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Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms

These are online web platforms where borrowers and investors come together to create mutually agreeable loan arrangements. Both are attempting to bypass traditional banks, enabling the borrower to pay a lower rate on their loan, and the investor to earn a higher return on their investment.

One of the more prominent P2P lending platforms is Prosper. You can earn returns on your money of greater than 10% per year, by investing in individual notes with as little as $25.

With $5,000 you can diversify across 200 notes. That’s something that you will want to do, because there is a risk of default on any one loan.

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Treasury inflation protected securities (TIPS)

These are U.S. government bonds and notes that pay interest, and will guarantee the full return of your principal as long as the securities are held to maturity. And not only do they pay regular interest, but they also make annual additions to your principal based on changes in the consumer price index (CPI). This ensures you’ll earn the stated rate of return, over and above the effects of inflation.

TIPS are available in terms of five, 10 and 30 years, and in denominations of $100. It’s a way of making sure that at least some of your fixed-income portfolio allocation will be protected from inflation.

Real estate investment trusts (REITs)

REITs are something like mutual funds that invest in real estate. They can do this either through equity positions in actual properties, or through mortgages held on those properties. They tend to offer yields that are higher than what you will get on traditional fixed-income investments, and they are generally completely liquid.

For example, One Liberty Properties, Inc. (OLP) is currently yielding 6.90%, while W P Carey Inc. WPC is at 6.20%. Both are paying yields that are well above the rate on 30-year U.S. Treasury bonds.

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High yield dividend stocks

There are stocks that pay dividends that are higher than the general market, and certainly higher than traditional fixed income investments. They tend to be large, well-established well-capitalized companies, with a long history of paying out dividends, and often increasing those dividends on a regular basis.

In addition to high dividends, they also offer the prospect of capital appreciation if they are held for many years.

For example, GE currently has a dividend yield of 3.53%, Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) is paying 4.63%, and Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) is yielding 3.92%.

Preferred stocks

Preferred stocks represent equities that have a higher claim on both the earnings and assets of a corporation than common stock. They typically pay dividends, and those dividends are a priority over those that are paid out on common stocks.

As the preferred stockholder, you generally have no voting rights in the company, however you will have a steady stream of income.

Goldman Sachs Series I (GS-PK) currently pays a dividend of 5.99%, but if you prefer, you can simply invest in an ETF. iShares U.S. Preferred Stock (PFF”]) currently has a dividend yield of 5.65%.

Emerging market bonds

These are debt securities that are issued by both governments and corporations in emerging market countries. They generally offer much higher interest rates than what you can get in the U.S., precisely because their market is less secure.

For that reason, you should necessarily want to limit the exposure that you will have with this type of investment, to a small part of your fixed income allocation.

You’re probably best to go with a fund for this category, since investing in emerging markets involves a high degree of specialization. A fund like GMO Emerging Country Debt Fund (GMCDX) for example is currently yielding 7.59%.

If all else fails, pay off debt

If you are not comfortable with the additional risks involved in any of the above asset classes, you can always opt to pay off debt. It offers a locked in “rate of return” on your money, that is absolutely guaranteed no matter what.

Let’s say you decide you don’t want to invest in any of the suggestions above. You have $50,000 earning less than 1% per year at your local bank, and you’d like to get a better return on your money. But you have $25,000 in debt of all kinds — a car loan, credit cards, and a home equity line of credit. The average interest charge on all of these loans is 7% per year.

By paying off all of these loans, you will effectively lock-in a 7% annual rate of return. When you blend that with the other $25,000 that is still in the bank earning 1%, your average return across the board will increase to 4% per year.

That’s not a bad deal at all, especially for a zero risk investment.

If you do decide to take advantage of some of the fixed income investment alternatives above, be sure to factor risk into your portfolio.

The best strategy may be one in which you maintain a healthy amount of money in traditional, low yield investments, while adding enough of the alternatives that you will increase the overall return on your fixed income allocation to something substantially higher than what it is now.

It’s a delicate balancing act, but now that it looks like low interest rates are here to say, it’s time to create just such an alternative strategy.

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Kevin Mercadante Freelance Contributor

Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com.

Disclaimer

The content provided on Moneywise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.