You’re in good financial shape. You’ve already paid off debts, built up an emergency cash reserve, and invested for retirement. Now you’ve got some extra cash. What should you do with it?
“Generally, you want to invest more conservatively as you age,” Cole says.
How much money you already have is also an important factor.
“Someone who is already very wealthy and set for retirement can afford to take more risks,” he says. “On the other hand, if someone only has $100,000 then they should diversify and be fairly conservative with their investments.”
Whether the lump sum is the result of prior investments, the sale of a home or business, or through an inheritance, it’s worth looking at what will give you the best growth for your goals.
Build a portfolio of diversified investments
For young professionals willing to take on more risk and be more aggressive with their investment, advisers recommend a diversified equity portfolio.
David Tuzzolino, a certified financial planner and founder of PathBridge Financial, suggests building a portfolio of stocks including large, mid and small cap, as well as international stocks, through either exchange-traded funds (ETFs) or low-cost mutual funds.
If you don’t want to take on that much risk, he recommends investing a portion of the portfolio in bonds, and maybe even a small amount – 5% or so – in gold.
“Gold can be a great diversifier if markets decline,” he says.
Resist the temptation to put everything in the S&P 500 because of the amazing results over the last 10 years, says Justin Brownlee, certified financial planner and owner of Brownlee Wealth Management.
“It’s critical to understand that returns in different parts of the global stock market are very difficult to predict,” says Brownlee. “It’s common for one part of the market to have an excellent decade and then fall behind international or emerging market stocks in the next decade.”
Invest in real estate
Investing in real estate – either through a real estate investment trust (REIT) or individual properties – can also be a compelling choice for the money, says Bill Nelson, a certified financial planner and founder of Pacesetter Planning.
“Before you do this, though, you should already have a well-diversified portfolio in place,” he says. “Especially if you’re looking to invest in a single property.”
Also, if you’re going to invest in a rental you need to be willing to put the work in to run the property, says Nelson. “There is more to it than, Step one: buy a property. And step two: make a lot of money.”
If you’re not up for that responsibility, REITs are a great place to start, says Nelson, because you are investing in a fund that owns real estate portfolios that pay out.
“But they are fairly tax inefficient because of that,” he says. If you want to do a lot of that kind of investing, a tax-advantaged retirement account would be a better place.
“The less diverse you’re being with your money, the more important it is to have a back-up plan in case it doesn’t take off,” says Nelson.
Plan for the future
For many people, investment for the future means retirement.
“If they are struggling with saving for retirement, I would want to direct the investments toward that purpose,” says Jeff Burke, financial planner and founder of 7th Street Financial.
Assuming there is a strong retirement plan firmly in place, he says the money could be invested in other future plans like children’s or grandchildren’s educations.”
But Burke says it is important to consider the time-frame of an investment for something like an education.
“Retirement might be 20 years away, but an education need might come much sooner,” says Burke. “The further away the goal is, the more aggressive you can be with the investment.”
Although, he says he would suggest a portion of the money be used to have some fun.
“Maybe that is taking a vacation or doing upgrades at your house,” says Burke. “It can be hard mentally to have a lump sum like that and not get some enjoyment out of it now.”
’Invest in yourself’
Nelson says one of the biggest returns on investment doesn’t involve the market at all.
“Invest in yourself,” he says. “Particularly if you’re early to middle stages of your career, investing in yourself is likely to get you a much better return on investment in the long run.”
Putting the money toward career training or education, or investing in a business if you’re self employed, are great ways to invest in your career.
“These sorts of investment opportunities are often the most overlooked, but quite frankly, they can have the biggest return by far,” says Nelson.
Even making an investment in your own well-being can bring financial results down the road, says Miguel Gomez, certified financial adviser at Lauterbach Financial Advisors.
“Working with a great therapist can cost $10,000 and can have a profound impact on a person’s life,” Gomez says. “A similar investment with a personal trainer can also yield tremendous results.”