The Savvy Investor’s Guide: Top 10 Ways to Aim to Build Your $1,000

By Samuel Becker · December 27, 2023 · 13 minute read

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The Savvy Investor’s Guide: Top 10 Ways to Aim to Build Your $1,000

If you’re looking for ways to invest $1,000, particularly in 2024, there are numerous options available to you, including stocks, bonds, treasuries, and even your own skill set. While investing has always been crucial to growing wealth, these days, it’s probably more important than ever as prices rise and many people struggle to sock enough money away to reach their financial goals.

Fortunately, there is an array of options available to investors, as mentioned, who are looking for ways to invest $1,000 — or any other amount.

1. Dive Into the Stock Market With Index Funds

Investors may want to dip their toes into the stock market and invest in index funds. Investing in index funds comprises a passive investing strategy, which can be less risky than buying individual stocks or securities. These types of funds track or follow a market index, or benchmarket, and track it so as to mimic the performance of the larger market, or a segment of it.

Why S&P 500 Index Funds Make Sense

If you’re looking at investing $1,000, it may make sense to check out S&P 500 index funds, which track the S&P 500 index — more or less, most of the stock market. These index funds give investors exposure to 500 of the biggest stocks on the market.

Notably, investing in one of these index funds can be advantageous because it’s easy, gives investors immediate and broad exposure in the markets, and offers a degree of built-in diversification into their portfolios. That’s not to say that investing in S&P 500 index funds is foolproof, of course, as they do have their risks. In the event of a broad market downturn, for instance, your portfolio would likely take a significant hit, depending on the specific makeup of the portfolio.

As such, index fund investing has some advantages, such as ease of management, relatively low entry costs in some cases, and the ability to quickly diversify a portfolio. But there can be disadvantages, too: Index funds don’t necessarily directly follow indexes, it’s a form of passive investing (which may be disappointing to investors who want a more active approach), and depending on your overall strategy, they may not be the best fit – they may be better for long-term investors, for instance.

The Long-Term Benefits of Market Matching

The true magic of broad index funds is that many of them will track the larger performance of the market over time. Which, if you’ve looked at the historical run of the market, tends to go up. As for the S&P 500, specifically? It has grown significantly over time — but not without some hiccups along the way. The S&P 500 has annualized approximately 10% over time.

2. Embrace Diversification With ETFs

Exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, are another good option for investors looking at how to invest $1,000. They can also serve as an alternative to index funds, as ETFs can be a great tool for some new and experienced investors to gain broad exposure to a wide variety of different asset classes. These days, there are ETFs for almost anything.

How ETFs Offer Accessibility to Beginners

Purchasing shares of an ETF works just like purchasing shares of an individual company’s stock. Which means it can be easy for beginners.

ETF trading, like other types of trading or investing, has its pros and cons, though. As for the pros, ETFs can be easy to trade (again, good for beginners), offer a degree of built-in diversification, tend to have lower associated costs, and may be more tax-efficient than other investment types, like mutual funds. As for cons, ETFs may lack personalization, suffer from tracking errors, introduce counterparty and market risks, and may incorporate complex trading strategies (like leveraged or inverse ETFs).

So, keep in mind that while ETFs may be beginner-friendly, there are advantages and disadvantages.

Comparing Popular ETF Options

As mentioned, investors can look at broad index-focused ETFs, or any number of others. An internet search will yield many options, no matter an investor’s interest.

Imagine an investor who wants exposure to gold mining stocks. But researching all of the many different mining companies out there, examining their plans, management, profitability and more all seems overwhelming. What could such an investor do? They may want to consider buying shares of any number of different ETFs that include a basket of gold mining stocks. There are ETFs for real estate, oil, bonds, and stocks of different companies in many different industries.

💡 Quick Tip: The best stock trading app? That’s a personal preference, of course. Generally speaking, though, a great app is one with an intuitive interface and powerful features to help make trades quickly and easily.

3. Bet on Yourself: Invest in Personal Development

If you’re wondering how to invest $1,000 outside of traditional financial securities, look inward! An investment in yourself and your own personal development can also pay dividends.

Education as an Investment

Earning a degree, certificate, or otherwise investing in education is, for many people, a first step toward a brighter financial future. While there are risks and significant costs associated with going to college or earning a degree, it may increase your earning potential significantly, and over the years, that should add up in a big way.

