How To Invest $20K: 7 Ways To Increase Your Wealth

May 7, 2022
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Written By Adam

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If you have $20K in cash sitting around, here are 7 ways to make your money work.


Perhaps you have an excessive amount of money in your emergency savings, inherited some money, or had an unexpected windfall. And instead of earning close to 0% at your local bank, or any bank, you want to invest your money to increase your wealth.

While $20K is undoubtedly not a tiny sum, don’t quit your day job just yet. But with the right strategy, you can set yourself up for long-term financial success.

1. Max-Out Your Traditional Retirement Accounts

The most common types of retirement accounts are 403B and 401K plans. These plans are funded with pre-tax dollars via payroll deductions. If you have $20K sitting in your bank, one of the wisest ways to invest $20K is by increasing your retirement contribution percentage at your employer. You effectively do a 401k swap by using the cash on hand to supplement your decreased paycheck.

However, it’s important to note the contribution caps for those under 50:

401(k): Most for-profit companies sponsor this type of plan. It allows you to contribute pre-tax dollars to your account. The maximum contribution amount for 2022 is $20,500 – a $1,000 increase from 2021.

403(b): Also called a tax-sheltered annuity or TSA plan. If you’re a teacher or work at a non-profit 501 (c) (3), you most likely are offered this type of retirement plan. The maximum contribution amount for 2022 is $20,500.

Most employers make it reasonably easy to increase your contribution amount. Contribution adjustments can generally be made through your company portal or a form provided by your retirement servicer.

Once you invested your desired amount, decrease the contribution amount to not go over the contribution cap.

This brings me to my next point…

2. Open A Backdoor Roth IRA

Back-Door Roth IRAs allow you to invest up to $6,000 in after-tax money. The withdraws are tax-free once you reach age 59 1/2 and the account has been open for at least five years.

You could use your $20K to fund three years of Back-Door Roth IRA contributions!

One interesting benefit of Back Door Roth IRAs is that you can withdraw up to $10,000 in earnings if you are withdrawing to make your 1st home purchase (you need to have your account for at least 5 years).

Back Door Roth IRAs had generally flown under the radar until Pro Publica recently published an article documenting how investor Peter Thiel has a Roth IRA worth $5 Billion! Thiel’s case is extreme and highly unusual compared to your average investor.

3. Open A Traditional Brokerage Account

You fund the account with after-tax dollars when you open a taxable brokerage account. You will pay capital gains taxes on any realized earnings, e.g., when you sell a stock or mutual fund and make a profit. Traditional brokerages offer stock, bonds, mutual funds, ETF, options trading, and margin accounts. These services are what most investors require.

There are quite a few options for brokerage accounts for stock market investing, and most of them generally offer similar services. Hence, it’s usually a matter of preference for which company is considered the “best.”

A few big-name brokerages are:

  • TD Ameritrade
  • Charles Schwab
  • E-Trade
  • Vanguard

To name a few. In addition, some of the fintech firms such as M1 Finance often offer bonuses for opening accounts with them, if that is appealing to you.

Lastly, a new player in the brokerage space, All of Us Financial, will pay you a portion of their commission on payment order flow and securities lending. That means a hypothetical $25,000 portfolio could earn $250 just from their routine trading activities.

Note: Read more about payment for order flow and securities lending in my full review of All of Us Financial.

4. Fund A 529 Savings Plan For Future Education Costs

After-tax dollars are used to fund a 529 plan. Withdraws are tax-free when they are used for qualified education expenses. Qualified expenses are amounts paid for tuition, fees, and other related expenses required for enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution.

In addition, investing in a 529 plan is also a great way to create generational wealth because there are no limits on the number of 529 accounts you can fund.

You may not have children now, but you can open a 529 Saving Plan in your name and transfer it to your future children, even if that is 5 or 10 years down the road. 

Time is our best friend in the investing world!

The cost of college tuition has risen by more than 25% in the last 10 years, so it’s never a bad idea to invest 20K for future education expenses.

Many states also offer their own 529 plans, but it’s not always required to open through your home state. However, tax deductions or credits may open through your home state.

Alternatively, most major retail brokerages also offer 529 savings plans, such as the companies listed above in point 3.

5. Consider Investing With A Robo Advisor

Understandably, not everyone has the investment acumen to jump into the deep end. Perhaps you are interested in investing but don’t know how or where to start. A Robo-advisor makes automated investment choices on your behalf that involve limited human intervention. The decisions are made on your behalf through information collected in a survey you fill out.

The types of questions asked in the survey will touch on your financial goals and your current financial situation.

Some Robo Advisors charge a management fee of around 0.25% – 0.50% of assets invested, and some are free.

A few popular Robo Advisors include:

Note: The critical thing to consider is that you are getting investment advice based on your situation and eliminating the decision-making process from your end. In exchange, you may be required to pay a management fee. If that trade-off is worth it based on your unique circumstances, then perhaps Robo-advising is wise.

6. Invest in Real Estate

Until a few years ago, the only way to invest in real estate was to buy a physical property yourself. Luckily, things have changed since then. There are quite a few companies that offer the opportunity to invest in real estate without becoming a landlord.

A top-rated real estate investing platform on the rise is a company called GROUNDFLOOR. They specialize in short-term loans to flippers, with a time horizon of 6 – 12 months, and you can invest with as little as ten dollars.

Alternatively, If you are an accredited investor, two popular companies are RealtyMogul and CrowdStreet.

Note: These investments are relatively illiquid, so make sure to do your research beforehand and understand the restrictions.

7. Pay-Off High-Interest Debt

Ok, this really isn’t investing in the traditional sense. There is a concept called risk-free return in investing, and paying off debt is a risk-free return. Over the past 50 years, the S&P 500 returned 10% on average, so it may make sense to pay off your debt before investing, depending on your interest rate.

Interest RatePay-Off or Invest?Types of Debt
<3%Invest, money is basically freeMortgage/Student loans
3 – 4 %Probably Invest (Subject to Debate)Student Loans, Car loans
4 – 5%Pay Off (Subject to Debate)Student loans, Car loans
5 – 10%Pay Off, for surePersonal loans (Unsecured), Student loans
>10%Pay Off, are you crazy?Credit Card debt, Payday loans

The Bottom Line

Taking the initiative to invest $20K is a wise decision. There is no right or wrong answer on how to invest $20k. The most crucial point to consider is to decide what makes sense for your unique circumstances.

Everyone’s financial situation is different, but it’s essential to consider your current situation, goals, risk tolerance and needs before investing.

Weigh the pros and cons of the above options against your objectives to help make the most educated decision possible.

How would you invest $20K? Comment below and let the RWPF audience know!


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