Summary: Want to know how to invest money? In this article, you’ll learn about 20 safe investments with high returns. Topics include low-risk investments, high yield investments, low risk-high return investments and where to invest money to get good returns.
Can an Investment be Safe?
To be perfectly transparent, no investment is 100% safe from all risk. Because of fluctuating markets and a sometimes unpredictable economy, it’s hard to say which single investment is the safest. However, there are some investment categories that are much safer than others.
Low-risk investments carry a reasonable expectation that you may break even or incur a small loss. On the flip side, higher-risk investments can offer much better returns. Finding low risk, high yield investments is a tall order. That’s why we’ve come up with a list of 20 safe investments with high returns. That said, no matter where you decide to invest your money, make sure your portfolio is diversified in order to minimize your overall risk.
What is a Safe Investment?
A few safe investment options include certificates of deposit (CDs), money market accounts, municipal bonds and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS). That’s because investments like CDs and bank accounts are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) for up to $250,000. If the bank isn’t able to pay you back, you’ll get your money back from the FDIC. I’ll break down each of these safe investment options in the sections below.
How & Where To Invest Money To Get Good Returns in 2021
There are many investments where you can get good returns, including dividend-paying stocks, real estate and businesses. While these investments can produce high returns, some are much safer than others.
Deciding where and how to invest money to get good returns in 2021 should be based on your short-term and long-term financial goals, timeframe, tolerance to risk, and how much money you currently have in the bank.
These individual factors should make it easier to determine where to safely invest your money while still earning returns that will help you reach your financial goals and build lasting wealth.
20 Safe Investments with High Returns
Next, I’ll break down 20 safe investment options with good or decent returns.
Investment #1: High-Yield Savings Account
Key Takeaways: Savings accounts are insured by the FDIC, which means your money is 100% safe. Most high-yield savings accounts offer 2% guaranteed returns. While this return may seem minuscule compared to other investment options, it’s actually a great deal because of the risk level.
Best For: Stockpiling money into your emergency fund and investors looking for no risk investment options. As stated above, any losses up to $250,000 is backed by the FDIC, making high-yield savings accounts the star of no risk investments. It’s also an extremely liquid investment–so if you need quick access to your money, you won’t incur a penalty or fee.
The national average for savings account interest rates is just 0.1%. If your current bank doesn’t offer a high-yield savings account with around a 2% return, consider switching banks or opening a separate high-yield account.
Investment #2: Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
Key Takeaways: CDs should produce higher returns than the majority of savings accounts. But this type of low risk investment offers less flexibility because pulling your money out early will result in a penalty.
Best For: A longer term investment for money that you won’t need for the near future and financially stable investors looking to minimize risk.
CDs or Certificates of Deposit are very similar to savings accounts in that they are insured by the FDIC and carry absolutely no risk. However, CDs differ from savings accounts in a big way–liquidity.
When you invest in a CD, you are committing to an investment timeframe. The timeframe can vary from one month to one, two or even five years. If you choose to access the cash before the agreed upon timeframe, you’ll have to pay a penalty. To make up for the lack of access to your money, most CDs offer a higher rate of return.
Investment #3: High-Yield Money Market Accounts
Key Takeaways: Much like a savings account, MMAs are also one of the safest ways to invest money because it’s FDIC-insured. The main difference is the option to write a certain number of checks every month.
Best For: Money you may need infrequent access to and investors wanting more flexibility than a savings account.
Most of the time, money market accounts come with better returns than savings accounts. They offer more liquidity and some allow you to use checks or a debit card to access the account. Many people choose to have a high-yield savings account along with a MMA and here’s why… Let’s say you only make deposits to the account and write one check a month for rent. Because MMAs can offer better interest rates, it would make sense to utilize both. Shop around for the best returns on MMAs as well as CDs and high-yield savings accounts.
Investor Tip: The FDIC insures up to $250,000 per bank, per person. So if you have multiple accounts with a combined amount over the limit, that money is not insured.
Investment #4: Treasury Securities
Key Takeaway: Treasury securities are fully backed by the U.S. government, similar to the protection offered by FDIC-insured bank accounts. They are issued by the government to raise money to pay for projects and debt.
Best For: Money you will not need to access before the maturity date of the bond; any funds that are over the $250,000 FDIC limit; investors looking for a safe investment with higher returns in exchange for flexibility.
