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You’re the Boss: Here’s How to Make Your Money Start Working for You

“Make your money work for you.”

We say it quite a bit around here. You probably hear it anywhere you seek financial advice or information.

You’ve got to get that money out from under the mattress, out of a stagnant savings account, out of an ill-run retirement account. You’ve got to learn better options so you can start making your money work for you.

But what does it mean?

It means you can turn the money you have into more money.

Pretty sweet idea, right? We’re usually talking about investing, as that’s the most straightforward way to turn your existing money into more money.

That includes the big stuff — like putting money into a business and earning more in return, or buying real estate and renting or selling it for profit.

It also includes the more common stuff, like saving for retirement.

You could stick 4% of every paycheck in the bank each year and have, like, $100,000 saved by the time you retire. That sounds fine, but it won’t last long.

Instead, you stick that same money into a retirement account, and it grows to, say, a cool million dollars that’ll get you through a couple decades of retirement.

That’s making your money work for you.

Here are a few tools to help you be a tough boss and ensure your money’s hard at work.

1. Check in on Your 401(k)

Got a 401(k)? You’re on the right track.

Now, you just need to make sure it’s doing what you need it to. However, tapping into that account and deciphering the information — or lack thereof — can be hard.

There’s a robo-advisor for that called Blooom, an SEC-registered investment advisory firm that will optimize and monitor your 401(k) for you.

A few of us Penny Hoarders already use the service. It gives you an initial 401(k) checkup for free, and you’ll get to know your account a little more intimately. Find out if you’re paying too many hidden fees, have the appropriate amount invested in stocks versus bonds, that kind of fun stuff.

Let Blooom know your target retirement age, and it can help you get there by investing more or less aggressively.

2. Investing for Beginners (Who Don’t Have a Lot of Money)

Outside of your retirement plan, what are you doing to grow your money?

Investing in the stock market can be a smart way to make your money work for you — but it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.

Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee (the first month is free).

Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money. But it leaves out the complicated investment terms. You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.

Bonus: Right now, Stash will give you an extra $5 to get started. Here’s how to get it:

  1. Enter your email here.
  1. Download the Stash smartphone app and create your account with the same address.
  1. That’s it! Within two days, the $5 bonus will hit your account.

3. Open a High-Yield Checking Account

If you’re like a lot of people, your paycheck(s) go into a single bank account. It’s probably a checking account, but maybe you’re a savvy saver and stick some of each check into a savings account.

The problem with that? A lot of bank accounts — even savings accounts — leave your money to do diddly squat while it’s there.

If you want your money to work for you, stick it into an account that pays a high interest rate.

Our writer Dana Sitar automatically deposits a portion of her paycheck into her Aspiration Summit checking account. This acts as her savings for travel and emergencies.

Here’s why she prefers it to a traditional checking or savings account:

  • It’s online only, so she doesn’t have to leave her apartment to handle her finances.
  • It’s free — no mandatory monthly minimums or fees.
  • It comes with a debit card, and she can use any ATM in the world for free.
  • Plus, 10% of the company’s revenue goes to charity, so she can feel like a good person!

4. Get Money Back for Everything You Buy

Regardless of how frugal or financially savvy you are, you still have to spend money on the regular to get by. You’ll have to shop for groceries — and other essentials, like wine, fresh clothes and that new Bestseller everyone’s been talking about.

Make the most of these purchases — even the indulgent ones — by earning money back every time you shop.

These cash-back sites and apps will help you get started:

  • Ebates: This platform has everything — from rebates to deals to promo codes to discounts. It’s always worth checking before venturing out (or online) for a shopping trip.
  • Ibotta: This gem helps you save big on groceries, booze and more just by snapping a photo of your receipt after you shop.
  • Paribus: This tool is too easy to ignore. It scans your emails for online-shopping receipts, then keeps an eye on the items you bought from participating retailers. If it finds a lower price, it helps you get reimbursed for the difference. It can also help you get a shipping refund if something shows up late.
  • MyPoints: Shopping through the online MyPoints portal earns you points with each purchase, which you can cash in for gift cards to major retailers like Amazon and Walmart.

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