Best investments to make at each stage of your life

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Life is a long journey, with many twists and turns along the way. These twists and turns also extend to our financial lives, which means that investing during one's lifetime is not a "set it and forget it" type of thing.

Different stages of life can require different investment vehicles and strategies. Here are some of the best investments for each stage during your life.

1. Graduating College and Getting Your First Job

Once you get your first job, start contributing to any retirement plans your new employer offers as soon as possible. Try to contribute at least enough to receive the full employer match if one is offered.

"Think of any match your employer is willing to make as free money," Jim Poolman, executive director of the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council. "As a young professional, you have the luxury to put some of your money into high-risk investments, since your retirement is seemingly far away."

At this stage of life, you can afford to be more aggressive than people who are in their 50s and closer to retirement. Stocks or stock-based mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are quite appropriate.

Many 401k plans offer target date funds as an option, and this can be good for a new graduate who might not have any investments outside of a 401k account. As with any investment choice offered in a 401k plan, it's always wise to check out the quality of the target date family offered.

Read: How to Invest Your Money When You're Afraid of Risk

2. Getting Married

As a newly married couple, it's important to talk about your financial goals for the future and plan accordingly. "You and your future spouse need to talk about how you will handle your funds," said financial planner Rochelle Odesser. "Joint account, separate accounts, savings accounts are important, as well as investment accounts. If you are looking long-term equity, mutual funds or individual stocks will be worth looking at."

People get married at various ages, so the "best" investments for them will vary, as well. Much will depend upon their age, their goals and their risk tolerance.

3. Getting Married Later in Life

For those getting married later in life, the best investments might be a diversified mix of stocks and bonds — including mutual funds and ETFs that invest in these areas — in line with their ages. People who are closer to retirement age might want to consider investing more conservatively.

At any age, it is important to consider the retirement accounts and other investments that each spouse brings into the marriage. If both work and have a 401k, they should be coordinating their investing to be sure their overall portfolio is invested in a manner that reflects their goals and risk tolerance.

4. Having a Baby

Consider saving for your child's college education with a 529 plan, said financial writer Julie Rains of Investing to Thrive. "States offer state-specific plans, but some of these plans are available to non-residents," she said. "Invest as you feel comfortable, though I'd prefer low-cost index funds to keep things simple."

The quality of the various state-run 529 plans vary. It's important to know who manages the investment portfolios, and what expenses and restrictions are involved. Many plans offer age-weighted portfolios, which will generally get less aggressive as your child gets closer to the time they will need the money for college.

"I just recently set up a CA529 plan for my newborn daughter as a way to invest in my daughter's financial future," said entrepreneur and Due.com founder, John Rampton. "We set up auto payments to deposit $1,000 a month into the account. This is tax-free money that will compound over time to provide and pay for her college tuition."

Buying quality individual stocks for your newborn's future is a good idea, as well. Often, parents and grandparents enjoy giving stocks that have done well for them.

5. Buying Your First Home

If you just recently bought your first home, there are important investment decisions for you to consider. "Buying a first home is often the single largest purchase you've made, and it's incredibly important to protect it," said Kate Dore, owner of the financial site CashvilleSkyline.com.

"After closing, be sure to invest in a robust home insurance plan," she said. "It's also smart to maintain a healthy emergency fund, stashed in a high-interest savings account, to cover unexpected repairs. It may also be prudent to consider investing in a life insurance policy, depending on your family's needs."

Prior to purchasing the home, the best investments will depend upon how long it will be before needing the money for a down payment. If your time horizon is more than five years out, you can be more aggressive, and your investments might include individual stocks, stock mutual funds and ETFs.

As you get closer to making that down payment, you will want to take less risk — this could mean short-term bonds or a money market fund. Although you won't earn much, you won't suffer a major loss if the stock market heads south right before you are ready to buy.

6. Newly Single Due to Divorce or Death of a Spouse

The newly single need to take stock of their investments and make adjustments. Your portfolio might be cut in half in a divorce settlement. When you lose a spouse, you also lose someone to help contribute to your savings and investments if you both were working.

Losing a spouse, whether through divorce or death, can be one of the most stressful times in a woman's life, said financial advisor Cathy Curtis, whose practice is largely focused on women clients. "This is particularly true if her spouse took the lead role in the family finances," she said. "Besides grieving over a major loss, she has to worry about what she doesn't know about her money."