If this is something you’re seriously considering, you could also compare the pros and cons of attending a community college versus a four-year institution, and look at programs that tend to lead to more career opportunities. But remember that there’s no guarantee that a degree or certificate will lead to future job opportunities, or additional earnings.

4. Secure Your Future With Retirement Funds

Another way to invest $1,000 is to sock it away in a retirement account or retirement fund, and there are several options available to investors. For instance, you could open an IRA, or enroll in an employer-sponsored account, like a 401(k).

The Advantage of IRAs

Individual retirement accounts, or IRAs, come in different varieties, such as traditional and Roth IRAs. It’s worth checking out the differences to see which may be the best fit for you and your specific situation or goals, but the general idea is that you can invest money in these accounts, and they’re tax-advantaged. Plus, anyone can open one — they’re not employer-sponsored.

The Magic of 401(k) Matches

Maximizing a 401(k) retirement plan can be another option for investors who are looking to grow their money. Some employers will match employee contributions to 401(k) accounts, effectively supercharging their ability to save. While there are annual contribution limits, investors who have a little extra money to invest may want to see if they can or should put it in their 401(k).

While both IRAs and 401(k)s have some advantages for investors, you’ll want to keep the potential downsides in mind, too. Depending on the type of account you open (Roth versus traditional, for instance), there may not be any immediate tax benefits, for one. Further, it may be difficult to withdraw money quickly if you need it, and there are fees and penalties for doing so depending on your age. You may also be required to take distributions at one point, which some investors may not want to do.

5. Step Into Tech With Robo-Advisors

Robo-advisors are algorithms that pick investments for investors automatically. That may be of interest to some investors looking to put some extra money to work. And letting technology take the reins when it comes to making investment decisions can be appealing to many investors, as it takes much of the guesswork, calculation, and research out of the investing process.

Simplifying Investments With Technology

As for how they work? Generally, an online robo-advisor will ask the investor some simple questions about their investment goals, risk tolerance, and where they are in their wealth-building journey (basically, current age and desired retirement age). Then, based on those answers, a portfolio will be generated, and the amount of money the investor would like to invest will be allocated accordingly.

There are typically several different model portfolios that will be recommended to investors, ranging from conservative risk-off, to moderately risk-on, to aggressively risk-on.

The various model portfolios usually provide a mix of assets according to how much risk an investor ought to take, which is determined by the answers given to the robo-advisor’s questions.

For example, traditional wisdom dictates that younger investors can take more risk because they have more time to make up for potential losses. On the other hand, older investors who find themselves closer to retirement are generally urged to take as little risk as possible, since steep losses could ruin their retirement plans.

Also keep some of the downsides of using a robo-advisor in mind, too. For example, there may be limited personalization and flexibility when using one, which may be a turn-off for some investors who want to take a more active hand in their portfolio. There’s also a lack of human contact, so you won’t be able to speak with someone at your brokerage as easily as you might like. The fees and costs, too, may be more than some investors want to pay.

6. Pay Down High-Interest Debts

While paying down debt may not seem like an “investment” in the traditional sense, it can serve as a sort of investment in your financial future by freeing up money that might go toward interest payments. Instead, you may be able to repurpose that money and funnel it into index funds, your retirement account, or more.

While how or if you choose to target your debt balances will depend on any number of factors, in most cases, it may be wise to try and pay down your debts with the highest applicable interest rate first — that will end up saving you the most money in the long run, as you save the most in interest.

As for how to do it? There are a lot of strategies to pay down debt out there, but it can start with some simple steps: Create a budget, set goals, utilize balance transfers, and more.

A couple of common debt-payoff strategies are the “snowball” and “avalanche” methods, which involve either paying off your debts with the lowest overall balance first, or your debts with the highest applicable interest rate – as mentioned. One or the other may work better for you, and it may be a good idea to try different strategies out to see what works.

Paying down debt is generally a good idea, but if there’s a downside to it, it’s the opportunity costs associated with the money you’re using to pay balances down. Think about this: If you instead invested or saved the money you’re using to pay down debt with, that money could grow or appreciate in the meantime – though there are no guarantees. Again, lowering debt burdens isn’t a bad thing, but opportunity costs may be something to keep in mind.

