Investing can be tricky at the best of times; with endless options, instability in the markets, and several different voices suggesting that you invest here or there. Whether you're new to investing or a seasoned veteran, sometimes just getting clarity among all of the financial noise can be a challenge. Here are five investments you should make this year.
1. Your Retirement
Putting money into your 401k or IRA account for retirement should be your number one investment; whether you're 25 or 45, new to investing or been at it for years. Retirement is something that adults of all ages should be seriously thinking about. Ideally, you'll want to start saving in your 20s, but it's never too late to start putting away money for your golden years.
Retirement can carry a lot of costs; from medical care to food and housing to vehicle expenses and more. The type of lifestyle you want to have during your retirement will be a major factor in how much you save, but for the average person, saving at least 15% of your annual income per year is the suggested goal.
Retirement is a good investment. While it certainly carries some risk, which goes up depending on the vehicle you choose, the overall security of a retirement fund is tighter than with other investments. With a 401k, your employer will even match a percentage (sometimes as much as 60%) of your contributions; taking some of the burden to save for retirement off of you.
Planning for retirement can be stressful without any help or knowledge in the subject. Financial advisors are the perfect remedy for this issue; with years of expertise and certification to ensure their credibility, these financial experts will help you plan out your retirement savings and help you invest wisely. If you're in the market for an advisor, you can read about the best financial advisors on the Careful Cents site.
2. Emerging Markets
Fidelity Investments, one of the top investment firms in the country, suggests looking into emerging markets as potential investments instead of the home market for a few reasons. Besides being a potential long-term profitable investment, emerging markets tend to perform well under the right circumstances; making a careful selection of the right EM a smart investment move.
Investing in an EM can add diversity to your portfolio, putting you in a potentially high-value investment should the market perform well. With the "trade wars" going on between China and the US, the world's two largest economies, there are several opportunities available to invest in EMs. Talk with an advisor today to learn which investments are worth a shot.
3. Real Estate
Sites like Fundrise have become popular with investors in recent years, as they provide a more secure way to invest in the real estate market than traditional investing. You'll be investing in real estate notes or shares, and with returns of up to 12%, the site is certainly generating some serious buzz.
If you choose to invest with a company like Fundrise, however, it's important to remember that if the market takes a dive, you can't cash in your account and walk away from the investment. Your investments won't be considered liquid, so walking away from them is, unfortunately, not an option. This is why having diversity in your portfolio is so important; putting all of your eggs in one basket is never a good idea, especially in the investment world.
4. Peer-to-Peer Lending
Peer-to-peer lending has been around for a while, but it's a great way to get started with investing. Essentially, you'll be loaning money to individuals via the peer-to-peer platform (like Lending Club from California) and collect the interest payments on the loan. The site claims to have returns of around 4-7% per year, which isn't bad for beginner and veteran investors alike.
With a low correlation on the stock market, Lending Club's notes have a better chance of generating a return; with 99% of portfolios with 100+ notes seeing positive returns. Those are pretty good odds in the investing world. The best part about peer-to-peer lending is that you'll get principal and interest payments year-round. Think of all that you could do with a few thousand extra dollars per year!
With over 12 years in the business, Lending Club is one of the most trusted investment and personal lending platforms out there. If you'd like to see your money grow while performing a valuable service, peer-to-peer lending is for you.
5. Your Physical and Mental Health
While we're busy investing in types of income-generating assets, retirement accounts, etc., we often forget about ourselves; and how valuable investment in the self really can be. Investing in your physical and mental health this year will ensure that you'll be able to keep functioning at full capacity for years to come. Mental health is especially overlooked, particularly in the workplace.
Mental health plays a crucial role in our success and happiness, and investing in creating a better mental image of ourselves and the world can go a long way. Don't be afraid to spend some extra money on you this year. Invest in better food and eating habits or therapy if you're suffering from a mental health condition. The dividends on these investments can truly last a lifetime!
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."