With $1 million to invest, do some comparison shopping and look at average costs.
I would rather have a million friends than a million dollars.--Eddie Rickenbacker
Mr. Rickenbacker is entitled to his preferences, but many of us would rather have the million dollars -- and perhaps just 10 or 20 or even 100 friends. Some of us even have a million dollars -- by having saved and invested over many years, via a lucky inheritance, or by some other means.
When you have a lot of money, you need to be sure to invest it wisely, preserving much or all of its value. That's where private asset management or an account management advisor can come in handy. It's smart to do a comparison of your options, assessing the cost and fee schedule and typical charges for each one. You may also want to invest the money on your own, with a potential focus on dividend-paying stocks, annuities, and other income-generating assets.
Here are some key ways to invest $1 million.
Private asset management or account management advisory services
One option for investing your million dollars is to let someone else do it -- or have someone tell you what to do. Lots of companies, including very possibly your own brokerage, offer wealth management services, ranging from having professionals manage your money for you to simply holding your hand and offering advice.
What they charge will vary, and if you're interested in such services, you should do some comparison shopping -- comparing not only their average fees but also the specific services offered.
Some companies' wealth management services define wealth rather specifically, seeking clients with at least several million dollars. A mere million might not let you in every door. That's OK, because many services can be rather costly, charging you 1% or 3% or more of your total assets under management each year. (Some do charge less than 0.50%, so it's well worth doing comparison shopping of typical charges.)
If you parked your million dollars with an outfit charging 1% or 2% annually, they'd be charging you $10,000 or $20,000 per year for their services. That kind of fee can sometimes be worth it, if they're delivering more than that in value, but many financial pros find it hard to outperform the overall stock market -- when you can earn the market's average return simply by investing in a low-cost broad-market index fund. Many services charge 0.25% or less per year in fees.
Be sure to also consider independent financial advisors -- especially "fee-only" ones who have few or no conflicts of interest and earn no commissions from steering you into specific investments. (You can look up such pros at www.napfa.org.) A good one can serve you quite well, reviewing your overall financial health and coming up with a plan to help you meet your financial goals, such as having sufficient retirement income. They might recommend strategies such as dividend-paying stocks or annuities -- which you can read about below.
Investing on your own
You can invest the money on your own too, of course, calling your own shots. If you're a young millionaire, you'll want your money to grow, and the stock market is where it's likely to grow the most quickly over the long run. One or more simple index funds could work well here -- ideally ones focused on the broad market, such as the S&P 500 or the total U.S. or world stock market. They will likely outperform most managed stock mutual funds. There are bond index funds, too. Even Warren Buffett recommends S&P 500 index funds for most investors.
If you're approaching retirement, you'll be most interested in preserving those million dollars, or deploying it in ways that will generate income.
Consider dividend income
Another good option for wisely investing a million dollars -- or a significant portion of it -- is to buy dividend-paying stocks. It's true that dividends are never guaranteed, but if you stick with healthy and growing companies that have a good track record of paying dividends, and you spread your money among a bunch of them, you'll likely do well over the long run.
If you park, say, $500,000 in healthy, stable, dividend-paying stocks with an overall dividend yield of 4%, you can look forward to $20,000 annually, while expecting the dividends and the stock prices to rise over time. Put the entire million dollars in the dividend payers, and you might enjoy $40,000 or more in annual income.
Just to give you an idea of what's out there, here are a few well-regarded stocks with significant dividend yields:
Invest in annuities
Another smart way to invest a million dollars (or a big portion of it) is in an annuity or two (or three). Since an annuity is only as reliable as the company paying it, it's wise to divide your annuity investment among several top-rated insurance companies, to minimize any risk.
In exchange for a big bundle of money, fixed annuities (as opposed to the more problematic variable or indexed variety) can start paying you immediately or on a deferred basis. Below are examples of the kind of income that various people might be able to secure in the form of an immediate fixed annuity in the recent economic environment. (You'll generally be offered higher payments in times of higher prevailing interest rates.)
If you have a million dollars and you take just half of it -- $500,000 -- and invest it in annuities, you could be collecting about $38,000 annually, if you're a 70-year-old man. Spend the whole million and you're looking at almost $76,000, a very respectable income in retirement, especially when complemented by Social Security.
If you're a 65-year-old couple, you could get about $28,000 in annual income for $500,000, and more than $56,000 if you spend the whole million. It might not seem worth getting a joint annuity instead of two separate single ones, but remember that when one spouse dies, the survivor will be left with a substantially lower income. A joint annuity can keep payments steady until both parties die.
If you're fortunate enough to have a million dollars, invest it wisely so that it lasts and serves you well -- perhaps even continuing to grow over time. Remember that you might opt for all of the options above, devoting a chunk of your million to each.