Treasuries will operate a lot like CDs in that there’s a set interest rate and date of maturity. The date of maturity could range from one month to 30 years. During the investment period, you will receive regular “coupons” or payments from the interest and the entire principle amount once the bond reaches maturity. These securities are some of the safest investments out there.
Three types of securities offered by the U.S. government include:
- Treasury Bills or T-bills have a short-term maturity date of one year or less and aren’t technically interest-bearing. They’re sold at a discount, but upon maturity, the government will pay you its market value.
- Treasury Notes or T-notes carry longer-term maturity dates of two, three, five, seven and 10 years. Note holders earn interest every six months at a fixed rate. Upon maturity, the government will pay you the face value of the note.
- Treasury Bonds or T-bonds come with the longest maturity date of 30 years. These bonds will pay you interest twice a year and market value once it reaches maturity.
Bonds are basically structured loans made to a large organization. They carry a higher risk but offer a higher return potential.
T-bills, T-notes or T-bonds are bonds issued for government debt and guaranteed by the U.S. government.
It’s important to note that you can’t take your money out of a treasury bond prior to the maturity date, not even for a fee. You can, however, sell the bond on the secondary market and try to access your money that way.
Investment #5: Government Bond Funds
Key Takeaways: Government bond funds are essentially mutual funds that invest in debt securities. These funds are sponsored by the U.S. government as a way to pay off debt and fund other projects.
Best For: low-risk investors; beginning investors; and individuals seeking cash flow.
While debt securities are a low-risk investment because they’re backed by the government, the fund itself is not. As such, it’s impacted by inflation and fluctuating interest rates.
Investment #6: Municipal Bond Funds
Key Takeaways: Municipal bond funds are issued by state and local governments and invest in several different municipal bonds or munis. Generally, any earned interest is not taxed federally and may even be exempt from state and local taxes.
Best For: Investors just starting out looking for a way to diversify without having to research individual bonds. These funds are also great for cash flow investors.
The only risk associated with municipal bonds is in the event of default. When the bond issuer defaults or is unable to make income or principle payments, you may lose a portion or all of your investment. While cities and states rarely go bankrupt, it can happen. However, it’s an extremely safe investment with fairly high returns.
For this reason, owning several bonds within a municipal fund is a great way to spread potential risk and diversify. Investors also have the flexibility to sell or buy shares every business day, making municipal bonds another highly liquid investment.
Investment #7: Short-Term Corporate Bond Funds
Key Takeaways: Just like governments, corporations can also issue bonds to investors to raise money. Investors can decrease risk through buying shares of short-term bond funds. These short-term bonds have an average maturity of one to five years, making them less exposed to changes in interest rates.
Best For: Investors willing to take on a little bit more risk to get higher returns; investors looking to diversify their bond holdings.
Corporate bonds act much like municipal bonds or munis but are a bit riskier and usually earn a bit more interest. However, there are lots of options to invest in corporations that are financially solid. If you stick to investing in big public corporations like Google, Amazon or Apple, you’ll minimize the likelihood of losing your money because it’s very unlikely these companies will go bankrupt in the near future.
Additionally, corporate bonds can be bought or sold each business day, making them a more liquid investment.
Investment #8: Dividend-Paying Stocks
Key Takeaways: Buying stock in individual companies is riskier than the previously described low risk investments, however dividend-paying stocks should produce regular returns regardless of up or down markets.
Best For: Individuals seeking long-term, passive income producing investments; and younger investors looking to reinvest the money earned from dividends for portfolio growth.
Dividends are regular cash payments to invested shareholders of a corporation. Owning individual stocks within a company increases your risk because your entire investment is at the mercy of that company’s success or failure.
Dividend stocks become less risky when you buy into companies with a long history of financial stability and success. These “top tier” corporations that offer consistent cash payments will be your safest bet.
Investment #9: Growth Stock Funds
Key Takeaways: Growth stock funds invest in a diverse set of growth stocks, as opposed to a single growth stock. In turn, decreasing the risk of a single growth stock dropping and hurting your entire portfolio.
Best For: Beginner and even expert investors who wish to further diversify their portfolio. Investors willing to take on more risk for significantly higher returns.
Growth stocks are one portion of the stock market that has performed well long-term. Many tech companies that are growing fast offer growth stock options, but they rarely distribute cash to investors, like dividend stocks. Rather, most companies choose to reinvest the cash in their business for continued growth.
Growth stock funds remove the need to evaluate and select individual growth stocks. Instead the fund is actively managed by expert managers who choose a diversified set of growth stocks to invest your money.
