Let’s say you receive an inheritance or other windfall totaling $25,000. Or, perhaps you have a side hustle and have been able to put some money aside. Do that long enough, and those little bits of side hustle money can turn into some serious cash. Or maybe you are interested in learning more about investment options so that you can set a strategic goal to save more to invest.
Whatever your goal, trying to figure out what to do to maximize $25,000 is certainly a great problem to have. The interesting thing about that particular quantity is that $25,000 is a big amount of money to accomplish some smaller goals, but not quite big enough to be life changing in a big, quit-your-job-and-go-live-on-a-private-island kind of way.
Getting your mind behind what you would do with this kind of money can be very eye-opening. Planning out, even hypothetically, what kind of decisions you would make with the kind of options are available can be a catalyst to start exploring your options. This type of personal inquiry will help you make important decisions about your short and long term financial goals.
Your first step in deciding how to invest $25,000 is to determine how much time you are willing to spend to get returns on your investment. Are you looking for a quick return or is more of a long-term impact acceptable to you?
Your next step is to consider what type of returns you are looking for. Do you want to grow the money so you have more money? Or would you prefer to use the money to pay down debt? What about a less tangible return on your investment, such as if you invest in yourself and further your education or enjoy some life experiences?
Then, consider your tolerance for risk. Any investment comes with a bit of risk, but there are ways to invest money while playing it safe, as well. An informed investor is a happy investor.
As you begin to consider which investment options might be right for you, start by going over your budget. If you don’t yet have a budget, now is a great time to get one going.
The two most important rules for investing money are:
- Never invest money you can’t afford to lose, and
- See number 1.
If your basic expenses aren’t already covered – and, if you’re a resident, there is a chance that might be the case – stop reading now and take care of your basic needs.
If all basic needs are accounted for, then keep reading for 25 ways that physicians can invest $25,000.
Surely one of them, or a combination of several of them, will work for you.
Where to invest
There are three main categories when it comes to investing a surplus of cash:
- Invest in yourself,
- Invest in the financial space,
- Invest in real estate.
Invest in yourself
- We’ll start with the obvious: pay down your student loan debt. With medical students owing an average of $173,000, an extra $25,000 might seem like a drop in the bucket. Taking a $25,000 bite out of your overall student loans can help you significantly over time, primarily by reducing your interest that compounds over time. Make sure to check with your financial adviser and accountant before simply throwing a chunk of change at your loans. The last thing you want to do is take action that results in the bulk of that money going towards interest or taxes.
- Hire a personal coach, or create a plan to incorporate coaching with complementary medicine such as acupuncture or a fitness plan with a trainer. As a physician, you know better than most that health and wellness are about more than medicine.
- Take a sabbatical. It’s not often in life that we have the opportunity to take a break from, well, life. Perhaps you are at a point in your career where you can take a break, let your partner run the practice, and write the book you’ve been dreaming about writing.
- Of course, one of the best things you can do with a windfall is to pay down credit cards. The high-interest rate and ease of use makes credit cards alternately a curse and a convenience. More than half of Americans carry credit card debt that they can’t afford to pay off, with the national average around $6300.
- Fund a health savings account. As a physician, you know all too well how quickly medical bills can add up. If you know you’ll have a lot of upcoming medical bills, funding a health savings account could offer you some relief from the stress of paying expensive medical bills.
- Invest in yourself. Medical school takes a lot of time and money, to be sure. You may finish medical school and never want to see the inside of a classroom again. But depending on your interests and your specialty, a Master’s of Public Health (MPH) degree or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree could help you considerably in your medical practice. There are countless certifications as well that may be better suited to your specialty and career interests.
- If a full degree program is not your preference, look into other professional development opportunities. Project management, personal coaching, or a certificate in your specialty are good options to advance your career long term.
- Travel. YOLO (you only live once). We’re serious. Fund that dream vacation. Take a trip around the world. Bring your family on that cruise you always promised them.
- Simply save it. Take that chunk of change and put it in a good, old-fashioned savings account. Keep it there, safe and comfortable, for your life happens fund. Because life will happen, and now you’ll be ready.
Invest in the financial space
- We have one word for the single most important part of your financial plan, after paying down debt: retirement. It’s pretty hard to go wrong when you save extra money towards retirement. This option is not sexy, and it doesn’t give you anything in the short term (other than perhaps an extra bit of peace of mind that you’ll have what you need to be cared for in your old age), but the long-term benefits of this option can be significant.
- Consider funding a taxable brokerage account. The same financial adviser who handles your retirement accounts can help you open a taxable account. This is similar to a savings account, only your money is invested in the stock market instead of being loaned to a bank. There is risk associated with this option, but a potentially high rate of return, as well. A nice upside to this option is that, unlike your retirement accounts, this money remains liquid so you can access it at any time.
- You can also invest in the stock market directly. Using trading apps like etrade, you can buy and sell shares of stock as you like. This is very high risk, particularly if you have little to no experience with the stock market. This option will also require a higher than average level of attention, because, unlike a taxable brokerage account, where a financial adviser or brokerage house is watching the account for you, the stock market fluctuates daily and you are solely responsible for making decisions to buy or to sell.
