There are many paths to take when growing the wealth needed for a comfortable retirement, and there's no need to take just one. In fact, it's probably not advisable.
Diversification is a prime principle for investing. Stocks and bonds and other fixed investments should be an important part of your retirement strategies, in varying measures as time moves along, and so should real estate.
Real estate investing is a vast realm of its own, offering the ability to be as hands-on or third-party as you wish, from fixing up a flip to socking away years of income from properties you don't even own.
Here are six areas of investment, broad strokes of inspiration for you to consider as you paint your own picture of an affordable, enjoyable retirement. Choose well and do these right and you just might find your retirement date arrives sooner than you might have expected.
Your own home
For most homeowners, their home is their largest investment. Downsizing that empty nest is a tried-and-true way that millions of folks have used to help fund their retirement. How much it helps depends on how much it's worth, of course, and that depends on price appreciation over the years.
Home prices rose at a record pace during the past two years, but the history was already there. Recent research by Better Mortgage found that median home prices rose by 43% through the 1970s, for example. And from 1950 through 2020, price growth was about 326%. Prices are high now but the potential is there for them to go even higher, and you could profit nicely if you choose well and, to a degree, luckily.
Flip that home
Flipping homes has become a cultural phenomenon, the subject of many a blog and reality TV show. How much you make depends on how much of the work you can do yourself, how much you can sell it for, and -- first of all -- how much you spent for the place.
Rising home prices and record-low foreclosure rates have made finding bargains more difficult, especially in the nation's hottest housing markets, but there's still money to be made. In its most recent U.S. Home Flipping Report, ATTOM Data Solutions, a major cruncher of real estate numbers, says nearly 6% of all single-family and condo sales in the third quarter of 2021 were flips. They said the return on investment compared to the original purchase price averaged about 32%, yielding a typical profit of about $68,500.
Airbnb and Vrbo and the like are relatively new developments but there are millions of success stories out there from property owners who are minting money from their houses, condos, yurts, and yachts.,
The appeal of these platforms is that they handle the bookings and billings for these properties, but you'll still have to do the maintenance and housekeeping yourself -- or pay someone else to do it -- and the regulatory and legal landscape for these kinds of rentals can be problematic depending on where you're operating.
There are a lot of ways to own rental properties, including buying a house or condo directly and being the landlord or joining with others in a real estate investment group (REIG).
If you choose to own directly, keep in mind you'll have to choose how actively you want to manage the property, including collecting the rent and handling the maintenance. Of course, the more you do yourself, the more you'll make from your investment as you watch its value appreciate over the years as you move toward retirement.
Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
REITs own and manage portfolios of income-producing properties. They're required by tax law to pay out at least 90% of their taxable income to shareholders, and there are about 225 of them that are publicly traded. There also are non-traded REITs.
REITs typically specialize in a specific type of property -- industrial, retail, and residential, for example -- and they can be very rewarding both as long-term investments leading up to retirement and as sources of passive income post-retirement. REITs have historically performed on par with the S&P 500 and better than small-cap stocks over significant stretches.
Crowdfunding is another relatively new development in real estate investing. There are a number of online platforms that enable you to invest either in partial ownership of individual existing and developing properties or in non-traded REITs. Minimum investments can range from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Many platforms heavily advertise online and tout handsome rates of return that could well accelerate your retirement. Do your due diligence. Keep in mind that they're not as liquid as buying publicly traded REITs or other real estate-related stocks, but that could be a good thing if you really want to buy and hold and let that egg in your nest grow over time.
Real estate index, ETF, and mutual funds
There are hundreds of options here for investing in real estate through the public markets. One of the largest examples is the $42 billion Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund ETF, an exchange-traded fund that invests in a weighted collection of REITs.
There are dozens of other iterations on this theme, including funds that invest in a wide variety of real estate-related assets that could include REITs, other real estate operating companies, and securities collateralized by such investments, just for starters.
Time is money: Real estate investing can help you maximize both on the road to retirement
One of the maxims of successful real estate investing is that finding a cheap property is great, but finding a great location is even better. That holds for investing for retirement, too.
Choosing well where to place your money — then adding to it and letting it grow while culling and harvesting only when necessary — should set you up well when it comes time to quit working.