Top 4 Alternative Investments to the Stock Market

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Most people think of investing as buying stocks and bonds. The more adventurous might think about a real estate investment trust (REIT). Also, some people consider buying stocks of mining companies or investing in a metals exchange-traded fund (ETF) as a way to invest in gold, silver, platinum and other metals.

But what if you want to avoid anything that trades through a broker or online discount broker? There are alternative investment opportunities. Some of them can make you a lot of money, and some of them may make you a little money. Either way, you are not trapped into choosing stocks, bonds and ETFs that are traded publicly.

When you start thinking about alternative places to put your money, you need to stay away from scams and get-rich-quick schemes. You need some legitimate investment vehicles that may help you prosper. (See also: Should Your Retirement Portfolio Include Alternative Investments?)

1. Peer-to-Peer Lending

Peer-to-peer lending is a relatively new phenomenon. Online services offer loans for businesses, personal loans or anything you can imagine. Once the borrower qualifies, the loan will be funded by people like you. You simply join the pool of investors who are willing to loan money to others.

There is no bank involved. Your money is typically pooled with other investors’ money, and together you make a loan to the individual asking for funds. Here is the best part: the rates you get are higher than you can find almost anywhere. Many people get returns that are in the double digits. You will receive a fixed payment each month that includes the interest you are owed.

The risk is that you are loaning to people who may not have been able to get a loan from a bank or otherwise can’t go through traditional loan outlets. However, you can decide the credit rating you will consider for a borrower, and you have the choice to fund or not.

2. Real Estate

When investing in real estate, you can buy and own property. This means becoming a landlord. You buy a house, duplex or multi-family dwelling like an apartment complex and collect rent. The returns can be very high, because you don’t have to pay in full for the property. You make a down payment, and the bank finances the rest. But you get the rental income and appreciation from the property. That is leverage.

You can do this alone, or you can form a partnership with like-minded investors. This can help you spread some of the risk, and you may find people who are more knowledgeable than you when it comes to real estate.

Before you consider buying property, ask yourself if you have what it takes to be a landlord. There are a lot of headaches, and none of them are routine. Things break, accidents happen, people fall behind on rent. You may hire a management company to handle all of this, but of course that will cost money.

3. Gold

Gold is a tangible inflation hedge, a liquid asset, and a long-term store of value. As a result, it is a sought-after asset class and a strong competitor to stocks. Gold is regarded as a great diversifier because of its low correlation with other asset classes, especially stocks. This becomes more pronounced in tougher times when gold often acts as a rescue asset. There are various routes for investors to take exposure to gold like buying and holding physical gold such as coins or bars, gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs), gold accounts, or investing indirectly through gold mining stocks or futures and options. However, as a small investor, it is best to opt for direct methods of investing in gold. An allocation of five to 10 percent in gold is considered healthy for an individual’s portfolio. (For more, see: What Moves Gold Prices?)

4. Owning Your Own Business

You can use your money to invest in your own business. This can produce the highest returns of all your investment choices. It can also fail and cost you a lot of money and sorrow.

However, many businesses produce a nice, steady income and grow over time. Think about areas where you could be a consultant, or try an online business, or think about a shop you would like to open. Whatever you choose, you will need money to start a business.

One way to approach this is to only put part of your money into a business and invest the rest elsewhere. This approach can save you some sleepless nights. Another approach is to create a part-time business, something you can do on evenings and weekends. That way, you don’t have to give up the security of your regular job, and you will be making extra money.

Your risk is that the business could fail, or the original owner might not be able to make payments to you periodically. Use a lawyer to set up the paperwork so you will be protected if the owner defaults.

The Bottom Line

Your investment portfolio should be diversified. This means you should consider a variety of stocks, but it also means you can invest in non-stock market investment vehicles. Consider where your money would grow best, based on your tolerance for risk. Remember, the higher the risk, the greater the potential rewards.