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Learning how to invest

How to invest $50,000

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Updated: December 12, 2023

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If you are looking to invest $50,000, you have several options to watch your money grow. You can invest in stocks and exchange-traded funds, or you use the money to improve your current financial situation. But with so many options available, what is the best way to invest the money?

10 ways to invest $50,000

When it comes to investing $50,000, first you'll want to determine your financial needs and goals. Then decide where to put this money and which investment app to use. Depending on your situation, here are our picks for the best ways to invest $50,000.

1. Invest with a robo-advisor

One of the easiest ways to start investing is with a robo-advisor. Essentially, they invest in a variety of ETFs on your behalf, based on your unique needs and risk tolerance. Some will even rebalance for you, so you truly can sit back and let your money work for you.

2. Buy individual stocks

Individual stocks represent an investment in a single company. Your gain or loss on the investment is determined by the performance of that company and its stock. If you invest in the next Apple or Amazon, you could earn a handsome profit. But if the company you invest in experiences financial difficulties, your investment could decline in value. Stocks offer the opportunity for capital gains through price appreciation and in some cases, dividend income as well. Dividends are generally paid quarterly.

You can invest in individual stocks and even fractional shares through an online broker. With a discount broker, you can invest in stocks and ETFs.

Compare online brokers

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3. Real estate

For those looking to invest in real estate, $50,000 may not be enough to purchase outright an investment property or place to live, but it can certainly be part of a down payment on a property. Outside of buying actual property, there are several ways to invest $500,000 in real estate.

REITs

One option to invest in real estate is a REIT, or real estate investment trust. REITs are usually publicly traded like stocks on the stock exchange, but some REITs are privately traded. REIT investments include office buildings, retail space, residential properties, mortgages, or some combination of these. There are also mutual funds and ETFs that invest in REITs.

With Fundrise, for example, you can invest in commercial real estate through REITs with as little as $10. Another REIT investing platform is First National Realty Partners (FNRP), which focuses on grocery-anchored retail and other essential needs-anchored properties. 

Real estate crowdfunding

Another way to invest in real estate is through crowdfunding platforms. Real estate crowdfunding allows small investors the opportunity to buy into a property deal as a shareholder. Non-accredited investors used to be shut out from these private equity real estate deals, but with the advent of crowdfunding, many of these deals are now available for as little as $5,000. As with any investment, do your homework before investing. Research the underlying property and the sponsors of the crowdfunding platform.

Arrived, for example, is a newer player in the real estate crowdfunding market and they have a minimum investment of $100.

4. Individual bonds

Bonds are debt instruments. Basically, the investor makes a loan to a borrower in return for periodic interest payments and then the bond's face value when the bond matures. Bonds come in several varieties including:

  • Treasury securities β€” Treasuries come in several maturities and are considered risk-free assets because they are backed by the U.S. Treasury.
  • Corporate bonds β€” Various corporations issue these. Their security is in part based on the financial state of the issuer and their ability to make interest payments and to redeem the bonds when they mature.
  • Municipal bonds β€” Munis are issued by state and local governmental entities. Interest on these bonds is generally exempt from federal taxes.

5. Mutual funds

Mutual funds pool investors' money to invest in a strategy or asset class. This might be stocks or bonds, or sub-asset classes within these broad categories. Mutual funds are usually the investment of choice in 401(k) plans.

The mutual fund might be a passive index fund that tracks a market index like the S&P 500. Index funds are usually low-cost funds. Mutual funds can also be actively managed. With these, the manager makes active decisions as to the securities held by the fund. These funds generally carry a higher expense ratio than an index fund.

MORE: Best brokers for mutual funds

6. ETFs

ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, are much like mutual funds, but they trade like stocks. Many ETFs are index funds and generally have low expense ratios. Their holdings are transparent on a daily basis. Mutual funds, on the other hand, report holdings only a couple of times a year.

Get started with Robinhood

We like Robinhood because they offer commission-free stock and ETF trading app for iOS and Android. The app supports fractional share investing in stocks and ETFs and has a sharing feature to celebrate your success with your friends.

7. CDs

CDs, or certificates of deposit, are FDIC-insured savings vehicles that generally run for a set term, such as six months, a year, two years, or more. Leave your money in the CD for the stated term; otherwise, there are generally early withdrawal penalties.

One strategy with CDs is to ladder the maturities so you always have one coming due at some interval that makes sense for you, such as every six months. Banks and other financial institutions often offer CDs. Some brokerage firms also offer them.

Compare the best CD rates from CIT Bank

8. Invest in your retirement

  • IRA contributions: For 2023 the annual limit for IRA contributions is $6,500, with an extra $1,000 in catch-up contributions for those who are age 50 or over. You may be able to contribute to an IRA if your income is below the threshold.
  • Employer-sponsored 401(k): You can use your $50,000 to contribute the maximum amount to your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement accounts. This increases the amount you save for retirement. And it helps ensure that you receive the full employer match if one is offered. The contribution limit for 2023 is $12,500, with a $7,500 catch-up contribution available to those who are 50 or older. Read more about how to invest your 401(k).
Find a retirement planning advisor at Wiser Advisor

9. Taxable investment accounts

Depending on your circumstances it could make sense to open a taxable brokerage account or an account with a mutual fund company. These accounts offer a level of diversification for those who have sufficient investments in retirement accounts. The funds are also more liquid if they are needed. Investments held in an IRA or other type of retirement account could be subject to taxes plus a 10% fine if funds are withdrawn before the age of 59Β½.