7. Create a Safety Net With High-Yield Savings Accounts

As interest rates shot up in 2022 and 2023, another potential avenue for growing your money is by putting it in a high-yield savings account. These accounts tend to offer higher interest than standard checking or savings accounts, and many banks offer them. It’s been some time since interest rates were actually attractive to investors, but heading into 2024, it may be worth seeing what your options are.

Finding the Best High-Yield Accounts

You’re likely to find numerous options for high-yield savings accounts out there, but some things you’ll want to look for include annual percentage yields (APY), required initial deposits, minimum balance requirements, applicable fees, and whether there’s a penalty for withdrawing your money.

What makes one account more attractive to you versus another will depend on your personal preferences. But generally, you’re looking for the highest APY, and lowest fees or costs associated with an account.

8. Explore Passive Income Opportunities

Why not invest in a passive income venture? That could be a side hustle, side gig, small business, or something similar. A lot of those opportunities will likely require at least a little startup capital, and many can be started for less than $1,000 — much less, in some cases.

Getting Started With Passive Ventures

There are dozens and dozens of ways to put your money to work and start a passive venture. Consider some of these ideas: Lend your money through a peer-to-peer lending platform, advertise using your personal vehicle, become a pet sitter, become a house cleaner, or even use some money to start a blog or publish an ebook.

Again, some of these will require a little startup cash, but if the chips fall in the right way, they could end up being lucrative passive income ventures.

Low-Investment Ideas for Passive Earnings

If you’re looking for investment opportunities, specifically, you can look at crowdfunding opportunities, buying an ETF or index fund, or even experimenting with a robo-advisor — all as mentioned. These may not provide passive “earnings” in the same way a small business venture would, but if the market sways in the right way, could provide some returns over time.

But, as always, do consider that all investing involves risk, as discussed. Not only that, but business ventures involve risk, as does lending out your money. These may be ways to earn or generate some passive income, but they all do have their associated risks.

9. Invest in Your Child’s Education with a 529 Plan

If you have children, or children in your life, you can also look at the possibility of investing in a 529 college savings plan. With education costs increasing every year, they’ll likely be thankful you did.

The Basics of 529 Plans

A 529 plan, or qualified tuition plan, allows parents or others to essentially pre-pay for a student’s tuition expenses, or contribution to an education-focused savings account. The contributions aren’t tax-deductible, but the distributions are tax-free for beneficiaries if they’re used on a qualified expense, such as tuition, books, and more.

Long-Term Benefits for Your Family

There are other options out there that can be used for saving or investing for education expenses. But the whole point is that these types of accounts can be used to ease the financial burden of college, offering tax-free growth. With student debt remaining a huge issue in the U.S., saving and investing for tuition earlier rather than later may be beneficial.

While 529 plans have benefits, there can be disadvantages as well. Funds can only be used for education purposes, for one, and there may be limited tax advantages depending on where you live and your specific financial situation. There are also fees and costs to consider, and investors should know that they won’t be able to take much of a hand in directing investments, either.

10. Consider Safe Bonds and T-Bills

If stocks, index funds, ETFs, or other investments seem a bit too risky, you can always look at relatively safe investments — which could include bonds and treasuries, or T-bills.

The Stability of Government Bonds

Treasuries, which are bonds that are issued by the federal government, and are generally considered to be one of, if not the safest investment on the market. That’s not to say that they aren’t without risk, but if treasuries become risky investments, there’s likely bigger issues to deal with in the economy than worrying about the value of your bond holdings. They can also be purchased directly from the government.

While Treasuries are relatively safe investments, they’re not without risk or downsides. For most investors, the primary disadvantage of Treasuries are that they provide low returns compared to other investments – but that’s typically the trade-off investors make to assume less risk.

Making Your Investment Work Harder

Investing your money — however you choose to do it — requires at least some research and consideration. At first, that is, depending on how you choose to invest or save it. But the point is to put the money away in a savings or investment account, allowing the market and time to work its magic, and hopefully seeing your balance or holdings accrue value over time.

When to Pivot Your Investment Strategy

Many investors may want to take a hands-off approach to investing, and that can work. Others may want to be more active. While you should perhaps consult with a financial professional to get a sense of what might work best for you, there are going to be times where you’ll want to consider pivoting your strategy.

As you move through life, your goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon will change – and so will your investment strategy. It may be difficult to tell when it’s time to adjust your strategy, but it can be a good idea to keep the fact that your strategy will change, at some point, in mind.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

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