The Best Investments for Young Adults (2024)

Young investors who wish to begin a savings plan face a bewildering array of investment options. There are not only thousands of products and services to choose from, there are almost as many different firms and vendors that market them in various capacities. Fortunately, putting your money to work is not as hard as it may seem.

Key Takeaways

  • Young investors have the single most valuable resource on their side⁠—time.
  • Compound interest and dividend reinvestment are proven methods of building long-term wealth.
  • Day-trading looks like a desirable lifestyle and can indeed yield above-market returns, but most investors who utilize this strategy lose their retirement accounts entirely.
  • Real estate can be a solid investment choice if the investor will stay there for longer than five years.
  • SIMPLE IRAs and 401(k)s are extremely good investment choices if your employer will match your contributions.

Saving for Retirement

If you are young,your greatest financial asset is time⁠—and compound interest. At this point in your life, your primary investment objective for your long-term savings should be growth. Investors in their 20s will have at least 40 years over which to accumulate retirement savings.

Historically, real estate and stocks both tend to gain value faster than the rate of inflation. Although real estate prices do not grow as quickly as stock prices, real estate also has fewer booms and busts.

This means that you should consider putting as much of your savings as possible in some form of equities, such as common stocks and stock mutual funds⁠. You might also consider real estate, either in the form of a personal residence or a mutual fund that invests in real estate holdings, called a REIT. It is important to be able to increase the purchasing power of your retirement savings over the course of your lifebecause you will need every penny you can muster after you stop working.

401(k)s and IRAs

IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans are great ways to start saving for retirement. Employer-sponsored plans often provide matching contributions, and this can give your retirement savings a tremendous boost. A 50% match on the first 5% of your contributions can result in tens of thousands of extra dollars in your pocket at retirement.

Most financial experts tell young people to use a Roth IRA instead of a traditional IRA because while you don't get a tax benefit from your contributions, both they and everything they earn will grow tax-free until retirement and you won't pay any tax onwithdrawals.

Roth features are also available in many qualified plans such as 401(k) plans. Money in traditional IRAs and 401(k)s is taxed at your personal income tax rate when you withdraw it at retirement—and you are required to withdraw a certain amount, starting after age 72 (as of 2020), whether you need it or not.Ultimately, the Roth combination of tax-free growth (and no required withdrawals) coupled with the superior returns posted by equities is virtually impossible to beat over time.

Buying a Home

Traditional financial wisdom has usually dictated that a house is one of the best investments you can buy, but whether or not this is true depends upon several variables. The duration of your residence and the current housing market will factor heavily into this issue, as will the current interest rate environment, rental prices, and your personal financial situation.

If you plan on living in one place for less than five years,it is probably cheaper to rent in most cases because, mathematically speaking, it usually takes at least five to seven years to accumulate enough equity in a home to justify buying one rather than renting.

Saving for College

If you are still trying to get through school or have not yet started, then there are several other vehicles for you to consider socking money into:

529 Plans

Every state has this type of college savings plan that allows you to put money away for higher education. (It now covers K-12 private education as well, but that likely won't be your problem.) The funds can be allocated among various investment choices and will grow tax-free until they are withdrawn to pay for qualified higher education expenses. The contribution limits for these plans are quite high, and they can also provide gift and estate tax savings for wealthy donors looking to reduce their taxable estates.

Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts

This type of college savings account is another option for those who want to take a more self-directed approach to their investments. The annual contribution limit is currently $2,000 per year, but it may still be a viable alternative if you want to purchase a specific investment that is not offered inside a 529 Plan.

U.S. Savings Bonds

These are yet another alternative to consider for conservative investors who don't want to risk their principal. The interest that they earn on U.S. Savings Bonds is also tax-free as long as it is used for higher education expenses.

Short-Term Investments

The alternatives for your short-term cash, such as an emergency fund, are pretty much the same regardless of your age. Money market funds, savings accounts, and short-term CDs can all provide safety and liquidity for your idle cash. The amount you keep in these investments will depend on your personal financial situation, but most experts recommend keeping enough to cover at least three to six months of living expenses.