10. 529 college savings plan

Using some or all of the $50,000 to fund a 529 college savings plan for your children can be a great investment in their future. These plans can be used to pay the cost of tuition, housing, books, and a host of other college expenses. Many states offer additional tax incentives for residents of that state.

Investments offered by each plan vary. And many plans offer an age-based option that changes the investment mix as the beneficiary gets closer to age 18. Mutual funds or similar investments are also generally available.

Before you invest $50,000

Before investing $50,000, step back, and assess your financial situation. Are you facing any current, pressing financial issues? Before you invest your money, you need to make sure your finances are in order. Let's backtrack through your financial situation before you get into investing.

Get an emergency fund

Financial advisors recommend having an emergency fund of three to six months' of living expenses set aside in the event of a job loss or other financial disruption in our lives. Invest this money someplace safe and liquid.

This could be a money market fund or account, a savings account, or some other safe, accessible vehicle. Keep this money available for when you need it, and take little or no downside risk with it. Experts recommend keeping a decent amount of your emergency fund in a high-yield savings account, such as the one offered by Wealthfront Cash.

Pay off debt

If you have outstanding debt, use some or all of the $50,000 to pay down that debt β€” especially if the debt carries a relatively high interest rate. For example, if you have $30,000 in credit card debt at an interest rate of 20%, paying off that debt essentially offers a 20% return on your money. It also provides financial freedom in the future to fund other financial goals versus making more debt payments.

Determine your goals and risk tolerance

Every investor's situation is different. Before deciding how to invest $50k, take an honest look at your goals and risk tolerance.

Take into account your age, the amount you've already invested, and whether you have a sufficient emergency fund, among a host of other factors.

  • A younger investor β€” someone in their 20s or 30s, for example β€” has a long time until retirement. They can afford to take some added risk due to this long time horizon.
  • On the other hand, if their goal is to buy a house within the next year, their risk tolerance would be considerably lower due to the shorter time before the money is needed.

A dedicated financial advisor can help you understand your investment needs and risk tolerance.

Understand which kind of investor you are

Before deciding how to invest $50,000, it's important to understand which type of investor you are. For example, are you comfortable picking individual stocks to invest in? Or are you more comfortable using pooled investments like mutual funds or ETFs?

Or maybe investing is just plain scary to you. In this case, a professionally managed vehicle like a target-date fund might be the best option for you, or perhaps you might engage the services of a financial advisor, which might be a traditional advisor or perhaps a robo-advisor.

Understand passive vs. active investing

There are two main ways of investing: active and passive. With active investing, someone manages your portfolio for you. They take a hands-on approach to investing, buying, and selling stock as needed.

Passive investing usually includes a mix of mutual funds or ETFs and thus is less complicated.

Passive investing using an index mutual fund or ETF can be a solid way to invest $50,000. An investor might choose just a few funds covering stock or bond indexes to easily build a well-diversified portfolio and invest automatically. Many index funds outperform their active peers, and the expenses are generally lower than with an actively managed fund.

There are a number of well-managed active funds as well. While it can be tough to select the best actively managed funds, they offer access to some of the best investment managers in the industry. Active or passive doesn't have to be an either-or decision. Mixing passive and active funds together can be a good strategy as well.

Keep your investments organized

As cyberattacks become more common, it's important for investors to take steps to secure their finances. And while you should also use a broker or financial institution that has an encrypted website, we also recommend using a VPN like NordVPN.

A VPN helps keep your transactions secured by encrypting your data. This means that no one can view your purchases online. Having a VPN like ExpressVPN adds an extra layer of security and peace of mind.

Organization. Stay on top of all your accounts with an online financial tool that's easy to use. Empower is one of our favorite picks because they several free tools and a dashboard to view all of your accounts in one place.

Bottom line on investing $50,000

Whether you have $50,000 or $500,000 to invest, there are a number of options to consider. Where to invest money depends upon your financial situation and your own financial priorities.

Whether you are a new investor or an experienced one, use any lump sums to enhance your overall financial position. This could include adding to your long-term investment holdings or funding an emergency fund. Every investor should take full advantage of any extra money.

About our author

Roger Wohlner
Roger Wohlner, Freelance Contributor

Roger Wohlner is an experienced financial advisor, finance blogger and freelance writer based in Arlington Heights, Ill. His expertise includes providing financial planning and investment advice to individual clients, 401(k) plan sponsors, foundations and endowments. Roger contributes to his own popular finance blog, The Chicago Financial Planner, where he writes about issues concerning financial planning, investments and retirement plans. His work has been featured on Investopedia, Go Banking Rates, US News & World Report, Yahoo! Finance, Equifax Finance Blog and other publications

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.