Keep in mind that any type of investment in the stock market carries a certain level of risk. However, utilizing a professional should reduce the risk of buying a bad growth stock. These types of investments are also highly liquid, giving investors the flexibility to move their money in and out.
Investment #10: S&P 500 Index Fund/ETFs
Key Takeaways: The S&P 500 Index Fund is made up of the 500 largest companies in America. Buying funds that are made up of hundreds of stocks and keeping it long-term, will minimize a lot of the associated risk and produce stronger returns compared to bonds.
Best For: Long-term investing; young investors with time to weather fluctuating markets; those looking to grow their money faster than bonds and banks can produce.
Investing in the stock market is an entirely different realm of risk. That’s because stocks are inherently more risky than most bonds due to a volatile market. On any given day, you could double your investment, or lose it completely.
However, there are ways to decrease risk by using index funds or ETFs to diversify your portfolio. By investing in hundreds or thousands of companies, you are spreading your risk out across different markets, making this a reasonably safe investment with high returns.
Investment #11: Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
Key Takeaways: REITs are companies that own and manage real estate.
Best For: Investors who want to own real estate but without the hassle of managing the property; investors looking for passive income or cash flow; retirees.
The REIT market is made up of a number of sub sectors that investors can choose from. Popular sectors include housing REITs, commercial REITs, retail REITs, hotel REITs, etc.
Investing in an REIT that is publicly traded on major exchanges instead of a private fund is the safer investment option. Look for REITs with a long history of a continually rising dividend as opposed to funds with the best current returns.
Cash from REITs can be taken out any time the stock market is open.
Investment #12: Rental Housing
Key Takeaways: Buy and hold real estate is a long-term investing strategy. Inflation actually helps the rental housing market by eating away debt while increasing the value of assets.
Best For: Buy and hold investors seeking long-term growth; building wealth for retirement.
Real estate investors can enjoy higher annual income from rising rents due, in large part, to inflation. It’s like getting an automatic pay raise every year. Additionally, history has shown that home values have consistently increased along with inflation and even exceeded it. In many areas around the country, homes will appreciate 1.5 times faster or more than the rate of inflation.
Interested in learning more about investing in rental properties? Or want to become an investor yourself? Visit our sister website that specializes in real estate investing to learn how.
Just like other types of investments, real estate comes with its own set of risks. The housing market can fluctuate. We experienced the harshness of a fluctuating housing market during the Great Recession of 2008, where foreclosure rates skyrocketed due to a number of factors I won’t get into.
On the other hand, real estate investors who choose to invest in strong, growing markets, often overlooked for the glitz and glam of big market cities, minimize their risk exponentially. Although buying a rental property requires more cash upfront, you won’t lose your entire investment because it’s a physical asset with (hopefully) appreciating value. This helps make real estate a relatively low risk, high return investment. Keeping a property in your portfolio long-term can continually generate more and more passive income each year.
Owning rental property is one of the least liquid investments out there as you’ll have to sell in order to recoup your cash.
Investor Tip: You need to decide if you want to manage the rental property yourself or hire a management company. The good news is, most expenses related to a rental property manager are tax deductible.
Investment #13: Nasdaq 100 Index Fund
Key Takeaways: The Nasdaq 100 is a fund made up of 100 of the most successful and stable companies. Investors can buy shares of the fund and spread risk across different 100 companies.
Best For: Individuals who want to create immediate portfolio diversification; owning shares in all the companies in the index fund; beginner investors.
The Nasdaq 100 Index fund has some of the best tech companies in the world. That means they are highly valued and thus susceptible to stock market fluctuations. As with other public index funds, your money is easily accessible any business day.
Investment #14: Industry-Specific Index Fund
Key Takeaways: Industry-specific index funds allow investors to choose an industry you’re interested in, rather than evaluating individual companies within that industry.
Best For: Investors passionate about a specific industry who wish to diversify risk exposure without having to analyze individual companies; beginners and advanced investors.
If the industry you invest in does well, then the entire fund will likely do well, too. On the other hand, if one industry drops, most or all of the companies in the industry will follow suit. Thus decreasing the benefit of fund diversification.
Cash may be accessed any day the market is open.
Investment #15: Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS)
Key Takeaways: TIPS offer lower returns, but the principle amount invested will go up or down in value depending on inflation rates during the time period you hold the bond.