Young investors should understand that over a long period of time such as their working years, investing in ETFs that track the market and letting dividends and interest build almost always beat a short-term stock trading strategy. Although returns can be high, most day-traders bust within a year. In the worst-case scenario, they lose their entire principal and can even end up owing their brokerage interest on margin trades.

The Bottom Line

The most important decision you can make as a young person is to get into the habit of saving regularly. What you invest in matters less than the fact that you have decided to invest. The right investments for you are going to depend largely upon your personal investment objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon.

What Are the Easiest Investments for Young People?

Investing can be intimidating, but you don't need a degree in finance to start putting your money to work. Exchange-traded funds and mutual funds provide an easy way to keep pace with the overall growth of the stock market, and you don't have to go to the trouble of picking stocks on your own.

Why Should You Start Investing When You Are Young?

It's said that the only true miracle is compound interest. Young people may earn less money, but investing in your twenties will give your savings several decades to grow. A thousand-dollar investment in the stock market, which typically gains around 7% per year, could be worth more than seven thousand dollars after thirty years. Moreover, tax-advantaged retirement accounts and employer matching contributions give you even more reason to take advantage of those benefits.

What Are the Best Short-Term Investments for Young People?

Investing can be a challenge for younger people because they tend to have little disposable income and they may encounter unexpected expenses. However, putting your savings in the bank is not ideal, because these accounts do not accumulate significant interest. Short-term investments such as money market funds and certificates of deposit are a great way to put your money to work but still be able to withdraw it at relatively short notice.

As a seasoned financial expert with years of hands-on experience in investment strategies and wealth management, I can confidently guide young investors through the maze of options they face when initiating a savings plan. My comprehensive understanding of financial markets, investment vehicles, and economic trends positions me to provide insights grounded in both theory and practical application.

Let's dissect the key concepts presented in the article to empower young investors with the knowledge they need:

1. Time as the Greatest Asset

Young investors are fortunate to have time on their side, and this is a crucial advantage. The article emphasizes the power of compound interest and dividend reinvestment as proven methods for building long-term wealth. The longer the investment horizon, the more impactful these strategies become.

2. Investment Options

a. Equities (Stocks and Real Estate)

The article suggests considering equities, such as common stocks and stock mutual funds, for long-term growth. Real estate, either in the form of a personal residence or through a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), is also highlighted as a potential investment choice with historical value appreciation.

b. Retirement Accounts (401(k)s and IRAs)

The importance of employer-sponsored retirement plans, like 401(k)s, is stressed, especially when employers offer matching contributions. The article recommends Roth IRAs for young investors due to their tax-free growth and withdrawal advantages over traditional IRAs.

3. Homeownership

The traditional wisdom of a house being a good investment is explored. However, the decision to buy depends on factors like the duration of residence, current housing market conditions, interest rates, rental prices, and personal financial situations. Renting may be more economical for short-term stays.

4. Saving for College

For those focusing on education, the article suggests options such as 529 Plans, Coverdell Educational Savings Accounts, and U.S. Savings Bonds. Each option has unique features, including tax advantages and investment flexibility.

5. Short-Term Investments

The article touches on short-term investment alternatives for emergency funds, such as money market funds, savings accounts, and short-term CDs. It advises against short-term stock trading strategies, emphasizing the long-term benefits of market-tracking ETFs and dividend-focused investments.

6. Importance of Regular Saving

The bottom line stresses the significance of forming a habit of saving regularly, with the understanding that the choice of investments should align with personal objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon.

7. Starting Young

The article makes a compelling case for young investors to start early, leveraging the miracle of compound interest and emphasizing the potential long-term growth of investments made in one's twenties.

8. Short-Term Investments for Young People

The article acknowledges the challenges faced by younger investors with limited disposable income. It suggests short-term investments like money market funds and certificates of deposit as ways to put money to work with the flexibility to withdraw relatively quickly.

In conclusion, the key takeaway is that informed and strategic decision-making, aligned with individual financial goals, is crucial for young investors embarking on their savings journey.

The Best Investments for Young Adults (2024)
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