Investing is one of those things that a lot of people say they want to do but they never actually get around to. Fears about how volatile the market is hold some of them back while others are stuck with the mindset that it’s something you need a lot of money to do.
The truth is that investing isn’t as complicated as it seems and it doesn’t require a huge amount of cash to get started. Socking away even $100 a month in the right place can yield some big returns down the road. If you’ve already got some wiggle room in your budget, chances are you’re not going to feel the impact of saving the extra money. When your finances are a little tighter, coming up with the cash may be as simple as shaving a few bucks off your grocery budget each week or taking shorter showers to reduce your utility bills.
Once you’ve got the money, the next step is figuring out what to do with it. With so many options, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. If you’re not sure how to invest $100, taking stock of what your financial goals are should make the decision easier.
1. Build your emergency fund
Having some cash set aside for those rainy days that always seem to pop up is one of the most basic lessons of Personal Finance 101. Unfortunately, that’s not something colleges are teaching and many 20-somethings find out the hard way how important an emergency stash of money is. A 2014 Wells Fargo showed that 40 percent of young adults don’t have any kind of savings at all.
It might not seem like much to start with but over time, $100 can turn into much more, assuming you don’t have any unexpected expenses creep in along the way. Parking the money in an online savings account means you’ll earn a little interest on the money and we’ve got a round-up of the best accounts available here.
2. Pay down student loans
After paying their everyday bills, student loan debt is the number one financial concern for 29 percent of millennials, according to the Wells Fargo survey. On average, 20- and 30-somethings are devoting about 12 percent of their pay to student debt.
If you’re tired of making that monthly payment each month, using your extra $100 to whittle down the balance faster is worth considering. With a $20,000 balance, for example, your payments would come to just over $200 a month on a 10-year plan. Adding on an extra Benjamin each month would drop it down to about 6 years and take roughly $2,000 off the interest.
Tip: Curious to see just how big a dent extra payments can make on your student loans? Use a student debt tool like Tuition.Io or Student Loan Hero to keep track of your loan balances.
3. Open an IRA Add-on CD
An IRA CD combines the features of a regular IRA with the low-risk reassurance of a certificate of deposit. When you put money into a CD, it stays there earning interest until it reaches maturity, which can be anywhere from a few months to five years. Once it reaches that point, you can renew the CD or roll the money over into another IRA.
An IRA CD is something to consider if you’re ready to start saving something for retirement but you’re not comfortable riding the rollercoaster that is the stock market. You won’t see as much return on your investment based on the kind of rates banks are paying right now but you won’t have to worry about losing money either. Choosing an add-on IRA CD is your best bet if you want to be able to increase your savings in $100 increments each month.
Tip: Check out MyBankTracker’s IRA CD rate comparison tool to find out which banks are offering the best rates right now.
4. Increase 401(k) contributions
If you’ve got a decent emergency fund built up and you’re making steady progress on knocking out your loans, the next step is to fatten up your 401(k). While half of millennials who are saving for retirement are squirreling away 1 to 5 percent of their pay, adding on a few extra bucks to the total can make a big difference over time.
Let’s say you’re 25 years old, making $40,000 a year and saving 5 percent of your earnings each year. By age 65, you’d have about $415,000, not counting your employer match.
Now if you put that extra $100 in each month, that brings your contribution to 8 percent of your pay. Over that same period of time, you’d accumulate more than $660,000 in savings and once again, that doesn’t include what your employer’s matching. Even if you’re a little further along in your career and you don’t have 40 years to save, that extra $100 can drastically change your retirement outlook.
Sharebuilder is a good place to start if you’re ready to jump into the market but you can’t put up a huge lump of cash all at once. You can open an account with any amount of money and you can even snag cash bonuses, depending on the type of account you open. There’s a $6.95 fee for online trades and you have the option to buy and sell individual stocks, exchange-traded funds and mutual funds.
Still not convinced that you can do much with just $100? If you invested just $100 a month for 30 years and earned a 7 percent annual return on the money, it would eventually grow to about $113,000. That’s not too bad for what’s roughly the equivalent of a $5 a day latte fix.
6. Buy I-bonds
Bonds are one of the safest investments around but they’re not just for little old ladies anymore. The Treasury Department offers several choices for savers, including I-bonds, which yield a slightly higher rate than what you’d get from a regular savings account or CD. You can purchase electronic I-bonds for as little as $25, which is perfect when you don’t have a lot to invest.
You should keep in mind that bonds are meant to be held for the long-term so if you’re looking to make some quick cash on your investment, you’re better off buying stocks or mutual funds directly. If you’re comfortable committing the money for the long haul, I-bonds are a good way to supplement your existing retirement savings without having to worry about things like market risk or inflation taking a bite out of your balance.
Tip: You can add all of your savings, investment and retirement accounts into the Mint budgeting app to view all of your balances in one place.
Investing isn’t just for the Warren Buffetts of the world, although it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the kind of bankroll he does. If $100 is all you have to work with, it’s all about choosing the right investment vehicle to make sure you get the biggest payoff.
How will you invest an extra $100? Share with us in the comments below!
Rebecca is a writer for MyBankTracker.com. She is an expert in consumer banking products, saving and money psychology. She has contributed to numerous online outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, and more.