How to Invest $20,000

If you have $20,000 burning a hole in your pocket, max out retirement savings contributions and explore new ways to invest.
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How to Invest $20,000

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If your bank account has seen a $20,000 surge — from a bonus, inheritance, real estate sale or winnings — deciding how to invest that money can be exciting and daunting. $20,000 may not be enough to quit your job and jet off to an idyllic island, but it can help fund many dreams.

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4 ways to invest 20K

1. Max out your retirement accounts

It’s never too early — or late — to plan for retirement. With $20,000, you may have the financial cushion needed to increase or max out your 401(k) and an individual retirement account. The 401(k) annual contribution limit is $23,000 in 2024 ($30,500 for those age 50 or older) and the IRA contribution limit is $7,000 in 2024 ($8,000 if age 50 or older).

Start at work, maxing out your 401(k) match if your employer offers this benefit. For each dollar you invest, your employer will match a portion of that amount. Plan terms vary widely, but a 50% to 100% match on employee contributions ranging from 3% to 6% is typical. Contribute at least enough to earn that full match. If you come up short on your monthly bills due to the increased contributions, your $20,000 is there to help cover the gap.

Next, open an IRA and max that out. You can opt for a traditional IRA for the upfront tax deduction or a Roth IRA to collect a tax break in retirement when you start making withdrawals. Find out if you’re eligible and which is best for you.

Finally, it may make sense to increase your 401(k) contributions, but be mindful of your other investment goals — and your near-term financial needs. Consider whether one of the following three options makes sense for you.

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2. Let a robo-advisor do the work

So you've got your retirement accounts maxed, but you want someone to manage that money?

If making investment decisions is stressful, you may find peace of mind letting someone else — or something else — do the legwork. Robo-advisors use computer algorithms to provide complete portfolio management, offering lower-cost management fees by relying primarily on investments in exchange-traded funds. The tradeoff is less personalization, but robo-advisors may be an attractive option for a chunk of your lump sum.

While management fees vary, a typical range is 0.25% to 0.50% — meaning you’ll pay that percentage annually on the amount you have invested. If you invest $20,000 with a 0.25% fee, you would pay $50 in fees for that year.

» View our full roundup of the best robo-advisors

3. Consider a brokerage account

OK, you've maxed out retirement accounts, but a robo-advisor isn't for you? Welcome to one of the exhilarating aspects of investing: charting your own course. Again, $20,000 will more than meet the minimum account requirements for the major online brokers, where you’ll have access to a variety of investing products — individual stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, bonds, futures and options trading.

The right online brokerage account will give you the freedom to take a DIY approach to stock trading—be it day trading or passive investing—while providing resources for beginners. That might include research, access to financial advisors, in-person or telephone support and automated strategies. Here are some of our top picks.

» Ready to get started? Read our guide on how to invest in stocks

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4. Align your investments with your values

Consider evaluating your values and risk preferences when deciding what to invest in.

Your comfort level with risk will depend on your age, personality and investing goals. And there’s a broad spectrum from which to choose. Generally speaking, if you're planning to invest that $20,000 for a goal that's far away — typically five years or more — you can stand to take more risk. If you're unsure when or if you'll need the money, you might opt for low- or no-risk options such as a high-yield savings account or government bonds.

You might also be interested in investing $20,000 in companies that reflect your values, such as Black-owned businesses, halal assets or sustainable energy companies.

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