Smart Investments for 2021
When it comes to investing, the wealth is pretty unevenly distributed. The average 20-something American has a median account balance of just over $10,700, while the average 60-something has over $210,000. And with 66% of Millennials reporting that they don’t feel on track with retirement savings, it’s reasonable to want to give your investment portfolio a boost.
So the question is: what are some smart investments for 2021?
If you’re looking to get smart this year, here’s a quick review of some of the best investments you can make. None of them are gold bullets, but they all contribute to your overall financial health in the long-run.
The best investment you can make this year isn’t in stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, art, hedge funds, private equity, or any other flashy assets conjured by the word investment. The single best investment you can make this year (and any year, for that matter) is in yourself.
This is important any year, but in 2021, it’s more important than it’s been in decades. Call 2020 what you like (the Year-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, the twelve-month waking nightmare, the runaway dumpster fire) but one of the key lessons of 2020 was that financial fortunes can change without warning. And while investing in yourself does not grant you psychic powers with which to avoid the next market crash, it does grant you the skills with which to minimize your losses.
If you’re not sure where to begin, investing courses are a great place to start. Fortunately, there are tons of great beginner investing courses available online—just make sure you’re using a trusted course with positive reviews from a reliable financial education website.
And speaking of financial education websites, it’s also a good idea to spend time trawling the web to learn the basics for free. Here are some of industry-leading advice sites:
- New York Times: Your Money
- The Penny Hoarder
For those who already have a bit of knowledge, you can also brush up on specialist knowledge. The world (or at least, the Internet) is your oyster.
This one might seem counterintuitive at first—after all, debt is about paying money, not earning it. That’s the problem.
Debt is basically the inverse of investing. It’s also subject to compounding, but where investing grows your money by the power of compounding, debt eats away at your money by the power of compounding. In other words, the longer it takes to pay off your debt, the more money you’ll have to pay.
Which means it’s time to get aggressive about paying off your debt. Think of it this way: if you pay off every last red cent of debt, you can redirect all your income toward financial growth. It might be a bit depressing in the meantime, but your future self will thank you for it.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure where the stock market will go. Investing in stocks won’t necessarily make you rich, either. But stocks are not about extremes—they’re about averages, and for roughly the last century, the average annual stock market return has held steady around 10%.
Is it earth-shattering? No. But it’s also, on average, 10% more growth than you would have without any stocks at all. Plus, stocks are by far one of the easiest investment vehicles to get started with—they’re easy to find, easy to buy, easy to sell, and above all, easy to understand (relatively speaking).
Granted, there’s an art and a science to stocks, which is where it pays to have tools in your back pocket.
For those who are brand new to investing or those who are bad at putting money away, your best bet is to start with a robo-advisor. Robo-advisors vary somewhat by platform, but generally, they’re an algorithm-driven tool that automatically invests your money for you based on your investor profile (developed through a questionnaire when you sign up).
For those who prefer to be more hands-on, you can work with a self-managed brokerage account, or you can work directly with a broker—just keep a careful eye on brokerage fees. Either way, don’t limit yourself to buying individual stocks. Look into other stock-related investment tools that are designed for diversification, like index funds.
Once you’ve dipped your toes in the water with stocks, you need to counterbalance the volatility of the market. The best way to do this is by diversifying with assets that have limited correlation to the stock market and can generally be counted on to hold value regardless of the economy.
One such option is tangible assets, like real estate or art.
Tangible assets are physical assets with intrinsic value based on their physical qualities, as opposed to intangible assets like stocks. Blue-chip art, in particular, is popular as a hedge against inflation because art is valuable and expected to hold value or appreciate in value regardless of the economy.
Better still, average investors now have access to valuable tangible assets that may not have otherwise been available, thanks to the power of crowdfunding models.