7 New Investment Options Potentially Better Than a 401(k)

A 401(k) is an excellent way to invest your money, especially if you’re looking for a tax advantage with your retirement savings.

However, some student loan borrowers with a high income or net worth may be interested in alternative investments that could outperform the market.

Thanks to new investment companies and alternatives, there are plenty of opportunities to invest for retirement outside of your 401(k). Here are our top seven choices.

1. Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA)

Before you get too focused on alternatives, make sure you have a well-rounded retirement plan.

401(k) plans are tied to an employer and use pre-tax dollars. That means you don’t pay income taxes on contributions. But, you do pay taxes when you withdraw during retirement.

A Traditional IRA is similar. Although it is self-directed and independent of your employer, it uses pre-tax dollars just like a 401(k).

While a Roth IRA is also independent of your employer and uses post-tax dollars, you end up paying income taxes on contributions but not withdrawals.

In addition to common investments like an S&P 500 index fund with a brokerage firm, some non-traditional investments can happen under the umbrella of an IRA or Roth IRA.

For example, a peer-to-peer lending marketplace like Lending Club supports IRA accounts.

The annual limit to contribute to both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA is $5,500.

2. Marketplace business lending

Many investors are familiar with sites like Lending Club as an option for peer-to-peer lending. But what about the lucrative business loan industry?

There are some new investment companies that allow investors to lend to brand new and growing businesses.

One such marketplace is Funding Circle. It’s a small business loan platform based out of the United Kingdom that matches investors with businesses in need of capital for expansion and operations.

Funding Circle advertises that more than 47,000 investors have participated so far investing in 15,000 businesses. To invest through Funding Circle, you must qualify as an accredited investor under Federal guidelines.

3. Angel investing and venture capital

When brand new companies look for their first seed funding, they typically look to a wealthy angel investor or venture capital fund.

Traditional angel investing requires a one-on-one relationship with the business that’s looking to borrow money. That’s why investing in a venture capital fund is traditionally limited to wealthy, well-connected investors.

However, new investment companies are giving would-be investors a new option.

For example, Founders Club allows investing in a portfolio of vetted Silicon Valley startups through an easy-to-use online platform. 17,000 accredited investors look into funding startups that have made their way through highly regarded incubators like Y-Combinator.

Investments with the Founders Club start at $3,000 and can be directed toward a specific startup, or a pool of 10 to 15 companies to diversify risk.

4. Real estate

Until recently, there were only a couple of common ways to invest in real estate.

You could invest directly as a property owner. Or, invest in a real estate investment trust (REIT) that manages properties and pays investors a dividend.

New investment companies like Fundrise offer a new method to invest in real estate. In 2015, investors were able to place funds in real estate projects that yielded a 13% return. Investments started at $1,000.

The Fundrise platform invests in mid-size real estate projects that are too expensive for fix-and-flip investors, but too small for large institutional investors.

Target projects for Fundrise are in the $5 million to $100 million range through what they call an eREIT. Fundrise is open to accredited investors only.

5. Oil and gas

The oil and gas markets have gone on quite a ride over the last couple of years.

Oil’s price peaked at $147.27 per barrel in 2008 and fell below $40 per barrel in February 2009. Prices currently remain low, leading to less expensive gas prices at the pump and lower profits for oil and gas production companies.

If you think oil is on the way up, you can invest by buying stock in an oil and gas company, investing in a limited partnership, or buying the commodity through futures contracts.

Keep in mind that commodity prices can be quite volatile, though, and may make for a risky investment.

6. Solar energy projects

Investment company Wiser Capital offers a solution for investors looking to bankroll solar projects and earn a profit from their investment.

Wiser runs a proprietary platform to quickly assess the viability and profitability of prospective solar projects. It also connects accredited investors with solar power investment opportunities.

7. Secured loans

New investment companies like YieldStreet offer an opportunity to invest in a wide variety of secured loans, including loans backed by residential real estate, pending legal settlements, or even a fleet of Uber cars.

Starting at $5,000 for a one- to three-year loan, accredited investors can put their funds to work on a platform that’s generated 15.43 percent annual returns.

The platform has funded $35 million in investments with 23 different loans to-date.

Be thoughtful with every dollar invested

All investments come with some level of risk, so always invest with care.

Read the prospectus for any investment so you understand the risks, possible returns, and other pertinent information.

If you have any doubt, you can always invest in a sure thing: yourself.

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