Best For: Cash you won’t need access to before the maturity date of the bond; any funds over the FDIC-insured limit of $250,000; investors who wish to have no inflation-based risk within their portfolio.
Because the majority of investment options we’ve covered in this article do not account for changes in inflation, TIPS are a low risk investment option that adjusts along with inflation. So if inflation goes up, your money will too. Returns may be modest compared to higher risk investments, but your money will stay level with inflation rates.
As with other treasuries, if you decide to sell prior to your maturity date, your risk will inevitably increase.
Investment #16: Annuities
Key Takeaways: There are different types of annuities, but ultimately an investor is making a trade with an insurance company. The insurance company is taking a lump sum of money in exchange for a rate of guaranteed return.
Best For: Investors looking to stabilize their portfolio long-term; risk-averse retirement savers seeking higher returns along with a protected principle.
There are fixed annuities (with a fixed rate of return) and variable annuities (with the rate of return partially determined by stock market health). Whenever you are getting a guaranteed return, it’s usually a very safe investment. Annuities are backed by the insurance company that holds the annuity, much like the Federal government.
Investment #17: Real Estate Crowdfunding
Key Takeaways: A relatively new way to invest in different types of real estate is called crowdfunding. The best real estate crowdfunding companies pool money from investors in exchange for a portion of a project or multiple projects.
Best For: Investors looking to get into real estate investing, but don’t want to own or manage an entire property.
Real estate crowdfunding is a great way to enjoy all the benefits of owning real estate, without having to maintain or manage property. Effective crowdfunding companies have a proven track record of low-risk investments, such as single-family homes or apartment buildings in good neighborhoods and growing markets.
This investing strategy decreases risk and provides a more predictable return, making it one of the top low-risk high return investments available.
Investment #18: Credit Card Rewards
Key Takeaways: Using a credit card with cash rewards is a low risk investment that’s often overlooked. Some of the best credit cards out there offer much better returns than you might earn with a CD or online savings account.
Best For: Individuals already using a credit card to pay bills; investors looking for the closest thing to “free money.”
Credit cards are frequently perceived as something consumers should avoid, due to high interest rates and insane amounts of debt. In reality, as long as credit cards are used wisely, they can offer great cash back rewards and yield higher returns than many investments offered by banks.
Capital One Quicksilver, Wells Fargo Cash Wise, Chase Freedom and Bank of American Cash Rewards are some of the best cash back credit cards on the market. Yet another safe investment with decently high returns.
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Investment #19: Peer-To-Peer Lending
Key Takeaways: P2P lending allows investors to lend their money to others. Also known as crowdfunding, returns from this type of investment come from interest over the lifetime of the loan.
Best For: Investors with enough cash reserves to “lend” money or to buy into a portion of a loan and earn interest based on a set rate; new investors looking for low minimum investment requirements.
People lending other people money has been happening for centuries. Peer-to-peer lending is just that; an investor lends his or her own money to a borrower, with the agreement that the loan will be repaid to the lender, over a specified time period, plus interest. Interest rates for P2P lending varies based on perceived risk, projected inflation and the length of the loan.
P2P lending is considered a relatively low risk, high return investment option. While lending will definitely diversify your investment portfolio, it’s important to understand that these loans are unsecured. So if a borrower defaults on their loan, it could hurt your return. The good news is, there are different levels of risk associated with each loan, so you can decide how much risk to take on.
Investment #20: Mutual Funds
Key Takeaways: A mutual fund is where investors pool their money to buy stocks, bonds or other assets. These funds are a cheaper way to diversify your portfolio against a single investment’s loss.
Best For: Saving for a long-term goal, like retirement; convenient exposure to higher stock market returns.
Mutual funds allow investors to buy into different companies that fit under a set criteria. These companies may be in the tech industry or corporations offering high-paying dividends. Mutual funds let investors choose an investing niche to focus on, while spreading risk across multiple investments.
Money within a mutual fund is easily accessible, but requires a minimum initial investment from $500 to thousands of dollars.
What's Next? Grow & Protect Your Money
Finding safe investments with high returns is one of the best ways to protect and grow your money to build lasting wealth. You may want to keep most of your money into super safe investments, like high-yield savings accounts, CDs and US Treasury securities. But if you are looking to get better overall returns, start by investing small amounts of money in bonds, dividend-paying stocks, REITs, real estate or P2P lending. That way, you’ll enjoy higher returns offered by lower-risk investments.