If you’ve been laid off or are struggling financially then this check is less about fun and more about necessity. Other people who are fortunate enough to be salaried, work-from-home, or work in an industry that hasn’t been affected, have a unique opportunity to invest your coronavirus check.
Sure, we could buy a bunch of things we don’t need, but I have an even better idea. You invest it! Here’s a bunch of different ways you can invest your $1,200 check:
The generally accepted best way to invest your money for the long term is right here. Index funds are like mutual funds (a bunch of stocks and bonds grouped together), except instead of paying fund managers to try and beat a market index like the S&P 500, the goal of an index fund is to match the market index exactly.
Since most mutual funds can’t beat the market and you aren’t paying any fund managers, index funds statistically have greater returns and charge less fees than mutual funds.
Here’s what you’re going to do:
- You’re going to make an account at Vanguard: https://apps.vanguard.com/web/cf/move-money/welcome
- Go to “Open a New Account”
- Choose “General Investing”
- Invest in the Vanguard Target Retirement with the year in which you turn 62.
Robo Financial Advisor
Financial Advisors are a thing of the past! Gone are the days of paying 1.5% of your total investable assets to a random financial advisor. With new investment management platforms automation has made it possible to build a complete investment portfolio with zero investment minimums and zero management fees.
If you want to create a Robo Advisor account then follow the steps outlined in How to Start Investing: A Step-by-Step for Beginners.
The top 3 Robo Financial Advisor platforms are:
Since M1 Finance has zero fees across the board and is listed as Investopedia’s Best Automated Investing Platforms, I highly recommend them.
Open up an account, start with $1,000, and invest in one of the portfolios. You can pick a portfolio that matches your age and investing horizon (how long you have until your retirement) or you can even pick a portfolio that matches Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway!
High-Yield Savings Account
Feeling a little risk adverse during these times? No problem! Open one of these high-yield savings accounts and earn almost 2% on your money by parking your money in a safe spot. Here are three great options:
- CIT Bank (Get up to $300 when you open an account)
- Marcus by Goldman Sachs
- Barclays Online Savings Account
Buy Stock in Your Favorite Companies
What’s a stock? In simple terms, it’s the rights to a portion of all the assets, liabilities, equity, and future earnings of a company. You own a “share” of the company. So, for example, when you own stock in Coca Cola, every time they sell a coke, you make a little money.
The first 2 ways I mentioned you could invest your money included index funds or a feeless automated portfolio. These are just bundles of stocks. This is recommended because if one company in your portfolio goes bankrupt then you don’t lose all your money because that company was only a fraction of all the stock that you own.
But if you truly believe in a company or two and want to use your stimulus check to invest directly into them then you’ll need a brokerage account.
A brokerage account sounds intimidating, but it’s really just a checking account. The key difference is that instead of getting a debit card and buying lunch, you get a bank account that can buy stocks.
The brokerage accounts I recommend are:
I’m sure you’ve heard the words stocks and bonds paired together a million times. You now know what stocks are, but what are bonds?
Bonds are debt instruments and are typically viewed as less risky than stocks. When a corporation (or government) needs money to do things like buy buildings or build massive manufacturing plants, they usually issue bonds.
People buy up all these bonds, the corporation (or government) gets all this money right away, and then they promise to pay back interest (4-5% for example) every year until the final year of the bond where they pay back the full amount you paid for it. Pretty sweet deal, right? You give them $1,000, they give you $50 every year for 10 years, then they give you back your $1,000 at the end of the 10th year.
If you want to invest in bonds then you can do so using the two brokerage accounts I mentioned above:
A real estate investment trust (“REIT”) is a company that owns, operates or finances income-producing real estate. REITs provide all investors the chance to own valuable real estate, present the opportunity to access dividend-based income and total returns, and help communities grow, thrive, and revitalize.
The stockholders of a REIT earn a share of the income produced through real estate investment – without having to go out and buy, manage or finance property.
You can check out the pros and cons of REITs here: https://www.ally.com/do-it-right/investing/reit-investing-what-is-a-reit/
You can invest in REITs by signing up for the two brokerage accounts I mentioned above:
Down Payment on a Rental Property
Have you been saving up for a while and almost have enough to put 20% on a 2nd home that can double as an income generating rental property? Well, apply your $1,200 stimulus check to that 20% and finally have enough to buy that property!
Interest rates are at an all time low and right now is a fantastic time to get locked into a 30 year low interest loan.
Once you own the property you’ll have the potential to rent it out long term or go the Airbnb/VRBO route and make a little extra cash.
Investing in cryptocurrency five years ago used to be a pain in the butt. Now it couldn’t be easier. They’re a few great companies that allow you to easily purchase your favorite cryptocurrency.
Don’t know what cryptocurrency is? Check out this article: https://www.coinbase.com/learn/what-is-cryptocurrency
Here are a couple of great companies that can help you get started:
So far we’ve looked at purchasing new assets that can increase in value and even produce passive income, but what are some other options?
How about taking an asset you already own and making it more valuable? House renovations are a great way to increase the value of your home and now that you have an extra grand in your pocket now is the perfect time!
