Even though the stock market gains over time, right now many people are understandably jittery about the way things are going. While there are bargain hunters out there snapping up cheap stocks, and while it is probably best in the long run to leave your retirement account alone, most people are just looking for safe ways to generate any sort of return. Here are two ways you can get a little bit ahead, even while the market is down:
1. Invest in an emergency fund
It's always a good idea to boost your emergency fund. If you have extra money, put to work for you in the safe area of cash investments. The returns are low (high yielding savings accounts are, on average, between 3.5% and 4% and the highest CDs are offering only 5%), but they are better than what the stock market is offering right now. And any growth is a good thing. Put your emergency fund in the higher yielding cash investments that you can find through online banking offers (ING, Citi and Emigrant are all good choices). You will fare much better than the less than 1% offered at traditional brick and mortar banks. Besides, such investments at least offer some hedge from inflation.
2. Pay down high interest debt
This isn't exactly an investment, but it is a good use of money. If you have credit card debt, a car loan or even a mortgage, you are paying interest at a rate that you cannot overcome in the current market or with cash investments. And now is a great time to pay down debt because the Fed rate is at a low 1.5% and could potentially go even lower. This means that variable rate debt, like home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) and most credit cards, are trending lower in terms of interest charges. More of your money will go to reducing your debt, instead of doing nothing beside pay interest. This is a great chance to pay down principal and free yourself from something that severly limits the growth of your net worth.
Even in a down economy, there are ways to use your money wisely and take advantage of the conditions that we are seeing. In fact, it is especially important that you use your money wisely right now. If you prepare for the future by shoring up your emergency fund and paying down debt, you will have less to fear from the future.
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