- Buy a franchise. It’s more affordable than you think to buy a franchise. While some franchises are quite expensive to get started (think McDonald’s), others can be purchased for less than $10,000. Don’t get too excited, though – the money you save on the purchase price will be needed for various fees that come along with opening your own store. While you’ll need to spend that $25,000 carefully, this amount of money can definitely serve as the capital you need to start your own franchise.
- Become a lender. Microloans are small loans, typically well under $25,000 so you can spread that money around. You invest what is, to you, a small amount of money to help someone else get their business off the ground. Enjoy the rewards of a higher interest rate than you’ll get from any savings account. As an added bonus, microloans are often helpful in particular for women or minorities who have a harder time qualifying for loans due to all sorts of economic and discriminatory factors.
- If saving money is your jam, consider investing in certificates of deposit, known as CDs. Interest rates tend to be higher than traditional savings accounts and the risk is low. You can stagger them so that every six months or so, one matures, so your money can be semi-liquid while it grows.
- Have kids? Fund that 529 plan. Enough said.
- Invest in a mutual fund. If your tolerance for risk hovers somewhere between the low returns of a savings account of CD and the high return but equally high risk of the stock market, than a mutual fund is for you.
- A somewhat unconventional though intriguing option is a 401(k) swap. Ramp up your 401(k) contributions directly from your paycheck, and then use the cash from the $25,000 to offset the reduction of money in your paycheck. Once you have depleted the $25,000, go back to your original amount of 401(k) contributions. This is a way to keep your cost of living stable while increasing contributions to your already established retirement account.
- Peer to peer lending is another form of micro lending. Instead of providing small loans to people you don’t know, with peer to peer lending, you provide small loans directly to someone you do know. The risk here is more to your personal relationship than to your finances, but if you and the borrower go into the deal with eyes wide open, this can be a viable option to strategically grow your money.
Invest in real estate
- Perhaps one of the most tried and true ways to grow your money is to invest in real estate. The average rate of return on real estate is 8.6%. Compare that to your savings account, and the value of real estate is clear. Buy a property to use as a rental to generate passive income and if you play the numbers right, you can break even in a matter of a few years.
- If you are already own a home, use that money to make improvements to increase your home’s value. Need a new roof? How about replacing those windows? Check in with a realtor to learn how to strategically invest your money in your home so you don’t over-improve.
- Invest in a REIT. A real estate investment trust, or REIT, is basically a mutual fund where you invest in real estate instead of the stock market. You buy small shares of large investments, along with lots of other people, and enjoy minimal risk with all of the gain.
- Pay down your mortgage. There are different schools of thought on this. There are financial reasons why it could make sense not to funnel a lot of cash into something as illiquid as a mortgage. If the real estate market takes a downturn, you could lose that money without seeing any gains. But generally speaking, paying down debt is typically a gamble worth taking. If a $25,000 bite out of your mortgage helps you refinance for a lower monthly payment, or simply helps you breathe easier, this option could be a good one for you.
Wild card options
- Try a combination. $25,000 seems like a small amount when it comes to big changes. You can take a bite out of your student loans or mortgage, but can’t pay them off. On the other hand, when you break down your wants and needs into manageable parts, you can do a lot with that money. Book a vacation and bank the rest. Fund a microloan for someone else and an MBA for you. Hire a personal trainer and invest in a mutual fund. Once you identify your goals, the possibilities to maximize your money are endless.
- Give to charity. You were making things work before you had the $25,000, so you won’t miss what you didn’t have. In the meantime, that money could make a huge impact to one or more charities. Consider the causes that mean the most to you and reach out to find out just how far a gift like that can go. Consider dividing into smaller parts and make donations to more than one charity. The investment you achieve is not in dollars that go back in your pocket, but is huge in terms of the good you are able to put into the world. There are also tax breaks in it for you, so be sure to consult your tax adviser.
Once decisions are made…
Whatever you decide to do with your windfall, remember to seek options that keep fees low. It never hurts to touch base with a financial adviser, especially if you are considering investing the money in a way that is new to you, such as with a REIT or a mutual fund.
Regardless of how you choose to invest your money, remember that there is no such thing as a sure thing. There is only risk, and your tolerance to it. Even putting money into a savings account has risk, albeit a small amount. To truly invest the money and help it grow, you will need to consider letting go of it in some way.
As you figure that out, we recommend keeping your investment quiet. Telling others about your investment decisions opens a door into conversations about your financial situation that you may not wish to have. Large sums of money also attract attention, and not in the way you might wish.
While there are a lot of options listed here, the best part is that you get to decide what to do with your money. This is a wonderful problem to have. If you do happen to have a five-digit chunk of change ready to be invested, don’t decide overnight as to what you’ll do with it. Keep the money somewhere safe, like a traditional savings account, until you decide what’s next.
Be sure to enjoy at least a little of your money. It can be so tempting to throw as much money as possible at those student loans, or at your mortgage or other debt. We understand! But life is short, and it’s okay to take care of your whole self, not just the part of you that owes a lot of money. Having fun is allowed.
Whatever you do, don’t forget to pay your taxes. There are tax implications associated with any number of the above-listed options. Your accountant is your friend. Be sure to check in with him or her before making any decisions about where to invest your money, to ensure that you are not setting yourself up for a major hit come tax time.