You have so many options:
- Add new flooring to a room
- Replace your front door
- Add a fresh coat of paint to a couple of rooms
- Install new light fixtures
The list here is endless!
Just as home renovations can increase the value of your home from the inside, doing some landscaping can increase the value of your home from the outside.
Imagine you’re looking to buy a home and you come across two identical houses, except one has a nice green lawn and beautiful landscaping while the other has a dead lawn and a tree fallen over in the front yard. You’re going green land every time!
Here are a few landscaping ideas that can increase the value of your home:
- Insert low-voltage landscape lighting to make pathways safer and to bring a glow to your outdoor space.
- Add a bench with some stone pavers
- Add a basic structure like a wood arch or a pergola
Invest in Your Health!
Buy a bike, hiking gear, or some nice running shoes!
My buddy and I went to a bike shop last year because he wanted to buy a new bicycle. He hasn’t owned one in years, but we wanted to go riding more last summer so he decided to bite the bullet.
The bike he wanted ended up being something around $600 and he wasn’t sure he wanted to spend that kind of money. But then the guy in the store (who is clearly a great salesman) said something along the lines of, “This isn’t a toy, this is an investment in your health, and it will pay you dividends for the rest of your life.” I couldn’t agree more.
Not a bike person? Well how about a nice pair of running or hiking shoes? With $1,200 in free money you can add on some new shorts, socks, and a few new shirts.
Start a Blog/Website
I’m not sure if this can be considered an investment because I’ve been doing it for a year and haven’t seen much money. But then again, I spend most of my time writing finance and accounting jokes which aren’t a huge money maker (but they’re hilarious!).
But if you write constantly about a profitable niche and then advertise on your site you will see additional income start flowing in. Now that you have all this COVID-19 money you can finally shell out enough to buy that domain name and build that website!
Here’s how you get started (this is the guy I followed to build this website): https://coursearena.io/course/how-to-create-a-blog-website-wordpress-tutorial
Invest in a Nice Fine Dining Meal
It’s all about stimulating the economy. That’s the whole point of us getting these checks Why not dine out at that one local place you thought you would never be able to afford?
It’s a two-hit bonus:
- Your local economy gets some cash thrown into it
- You get to have a true culinary experience
I’m calling this an investment because enjoying truly great food crafted by truly great chefs is, in my opinion, one of the best parts of life.
We go to concerts because we want to take sound to the next level.
We attend art exhibits because we want to take sight to the next level.
We fill our homes with candles and flowers because we want to take smell to the next level.
Why not invest in a fine meal occasionally to take taste to the next level?
Write Your Own Book!
You would be very surprised to know how easy it is to write and publish a book now in days.
I wrote two books and the only expense was the graphic designer who made my covers. Since I’m a joke writer I decided to publish two joke books on Amazon:
Now I get to sit back and watch $100-$200/month roll into my bank account.
Invest in Yourself with Some Personal Finance Knowledge
You know what they say: “There’s no better book than a book about personal finance!”
Take a chunk of the money and invest in some books that will further knowledge about money. This will help you grow more confident about what you’re doing with your money and in return will give you more peace of mind about the future.
I recommend these books for getting started out:
- Top 5 Books about Personal Finance
- Top 5 Books about Budgeting
- Top 5 Books about Saving for Retirement
- Top 5 Books about Financial Independence
- Top 5 Books about Starting a Side Business
Gold used to be worth $300/oz back in the 1920s and is now worth around $1,500/oz. But this rise has not been steady by any means. Back in the 1980s the price was over $2,000/oz.
Regardless, a lot of people find gold valuable now and a lot of people will find gold valuable in the future. There’s something about being able to hold onto your valuable possessions instead of seeing them on a computer screen.
In order to get a typical loan, you need to go to a bank and ask them for money. The bank gives you a lump sum and then you slowly pay back principal and interest. It’s a pretty sweet deal for the bank. They give you money and then you give them back more money.
Now $1,200 isn’t enough money to start a bank, but you can still practice lending your money through peer-to-peer lending platforms. Instead of receiving a loan, you would be the one giving out the loan and receiving the principal and interest payments!
Here are a few great platforms if you want to invest via peer-to-peer lending:
Crowdfund Real Estate
For a long time, crowdfunding has given people a way to raise money without having to seek out money from banks or venture capitalists.
The crowdfunding movement has since expanded to real estate. As an investor, crowdfunding opens investment opportunities that may have previously only been available to the ultra-wealthy.
If you want to do some real estate investing with your $1,200 then here are some companies that can help you get started:
As Johnny Tsunami once said, “Go big or go home.”
I could never recommend this, but I know some people out there are going to try it. Who knows? Maybe someone turns $1,200 into $1,000,000 overnight! It incredibly unlikely, but this is America and you can do whatever you want with your money.
This is just an option. I never said it was a good option.
Royalty Exchange is a marketplace where intellectual property is bought and sold like any other asset.
If you invest in music royalties that means every time someone plays a song you own the rights to, you get paid. The average return for music royalties in 2019 was 12.14% (according to Royalty Exchange).
