7 Investment Accounts All 30-Somethings Should Have

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By Tim Lemke

You're in your 30s now. If you're finally looking to get settled in your financial life, you may want to consider ways to build wealth over the long term. But that checking account alone isn't gonna cut it. It's time to examine the options out there for someone in their 30s who finally has a little bit of money to invest.

Here are seven essential investment accounts all 30-somethings should have.

1. 401K, If Available to You

If you're employed full-time, your company may offer a retirement plan that gives you access to a number of mutual funds and other investments, plus the great tax advantages that come with it. Under a 401K, 403B, or similar plan, contributions are deducted from your pre-tax income, and most employers will match a certain percentage of what you put in. Now that fewer employers are offering pensions, the 401K has become the primary vehicle for saving for retirement. Pumping cash into this account while you're still relatively young gives your investments plenty of time to rise in value and give you a sizable nest egg. Even better, your investment is tax-deferred until you begin making withdrawals.

2. Traditional IRA

You don't necessarily need a traditional Individual Retirement Account if you have a 401K with an employer match. But if you have 401K from an old employer, it might make sense to roll it into an IRA, because you have a much broader choice of investments to choose from — many with lower fees. With an IRA, you can invest in practically anything, including individual stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and even commodities. Traditional IRAs are also great for people who are self-employed or otherwise don't have access to a 401K. Like a 401K, your contributions are deducted from your taxable income. You can open an IRA at most discount brokers such as Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and E*TRADE.

3. Roth IRA

This account is a little bit like a 401K in reverse. The tax advantage is on the back end, when you can withdraw money upon retirement without paying tax on the earnings. That's because contributions to a Roth IRA come from earnings after tax, unlike 401Ks, which draw on pre-tax income. Under a Roth IRA, you can contribute up to $5,500 annually, and you can withdraw contributions (but not your gains) before retirement age without paying a penalty.

4. Taxable Brokerage Account

While your main focus should be investing in tax-advantaged accounts that are designed for retirement, it's good to have some investments available in this type of account due to the flexibility. You don't need to wait until retirement age to access funds in this account, for one thing. That means you can use it to boost your income now, through the sale of stock or the gain of dividends. If you hold on to investments in a taxable account for a long time (generally over a year), you'll pay only the long-term capital gains tax (mostly likely 15%) when you sell.

5. 529 College Savings Plan (If You Have Kids)

College is pricey, so nearly every state enables people to save for college by investing money for education in a tax-advantaged way. A 529 plan is similar to a Roth IRA, in that investments will grow tax-free until they're withdrawn, as long as they are spent on higher education. In many states, you also get a tax break from the contributions. It's possible to open a 529 for your child as soon as they have a social security number. Even if you don't have kids yet, you can designate a beneficiary now — such as a niece or nephew — and change it to your own child later. (See also: The 9 Best State 529 College Savings Plans)

6. High-Interest Savings Account

Everyone knows you need a basic bank account, but if you want to boost your savings, it's helpful to have a savings account with a higher-than-average interest rate. These days, interest rates are extremely low, but you can still find returns of above 1% in money market accounts and online banks such as Capital One 360. (See also: Best Online Checking Accounts)

7. Peer-to-Peer Lending Account

In addition to making it easier to invest in stocks, the Internet age has also made it possible for individuals to invest in other people's debt. There are thousands of people who have hopped onto sites such as LendingClub and Prosper and report consistently solid returns. These sites generally work in the same way as banks, except that those in need of money are borrowing from individuals, who are seeking to make money on the interest. In most cases, people can invest based on the risk level of each borrower; those who aren't as creditworthy promise a potentially higher return — but more risk — to the investor. Popular personal finance blogger Mr. Money Moustache has reported more than an 11% annualized return since 2012, and many others report similar gains. (See also: How to Make Money with Prosper)

How many of these accounts do you have?
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