If you don't have an emergency fund yet, at least $30,000 should go into a bank savings or money market account that's highly liquid, so you can withdraw it quickly. That money is your safety net in case of unforeseen disasters.
Beyond an emergency fund, you may find other projects, like your own education or that of a family member, to be the best form of investment, if you expect them to bring opportunities or career-improving credentials.
Finally, you can consider big-ticket purchases like buying a home (or at least making a major down payment). The advantages of owning your own home will depend a lot on how high rents run where you live, and whether you can secure a low interest rate on a home loan.
If you have an emergency fund, if money won't improve your career path, and if a home purchase is off the table, then you're ready to think about how to invest the money in a way to make it grow.
The first lesson of investing is: expose yourself to the market early in order to capture the impact of compounding over time. Compounding means earning interest on top of interest, which will maximize your long-term wealth. Even investors with a quarter million often have the wrong exposure to the stock market, given their age and risk tolerance.
For example, if you want to retire at 65 and reasonably expect a 6% annual return on your investments, then you'd have over $3.64 million at retirement if you start at 20, without adding another cent to your savings. If you start at 40, you wouldn't even make it $1.2 million by 65, which will not sustain an income you're accustomed to.
That's an enormous difference, and it shows that how long you invest can be more important than how much you invest. If you're wishing now that you'd started earlier, don't waste time on regrets -- just get started today! It's better than getting started tomorrow.
Short-term investing -- day trading, picking stocks and timing the market -- seems really exciting from the outside, but the superficial excitement conceals the fact that most retail investors lose money with short-term investing. FutureAdvisor believes in long-term investing, and multiple academics with Nobel Prizes support the approach as well:
- 1990: Harry Markowitz wins the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on portfolio choice, which was used in creating Modern Portfolio Theory.
- 2013: Eugene Fama wins the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for research which laid the foundation for building Modern Portfolio Theory.
History has shown that cash has not been a good investment, losing about 2% a year in real terms, while US historical averages show stocks have returned a 6% return. So holding a portfolio with a greater weighting to stocks rather than cash will earn you a better return.
|Time Period||Annual Real Return for Stocks||Annual Real Return for Gold||Annual Real Return for Bonds|
Annual Real Returns from: Stocks for the Long Run, by Jeremy Siegel
If you've decided to invest your money rather than keep it in cash, then the next question to answer is: what kind of account should I invest it in? The answer will depend on whether or not your employer sponsors a retirement account for you and matches your contribution.
If they do, the first thing you should do is invest until you get every dollar of matching funds to your 401k, because matching funds are a 100% return, and you won't find that often in life.
Once you've exhausted the matching funds, maximize your contribution to your Roth IRA, which is $5,500 per year. After the Roth, go back to your employer-sponsored 401k, and invest any extra dollars you have. As of 2016, the most you can contribute per year is $18,000.
When investing $250,000, it's also important to focus on avoiding churn (buying and selling), as well as minimizing what you pay every time you buy and sell a security. At FutureAdvisor, we use commission-free investments wherever possible, which cuts the costs eating away at your portfolio.
We work to eliminate commissions wherever we can. That said, low expense ratios (the percentage of your assets you pay to invest them in a fund per year) are also important, and they are measured separately. Numerous studies show that the less you pay a fund in investment fees, the better it performs.
When investing half a million or more, investors typically have income levels where tax efficiency is a priority. Tax loss harvesting can be a great tactic with a $250,000 portfolio. Tax-loss harvesting can enable you to offset capital gains or realize a loss to reduce your investing tax bill. It doesn't necessarily impact your investment strategy, because when an asset is sold for tax purposes, another asset that closely tracks it can be purchased in its place.
With a $250,000 portfolio, you want to use Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) to diversify as broadly as possible. Owning every share in the S&P 500 would be very expensive if you bought stocks individually, but with an ETF that tracks the S&P 500, you can own the index through a single security, broadening your portfolio without having to monitor hundreds of individual stocks. ETFs are highly liquid, low-cost investments. Liquidity means they trade on the stock exchange when the market is open (you can get in and out of them easily), and they usually have much lower fees than mutual funds.
|Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (Ticker: VOO)||0.05%|
|iShares Trust Core MSCI EAFE ETF (Ticker: IEFA)||0.14%|
|iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (Ticker: IEMG)||0.18%|
|Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (Ticker: BND)||0.08%|
Your investing strategy should include stocks that generally show superior long term returns historically (this will probably include companies will small market capitalization and low price-to-book ratios). It should also include instruments to de-risk the portfolio such as bonds, Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) and real estate. While the stock market can be risky, investing for the long term and holding asset classes that may help offset its ups and downs can help manage risk.
If you have $250,000 spread across several brokerage accounts or IRAs, you can link them to FutureAdvisor now to get a free analysis and step-by-step instructions on how to balance your wealth for long-term growth.
Just to recap, here are the best steps you can take to secure your financial future:
- Fund an emergency account that will allow you to live without income for a couple months
- Consider "investing" in yourself or your family by using some of the money on education
- Weigh the pros and cons of buying a home
- Invest for the long term by appropriately capturing any matching funds from your employer, and maximizing contributions to your Roth IRA and 401(k), in that order
- Keep trading fees low by seeking out low-fee ETFs for equities and bonds
- Harvest investment losses to offset your taxes
- Diversify your investments to spread your risk widely - that strategy could save your wealth, and it's backed by Nobel Prize-winning research! FutureAdvisor can show you how for free