It is often wise, especially in the case of the death of a spouse, to wait a bit before making major financial adjustments, Curtis recommended. Then, it's important to consider, "age, time frame, financial goals, need for return and risk tolerance," in determining what investing moves to make next. A diversified portfolio can help ensure that "no one asset class can derail the long-term returns on the portfolio," she added.

7. Retirement

A common misconception about retirement is that this is a destination, so to speak. Once you reach retirement you still might have 20 or more years to live. Your investments will generally need some level of growth from stocks, or stock mutual funds and ETFs in order to stay ahead of inflation.

"In retirement, it is advisable to have a mix of income-producing investments, such as bonds, long-term and short-term maturities, dividend-paying stocks, as well as equity mutual funds for the very long term," said Odesser said. "Some money will provide an income now, and some will provide funds for the future."

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Best investments to make at each stage of your life

Dog-sitting, babysitting, or house-sitting

These jobs are always in high demand, and the best part: you can name your price and create your own schedule! Post an ad on craigslist, or use your friends' and family's connections to get your name out there. 

Photo via Getty

Rent out your space 

List your apartment on Airbnb or another rental site, and make some easy cash by staying at a friends and renting out your place for the weekend.

Photo via AOL

Share your space

Just as you can rent out your full apartment or house, you can also post a free room (or even just your couch!) on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. This way you can split your living expenses -- and maybe even make a new friend!

Photo via Getty

Sell your body parts

Now here's a weird one: Donate your hair, breast milk, or even plasma for a profit. According to Grifols, if you're healthy and weigh above 110 pounds, you can earn up to $200 a month donating your plasma to life-saving medicine. 

Photo via Getty

Sign up to participate in medical tests and clinical trials. 

Universities constantly need volunteers to test new medicines and treatments -- and because the pool of willing participants is limited, there is typically a large compensation for being a guinea pig. 

Photo via Getty

Participate in a focus group

Companies and organizations will pay you to join a focus group. These can be conducted in person, online, or via phone. You will most likely be reimbursed in cash or gift cards -- plus, you often get to test out fun new products! 

Photo via Getty

Take online surveys

Similar to focus groups, you can get paid to give your time and insights on an online questionairre. Plus, you can do this from the comfort of your couch. 

Photo via Getty

Bank on your sperm

Although we don't necessarily recommend this option, there is a very high demand for healthy sperm donors. Keep in mind some of the obvious drawbacks, but sperm donation is non-invasive and highly compensated. 

Photo via Getty

Crowdfund your dreams

Crowdfunding allows you to raise monetary contributions from a large group of people who want to support your venture. Post your project or idea on a crowdfund site, like GoFundMe.com, and see the cash pile up.

Photo via Getty

Become a tutor

If you're qualified, post an ad online or on a community board to tutor children on their school courses or for the upcoming SATs.

Photo via Getty

Get a part-time job

Capitalize your free time (on the weekends or after work hours) by working a part-time job. A bartender, waiter, or Uber driver are all great options for an additional source of income -- and great tips! 

Photo via Getty

Resell tickets

Take this suggestion at your own risk: If you're staying within legal limits, buy tickets low and sell high as an effective way to source additional money. (Just make sure to check your state and local laws first!)

Photo via Getty

Rentafriend.com

You can sell anything on the internet these days... including your companionship! Get paid to go on a platonic outing for a few hours and enjoy your afternoon with a new friend. 

Photo via Getty

Rent out your parking spot

Make sure to check with your landlord first, but if you have the option to park your own car further away, lend or share your parking space or driveway for the hour, day, or even month! 

Photo via Getty

Keep a coin jar 

This one takes patience before a big pay out, but keep a spare jar or drawer for loose change that you usually toss anyway. It will keep it all in one place -- and those quarters do add up! 

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Make something to sell 

If you have a knack for arts & crafts, create jewelry or other handmade gifts to sell on sites filled with other thrifty vendors like Etsy

Photo via Getty

Sell items online

This effective strategy requires low effort with a high return. Post photos of your used or non-used items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, and let the bidding begin! 

Photo via Getty

Have a yard sale

Sell clutter you've been meaning to get rid of right in your front yard. This simple tactic is convenient, and guarantees a wad of cash right to your pocket.  

Photo via Getty

Return past purchases

This tip may seem obvious, but is often overlooked: Take your recently-purchased items that are laying around back to the store for either store credit or a full refund. 

Photo via AP

Recycle scrap metal and cans

Collect cans and scrap metal out your own garbage, basement, and street and bring to your local recycler to exchange your findings for money.  

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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Best Stocks to Invest in at Each Stage During Your Life

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