If you're like most of us, your primary goal as an investor is to turn a little bit of money today into more money in the future, to cover expenses you'll have down the road. Doubling your money is a great goal, and the more times you can do that over the course of your investing career, the better off you'll wind up in the end.
Of course, doubling your money is usually easier said than done. At minimum, you need a combination of time and a decent strategy, and it often helps to have a boost from your boss and Uncle Sam as well. With that in mind, these four proven ways to double your money may be able to get you on track to get there faster.
No. 1: Get enough time in the stock market
Over the long run, the stock market has provided annualized average returns somewhere in the neighborhood of 9% to 10%. Using a short cut estimate known as the Rule of 72, that means by investing in a broad stock market index, your money has a decent chance of doubling somewhere in the vicinity of every 7.2 to 8 years. This is a key reason such a large part of investing success comes from starting early.
Double your money once, and $1,000 turns into $2,000. Double it again, and it becomes $4,000. The next doubling gets you $8,000, the next one $16,000, the next one $32,000, and then $64,000 after six doublings. Using the Rule of 72 estimate, your earliest invested money can potentially double around six times in a typical career, which makes that early money so very valuable to your plan.
No. 2: Enlist your boss and Uncle Sam for help getting there quickly
When you invest in a traditional-style 401(k) plan, you get an immediate tax deduction based on the amount of your marginal tax rate. If your 401(k) also offers a match, the combination can often add up to the opportunity to nearly instantly double your money.
Here's how that works. Depending on your income, the states you live and work in, and filing status, the tax benefit could be somewhere around 22% federal and 3% state -- or 25% total. In addition, matches differ by companies, but a typical match offers 50% of your contribution amount, up to some percentage of your salary.
If you put $1,000 into your Traditional 401(k) and receive a 50% match, that's a total of $1,500 going into your account. If you're in that 25% combined marginal tax bracket, your $1,000 contribution represents only $750 of otherwise spendable cash.
That combination means that for $750 of money out of your pocket, your account balance grew by $1,500. That's a great way to double your money far faster than virtually any other means can get you there.
No. 3: Series EE Savings bonds -- if you hold them long enough
Although bond interest rates are near all-time lows, there's one U.S. government-backed bond that stands out because of its promise to double your money. If held for at least 20 years, the series EE savings bonds will double your invested money. Aside from that one-time doubling, they earn a tiny interest rate -- which is currently a mere 0.1%.
Of course, such a great opportunity comes with strings attached. Most notably, you can only buy -- or have gifted to you -- up to $10,000 worth of Series EE bonds in any given calendar year. That makes those bonds a reasonable tool for a limited purpose, but they alone won't be enough to build a substantial nest egg on their own.
No. 4: Invest in real estate
Real estate is one of the few investments where ordinary people may be able to successfully make use of leverage to help boost their total returns. Most lenders will require higher equity in a property to make an investment real estate loan than when offering a loan on your primary residence. Still, the typical equity requirement for rental real estate is around 25%, which means that qualifying investors can borrow 75% of the value of the property.
The leverage means that property values don't have to double for your investment to be worth twice what you put into it. Between the rents you receive and the potential for appreciation on the property, it is quite possible to double your money over time as a landlord by investing in real estate.
Of course, there is risk involved. As with any debt, you have to cover your mortgage payment regardless of whether the property is rented or not. In addition, with COVID-19-related eviction restrictions still in place in parts of the country, you may be stuck with a renter who is unable to leave and whom you're unable to evict. And of course, as we learned so painfully during the financial crisis, real estate prices don't always go up.
Still, with good knowledge of the local real estate market, decent renters, and enough capital to handle the surprise costs that arise in real estate, the opportunity is there to double your money.
No matter how you plan to double your money, get started now
Regardless of what path -- or combination of paths -- you choose to follow in your quest to double your money, the more time you have available on your journey, the better your chances of succeeding. Even better, with enough time on your hands, in many of these cases, your money can double more than once. So get started now, and get your plans in place to double your money as many times as you can.