With every person on this planet having a music player in their pocket and subscription services like Spotify, Apple, and Pandora taking over, now is a great time to get into the music royalty business.
Pay Down High Interest Debt
A very smart man once said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
If you’re currently in credit card debt, then you can take this large cash infusion and pay down some or all of it. The amount you’ll save on interest payments should be looked at as income generated on an investment.
And since most credit cards carry such high interest rates, you know you’re making a lot of money on this investment.
A Roth IRA is a tax-advantaged retirement savings account that allows you to invest after-tax dollars, let it grow for many years, and withdraw it tax-free.
It’s just a brokerage account, but when it goes to taxes it has different (better) rules.
Normally, if you were to invest $1,000, let it grow to $2,000, and then withdraw the full $2,000, you would owe capital gains tax on the $1,000 difference ($1,000 x 20% = $200 in tax). If you were to have invested that same $1,000 in a Roth IRA account, you wouldn’t owe any taxes on it when you finally made a withdrawal.
Here are a couple great companies to start your first Roth IRA:
Sell Your Crafts on Etsy
Do you make leather goods, handmade knives, custom jewelry, or any other unique item? Well then, how about you use this opportunity to turn yourself into a creative entrepreneur.
Use your COVID-19 check to buy a large inventory of supplies and use your social distancing time to make as many products as possible.
Now is the time to find out whether or not there’s a hidden market out there for your crafts!
Start or Increase Your Emergency Fund
Most financial experts recommend saving anywhere from three to six months worth of living expenses. I know it can be hard to save money that wants to be spent so badly, but there’s a reason why so many experts have the same exact recommendation.
You never know what’s going to happen in life. You could get an injury that doesn’t allow you to work, you could be laid off, or a pandemic could hit and you wouldn’t be allowed to go to work.
Regardless, it’s never a bad idea to have a nest egg saved up so your day to day life isn’t impacted in any major way.
Grow and Sell Peppers
You can use your new-found money to build a garden in order to grow hot peppers (or most other fruits and vegetables).
Hot peppers are a big business right now! Sales of hot sauces, hot peppers and other heat-infused products have been climbing for years.
Once you have your peppers you can sell them at your local farmers market or even do cool things like bottle your own hot sauce. If you haven’t seen the popularity of hot sauces yet then check out the YouTube Show “Hot Ones”.
Fund a 529 Account
A 529 plan is a college savings plan that offers tax and financial aid benefits. 529 plans may also be used to save and invest for K-12 tuition in addition to college costs.
Investing in your children’s education is always a smart thing to do. You could buy a good stock and let it grow over the years or you could buy a good education and have your doctor and lawyer children take care of you when you’re older.
Buying and selling fine art used to be an investment only rich people could afford.
Now you have the option of using a company like MasterWorks where you can purchase shares representing ownership of a painting like how you would purchase shares in a traditional company.
Here’s how it works:
- Masterworks buys a painting
- Investors can invest in the painting by purchasing shares
- When the painting is sold, the proceeds are distributed accordingly
Buy a Professional-Grade Camera
There’s a large market out there for stock photos. Stock photos are the photos you see everywhere on the internet. All these websites don’t just go out and take a bunch of high-quality pictures every time they make a new site.
What they do is buy stock photos from websites like Getty Images, Shutterstock, and Depositphotos.
With your new super camera, you can go out, take a few great photos, and sell them to these sites. Some people make good money doing it.
Start a Podcast
What’s a podcast you ask? It’s basically a radio show where you can talk about whatever you want with whoever you want. Except you aren’t on the radio, you’re on the internet.
If you have a computer, then the only thing you’re missing is a nice microphone, some headphones, and a marketing budget to bring your podcast to life.
The next steps to creating your podcast are all included here: https://blogging.com/podcasting/
Donate to Charity
Investing in the helpers in turn makes us all a little stronger. Below, find three of the best charities you could make an impact on with your economic stimulus check:
- Your local area Chamber – What better way to ensure the safety and stability of businesses in your area than to financially support the organization who backs them? Chambers are incredible organizations because of their unique mix of government and charity. Not only can they help provide support for local businesses during and after a crisis, but they can also directly impact staff of local small businesses who are likely to be laid off.
- The CDC Foundation – These guys are at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, both in response and research. Their name is all over the global news, and for good reason. They’re leaders in the current fight, and have the brains and governmental power to make large-scale improvements and policies to help locally and globally. As the foundation is large, be specific when you make your donation (if you so choose). General donations will almost always be routed to where the current need is greatest.
- The Nature Conservancy – It’s unavoidable; almost always during a crisis, we make more waste. People shop for and donate single-use water bottles, instead of dining in, we’re creating take-out waste every time we support a restaurant, hospital staff are doing complete disposable outfit changes multiple times a day. It’s not that any of this is evil, it’s simply what happens, and it’s certainly less than ideal. It also means that it’s an incredibly important time to support those charities that protect our environment as while we’re taking care of one another, we need to be thinking heavily of the thing that sustains all of us – crisis or not.