An Investment With a 10% Guaranteed Return (and $500 Extra a Month Too)

Investment returnAccording to the Federal Reserve, household debt recently weighed in at a whopping 117.5% of disposable household income. That means that on average, we as Americans owe more than we make.

Unless you've got an incredible sweetheart of a deal, if you have debt, you're paying interest on it. That makes paying off debt a great return on your investment -- even better, it's a guaranteed return for your money. And guaranteed returns are outrageously hard to come by these days.

But the Market's on Fire!

The stock market may be doing incredibly well at the moment, but it wasn't that long ago that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) -- now around 13,250 -- had plummeted to as low as 6,440. That sort of roller coaster might be a necessary part of generating investment wealth in the long run, but it is anything but guaranteed.

On the flip side, U.S. government bonds provide an ironclad assurance that you'll get face value back at maturity and interest along the way. The big problem is that even the 30-year Treasuries only carry a 3.4% yield, right around the long-run inflation rate. Take taxes out of that yield, and the only guarantee you're really getting is that your money will lose its purchasing power less quickly than if you stuffed it under your mattress.

There's an Extra $500 a Month in Your Future

Every dollar you're paying in interest on debt is a dollar you don't have available to save or spend on anything else. On top of that, even the principal pay-down part of your debt payment is cash leaving your pocket.

Once that debt is gone, both the principal and the interest payments go along with it, freeing up all that cash flow on top of the guaranteed return from the interest rate.

For example, assume you've got $12,000 in credit card debt, at 10% interest. (Yes, even so-called low-interest rate cards are averaging 10.7% these days.) If all you did was pay the interest, you'd be shelling out about $100 a month -- and you'd be stuck with that debt the rest of your life.

If, instead, you committed $500 a month to paying that debt, the first $100 goes to interest, and the other $400 goes to reducing the balance.

Once the debt is extinguished -- in just over two years -- you've not only made a guaranteed 10% return, but you've also freed up that entire $500 a month.

How to Get Started

Of course, the toughest part of earning those guaranteed returns is coming up with the extra cash to put toward the payments. Ultimately, that comes down to either earning more or spending less. In today's employment situation, earning more may be easier said than done, but if you can get paid for putting in a few more hours or find an extra part-time job, it'll be a ready source of cash.

On the flip side, we all have places where we could potentially cut back, such as:

  • Carpooling or taking mass transit rather than driving alone
  • Bringing lunch and/or coffee from home instead of buying it
  • Adjusting the thermostat up a few degrees in summer and down a few in winter
  • Cutting back on entertainment to just the things that really matter

Once you free up that cash -- either through working more or spending less -- you can go after that guaranteed return of paying off your debts. And when the sacrifices seem hard to handle, just remember how much "extra" money you'll have when you're free of debt. In that context, cutting back now seems like a small price to pay for future riches.


Apps to Make You Smarter With Money
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An Investment With a 10% Guaranteed Return (and $500 Extra a Month Too)

Does it feel like you're getting your pockets picked on a regular basis? Odds are you're the one doing the picking -- and it may simply be a matter of spending more than you think you are. will show you where the holes are in your pocketbook by pulling all of your accounts into one place to give you an overview of your spending habits. Owned by Intuit (INTU), the makers of TurboTax and countless other financial software, the site allows for goal-setting and helps identify ways you might save money. The site is ad-supported, but ads are discreet, relevant, and significantly less annoying than on other budgeting sites. The mobile app is a lighter version of the site, but it's a great companion resource for spending on the go.

Tip: Look for Mint to integrate with Weave, Intuit's new nifty project-management app, and TurboTax in the future.

App available for: iPad, iPhone, Android

Ever argue with your spouse or roommate about their free-spending ways? Or create a budget only to find you're the only one sticking to it? Of course not. But maybe you've been on the other side of that conversation. If so, check out HomeBudget with Sync.

HomeBudget with Sync is a fairly straightforward household budgeting tool that comes in both free and full versions. A key feature of this app is its ability to sync among household members and various devices to create a consolidated budget. Unlike Mint, entering bank-account information is optional.

Tip: the free version is limited to 10 expense entries and five income entries. If you like it, you may find the $4.99 price tag for the full version worthwhile.

Available for: iPhone, iPad

One of the best apps for investors comes from Bloomberg. It features news, market data, and portfolio tracking. Charts and graphs illustrate business trends and analyze world markets by industry, region, and popularity. Check out a stock's performance and key statistics from the past five years. And (shameless plug alert!) for commentary and analysis on the day's breaking news, use The Motley Fool's app.

Tip: Don't turn these on before cocktail parties. You'll spend the evening in the corner with your phone, not talking to anyone. Or, do turn them on and wow the room with your insightful stock market musings.

Bloomberg app availability: iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Android Tablet, Nokia, BlackBerry

Motley Fool app availability: iPhone and Android

These apps won't let you file an insurance claim, dispute fraudulent credit card charges, or make a trade, but apps from your banks, brokerages, and insurance companies might. Check each of the companies with which you do business for full-service apps, but don't stop there. Many bank and brokerage apps offer features even for non-members.

Tip: Check out video reviews of apps on YouTube before downloading to see whether the features are relevant to your needs.

While these apps may be rich in features, not a single one of them has the ability to knock a $4 latte out of your hand or break your addiction to penny stocks. But by using your smart device to track your spending, saving, investing, and other financial housekeeping issues, you'll be making smarter decisions with your money in no time.


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