Smart Ways to Invest $10,000 in 2020

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One sure way to make your money grow is by investing in opportunities that help you earn compound interest—or interest on your interest. For instance, if you put $10,000 in a savings account with an interest rate of 1.85% that compounds annually, you'll earn an additional $2,011.86 in 10 years—without doing a thing.

Not everyone has $10,000 lying around, but if you recently came into some money—maybe through a bonus or big promotion at work—then it’s time to put that cash to work for you. You can get started by steering the money into the following investments.

Key Takeaways

  • There are seven smart and profitable ways to invest $10,000 in 2020 that will help beginners make the most of their money.
  • Consider investing in a 401(k) plan, the stock market, or real estate to put your money to work for you.
  • Other ideas: an individual retirement account (IRA), a robo investment account, reducing credit card debt, or even investing in yourself.

A 401(k) Plan

Popping money into your 401(k), or employer-sponsored retirement plan, is always a good idea. Your 401(k) plan will likely handle your investments for you, putting your cash into a carefully considered mix of stocks, bonds, and funds that will maximize your long-term growth. Plus, some companies offer to match 401(k) contributions. If your company matches up to 6% of your contributions, for example, then your $10,000 401(k) deposit instantly becomes a $10,600 deposit.

The Stock Market

The average annualized total return for the S&P 500 index from 1929 through 2019 was 9.6%—that makes the stock market a pretty good bet. In 2019 alone, the S&P 500 returned 31.1%. It's important to remember, however, that past results aren’t indicative of future performance. Stocks suffer through rough years and broad downturns from time to time. In 2018, for example, the S&P 500's annual returns were negative (roughly -4%). But if you can afford to not touch the money for at least a few of years, the stock market is likely a good place to invest that $10,000.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission offers a Compound Interest Calculator to help you figure out how much you can earn.

Real Estate

Although $10,000 isn’t usually enough to invest directly in the real estate market, it is enough to get you into a real estate investment trust (REIT) or real estate-themed exchange-traded fund (ETF). REITs and real estate ETFs are both essentially investments in the groups that deal in real estate, whether it's home-flippers, real estate agencies, or rental unit management. Both investments offer benefits any investor would love, including high liquidity (they’re easy to trade, like a stock or a bond), diversification (most funds include a wide variety of real estate investments), and, perhaps best of all, you don’t have to actually get your hands dirty rehabbing or repairing a home.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

An individual retirement account can offer access to solid stock and bond market returns, along with significant tax advantages. That's because the government wants you to save for retirement, so it offers tax incentives for people who contribute to their IRA. You will pay taxes on the money eventually, but for most people, IRAs will help them ultimately save on taxes and prepare for retirement. In 2020 and 2021, the maximum amount you can put into an IRA is $6,000 if you're younger than 50 years old. If you’re over 50 years old, you can make an additional “catch-up” contribution of $1,000.

A “Robo” Investment Account 

Robotics-based investment accounts, also called robo-advisors or "robos," offer an easy way for novice investors to put that $10,000 to work. Robo-advisory firms like Betterment and Wealthfront are user-friendly and do most of the investment work for you.

Most services simply require you to answer simple questions before choosing your investments through automation technology. They also may periodically rebalance your portfolio.

Another benefit to robos is that their fees are often lower than those of a traditional advisor, and you likely won't have to pay trade commissions (because you won't be making trades yourself).

Invest in Yourself

The financial markets aren’t the only place you can get a good return on your money from a $10,000 investment. You can go back to school or take online classes to earn a degree and add value to your career prospects. If you don't think a new degree will help your career, then you might consider professional designations and certification programs that could lead to a higher income and more career satisfaction. The return on this type of investment might not be as easy to measure in dollar amounts, but it can still be very beneficial.

Reduce Credit Card Debt 

One last way to use $10,000 to your advantage is to pay down significant debt. Paying off thousands of dollars in credit card debt can help improve your credit rating, as well as curb or eliminate the high interest rates you may be paying on your debt right now. Once you can take credit card debt payments off your monthly budget plan, it'll add to your overall income—and take the stress of debt off your mind. The same goes for other forms of significant debt, like student loans or mortgages. In this case, you aren't measuring the compound interest of your returns, but the compound interest you won't have to pay on every dollar of reduced debt.