Exit reading mode

7 alternatives to investing in the stock market

Posted on 03/09/2018, by Joe Jones

When it comes to investing, a lot of people’s first thoughts will be of the stock market. But there are actually plenty of other ways to put your money to work. And with uncertainties around Brexit continuing to rock the boat – and long-established status quos all across the globe being called into question – there’s rarely been a bigger demand for them. After all, it doesn’t take a lot to send a shockwave through the London Stock Exchange or Wall Street.

So, whether you’d prefer to avoid the stock market altogether, or are simply looking to diversify your current investment portfolio, below are 7 alternative ways to put your money to work.

Of course, bear in mind that each one has a different risk profile, and will not be suitable for everyone. We strongly recommend you speak to a financial adviser before making any investment decisions.

Cash

Now, strictly speaking, cash is not an investment. This is because your money is not put at risk, but rather kept with a bank (providing you don’t have more than £85,000 in any single institution).

The trade-off is that interest rates tend to be a lot lower, and typically below inflation – meaning your money can actually lose value over time. Even the very best savings rates currently available sit at 1.36% in an instant access account, compared to inflation of 2.3%.

But, for those that don’t have any stomach for risk, finding a good savings deal could be the best option for you.

Bonds

A bond is a loan that you make to a company or government, where they pay you a fixed interest rate for a set period of time.

It’s on the lower end of the risk scale, as, if you see it through to maturity, the company that issued the bond is required to pay you back the initial amount you paid for it. It’s often seen as a reliable way to earn a small but stable return.

The main risk here comes if you choose to sell the bonds before maturity. The value of a bond will fluctuate, primarily in line with the interest rate set by the Bank of England. If interest rates go up, the value of existing bonds will go down, as newly issued bonds will have higher rates of interest. However, remember that if interest rates go down, you’ll also see rates from newly issued bonds decrease, too.

There’s also the (admittedly unlikely) risk that the bond issuer is unable to repay your money on maturity, or make the agreed interest payments.

Buy-to-let property

Over the last couple of decades, buy-to-let (BTL) property has become an increasingly popular option for those after an extra stream of income. Alongside the potential for regular rental payments, there’s also the opportunity for capital growth from the property itself. In fact, a study in 2017 revealed that one in thirty adults in Britain was a landlord.

And it’s not hard to see the attraction. In some areas, rental yields can exceed 10% – although this can drop to just above 1% in some boroughs of London.

However, as property price growth begins to thaw, and following a raft of new legislation introduced to shake up the sector in 2016, BTL-ers in many areas of the UK might start to see their profits dwindle. It begs the question – is all the hassle of being a landlord still worth it?

Property-backed peer-to-peer lending

Property-backed peer-to-peer (P2P) lending allows you to lend money directly to property-borrowers. It’s proven very popular with those hoping to avoid the volatility associated with the stock market, as the value of the investment isn’t tied to the asset. Instead, your returns rely on the borrower repaying the interest on the loan.

Also, as the loans are secured on a property, it means that should the borrower be unable to repay, the asset can be sold to fund as much of the debt as possible.

Remember, though, your capital is still at risk, and – if the property needs to be sold – your investment can be affected by a downturn in the property market. Also, note that P2P investments are not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Unsecured P2P lending

Similar to the above, unsecured P2P lending instead invests in consumer or business loans. This type of lending is not secured on an asset, which means that, should things go wrong, there’s no collateral that can be sold to try and get your money back.

On the flip side, you can look to target high rates of interest, in return for shouldering a higher amount of risk.

Commodities

Raw materials, such as gold, silver, food or oil, can offer an alternative for investors, too. The prices can fluctuate wildly in relation to a number of factors – a drought, for example, could see the price of wheat soar – so it’s generally seen as a high-risk option.

However, commodities tend to have little correlation to the stock market, meaning they could be an option worth considering for those looking to diversify (although bear in mind, oil and gas companies also make up a big proportion of the FTSE 100).

While one way to invest in commodities is to buy them outright, most commodity investors tend to do so through mutual funds or exchange-traded funds.

Crowdfunding

Equity crowdfunding gets a lot of headlines as a way for businesses and charities to raise significant sums of money.

It’s a way for investors to buy a stake in early-stage businesses, in the hope that they’ll do well and your stake will increase in value. You stand to make a healthy return either if a larger company offers to buy out the business, or it lists on the stock exchange.

The returns could theoretically be significant if you back the right horse, however the odds say that most start-ups end up failing – which will means you could lose your initial investment. An analysis of companies that raised money via equity crowdfunding between 2011 and 2013 showed that 1 in 5 ended up going bust, while only 22% either improved their valuation or delivered a return for investors through a sale or exit.

Also, once you’ve bought your stake in a business, it can be very difficult to get out. Even if a business succeeds, it can be many years before a floatation or purchase by another company takes place.

Pay down debt

Ok, we’ll admit, this might not be a type of investing. However, if you’ve got money available to invest, you’re best off first of all paying down any high-interest debt you have instead. And you won’t have to pay any tax on it either!