How to Invest Small Amounts of Money

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Investing on a Small Scale

There are plenty of ordinary people out there who would like to invest money for the future, but ordinarily an investment counselor won't talk to them because they have only small amounts of money and their small amount would be eaten away by the commissions (and, after all, those investment counselors have to eat). So, for the person with $10 a month, or even $10 a week, how do you find ethical, worthwhile investments that are going to give you a reasonable return? These days, with interest rates near zero, putting your money in a savings account is no longer a reasonable option, because it is likely that unless you are in a local credit union, small amounts of savings will be eaten away by bank charges. Penny stocks might be an option, but you would have to save a considerable amount of money to be able to buy one stock even one time.

However, there are relatively safe, ethical investments that are open to the average person who has only a small amount of money to spare. These range from loans to more unorthodox business ventures, and while, as with almost any investment, there is some risk, the likelihood is that most of these ideas will give you some return plus your original investment back.

The Microfinance Revolution: Sustainable Finance for the Poor
The Microfinance Revolution: Sustainable Finance for the Poor

If you want to understand the root causes of poverty, and how to break the cycle of poverty, this book is a must-read. If you read only one book on microlending, this is the one to choose.

 

Microfinance

Microfinance is a way to help poverty-stricken entrepreneurs, usually in less-developed countries, who need just a little money to set up their own businesses. This is a loan, and while some of the microloans are not backed by guarantees, most microfinance organizations do a fairly reasonable job of screening their applicants, and have some reserves in case someone defaults on a loan. Loans are given out to applicants in amounts as little as five dollars, and can have a lifespan of up to three years. The riskiest loans in some microfinance organizations may pay more than 3 per cent interest per annum. The best news is that you will be helping to lift some hard worker out of poverty and improve the lives of dozens, if not hundreds of people. A single $20 loan can help up to five people in a hard-hit country like Haiti, for example. If you are interested in gender equality, most of the loans are made to women, who tend to have a track record of paying back their loans more responsibly. I have been making microloans of $20 or so to these organizations, and so far, every one has made their interest payments on time. You won't get rich on microloans, but you will be improving the world and making more money with less risk than with many other kinds of investments.

Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It
Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It

A fabulous introduction to the hows and whys of local finance. You and your neighbors and friends can save your favorite local businesses by providing microfinancing, or even buying shares in your local companies! (You don't need the stock market to buy shares!)

 
The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future

An excellent resource on starting your own business, even for children too young to work. With all the child entrepreneur success stories out there, can your child afford to be left out?

 

Local Investment

When you buy a stock, you are buying shares of a company. But you actually don't need the stock exchange to do that; you can invest in a privately-held company you care about, simply by taking the time to get to know the owners, and finding a way to help them out.

Take, for example, a local mom-and-pop business that you love: perhaps a coffee roaster, or a microbrewery, or any local startup without an internet presence. You can offer to build and host a web site for them (web hosting fees are usually under $3.00 per month). Then you simply make a written agreement that they will pay you a certain percentage of the profits that come from internet sales, or from new customers who find them through the internet. Of course, this will have to be a business you trust, and you will need some form of a contract (even an agreement written on notebook paper, and signed by both parties, would be valid in most cases). While I am not a lawyer, in my research I find that if a contract is reasonably fair, it will be upheld by the courts, should a problem arise.

Small businesses, especially startups, have all kinds of problems. By solving a problem for a local small business, you can ask for a small percentage of ownership in exchange, and that is the same thing as owning shares of stock in a larger company. In addition, you will have more control over the company than with stock, because your ownership will not be diluted by thousands of other shareholders.

Starting a Micro Business
Starting a Micro Business

If you are thinking of investing in your own microbusiness, this is a book on success by someone who has done it. Not a scam, nothing to buy, just the complete guide to microbusiness success.

 
Business Basics: A Microbusiness Startup Guide (PSI Successful Business Library)
Business Basics: A Microbusiness Startup Guide (PSI Successful Business Library)

If you decide to invest in yourself by starting your own business, this book, while not a blueprint for starting a business, is full of useful information that can help you decide if an idea is a go, and will give you direction for refining your business as you go along.

 

Starting Your Own Business

If you like to be in charge of things and don't mind a whole lot of hard work, you could take that small investment and turn it into a business. For example, if you like crafting, you can buy a few dollars' worth of crafts and sell them at a profit, and then use the profits plus that same amount of investment to make a larger purchase, and so on. Of course, you will have to be mindful of local laws and make sure to pay taxes on what you earn, including, if applicable, sales taxes.

Government Investment

Investing in a government vehicle is usually very safe and can be done for just a few dollars. For example, the United States government has savings bonds, which can be purchased for as little as $100. This is a long-term investment, because U.S. Savings Bonds mature in thirty years, so don't use this for money you may need in the meantime!

A Close View of American Money, by Joel Sartore
A Close View of American Money, by Joel Sartore | Source

Good Luck!

So you see, with a little forethought, you can turn even a few dollars a month into a quite reasonable investment opportunity and begin to build your personal wealth. The process doesn't have to be risky or complicated; simply do what makes the best sense for you, given your situation. Of course, you will want to research any investment opportunity thoroughly, and understand the risks and rewards; if there is a prospectus, you will want to read it carefully and make sure that everything is clear to you. Take your time, think any decision through rationally, and ensure you understand what you are investing in.

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Comments 2 comments

MJ Martin profile image

MJ Martin 22 months ago from Washington State

We look into a variety of new ideas for investing every year. This is the one I am going to try some of the ideas you've presented here.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 19 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

I never thought about microloans as an investment before. Thanks for the links; I'm going to check them out.

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