and having them ghost you, don’t be. Lending Club allows you to spread your investment over hundreds or even thousands of loans in increments as small as $25. That way, you’re not betting the farm on one person you don’t even know.
Both Lending Club and Prosper also make it easy to get started. The minimum investment amount for Prosper is now only $25, but you’ll need at least $1,000 to get started investing with Lending Club. Keep in mind, however, that each platform only offers investments on their primary markets in certain states. For example, investors in Alaska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania cannot invest on Lending Club’s primary investing platform. Investors in these states can only invest in a secondary trading market known as FolioFN.
#4: Your Career
No matter what happens to the economy over the next few years, there’s one thing you have total control over — you. Regardless of how you plan to invest in 2019, now may be the best time ever to invest in your career and your future .
Financial advisor Benjamin Brandt, who is also host of the popular retirement podcast Retirement Starts Today said he believes 2019 will be a good year to invest in your career in a way that helps you earn more income over your lifetime. Brandt recommends asking yourself if there are any small improvements you could make that could make you more valuable to an employer or your own business.
At the very least, you could commit to consuming more career-specific content this year. “Between books, audiobooks, podcasts, and YouTube, all the information in the world is at our fingertips,” he says. You could also attend a career conference, pursue higher education at night or online, or earn a certification in your field.
I definitely agree with Brandt on this since earning my CFP (Certified Financial Planner) was a huge boon for my career. It took time and effort, but it helped me establish myself as an authority in my field, gain the trust of my clients, and ultimately earn more money.
#5: Your First Side Hustle
If you want 2019 to be a year for the record books, figuring out a way to earn more money can help. But, if you can’t manage a raise at your day job, you may have to take things into your own hands.
A side hustle can help you earn more money that can be used to reach any number of financial goals. Fortunately, there are all kinds of side jobs to consider that you can do in your spare time.
If you’re good at writing, try finding work as a freelance writer. You could start a blog and attempt to monetize it, driver for Uber or Lyft, deliver groceries via Instacart or Shipt, or run errands with a platform like TaskRabbit.com.
Colorado Financial advisor Matthew Jackson of Solid Wealth Advisors also suggests turning your hobby or passion into a side business.
“Passion sells,” he says. You can turn your passion into a business and live a life promoting what you like most and building a community of faithful followers.”
Whether your passion is woodworking, creating homemade bath products, or teaching kids Spanish, figure out how to turn it into a business that could help you earn more money and build more wealth over time.
#6: Your Health
We all have one life to live and one body to live it in, which is why there’s never a better time to start taking care of yourself. I have gotten a lot better about this over the years, and these days I take my health very seriously. I pay a lot of money to have healthy pre-cooked meals delivered to my house, for example, and I joined a boxing gym because it’s such a great workout even though I have a gym at home.
Your physical health should be a priority, but don’t forget that how you feel on the inside is also important. If you’re stressed out and unhappy, try meditating or building in some quiet time to your day. Exercise to get in a better mental state, or find a few new hobbies that you enjoy.
Make sure you’re healthy, but also make sure you’re happy. And if you’re not, maybe 2019 is the year to find out why.
#7: Paying Off Debt
Finally, don’t forget that your wealth is determined by your assets and your liabilities. So, invest all you want, but don’t forget how your debts may be dragging you down.
If you have high interest credit card debt, it’s crucial to create a plan to squash those balances this year — or at least as soon as you can. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a simple feat. As New Jersey wealth advisor Ronn Yaish from Balanced Financial Life says, too many people get caught in a downward spiral of debt because it’s more convenient to make minimum payments and worry about the balance later. This problem is exacerbated further by the fact that the average credit card APR is over 17%. Even if your balances are relatively small, that’s a ton of interest you’re paying.
The good news is, paying off debt is a smart way to get a guaranteed return on your money no matter what the stock market is doing. If you pay off a credit card with an APR of 17%, for example, you’ve effectively secured a 17% return on your investment. And, as financial advisor Anthony Montenegro of The Blackmont Group points out, the higher the interest saved, the higher the interest earned.
Plus, there are additional benefits that come with paying down debt. Montenegro notes that paying off debt can reduce your utilization and improve your credit score as a result. A better credit score can help you secure loans with the best rates and terms, which can save you money the next time you take out a loan for a home or a car.
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