How to invest $1 million

It may seem like you’ll never have $1 million to invest, but if you invest consistently over decades, you might build up that much wealth more quickly than you’d think. And if you manage to get a windfall with that many zeros behind it, it’s best to figure out ahead of time how you’ll invest it to keep it growing.

So let’s say you find yourself with a $1 million windfall tomorrow. What will you do with it? Well, hopefully, you’d consult with a professional who can give you advice on the best way to allocate your funds. But once you’ve decided to do that, your best bet is to choose low-cost, high-reward investment options. And, of course, you’ll want to diversify your investment portfolio. So to do that, here are the best options you can invest in if you have a million dollars.

What To Do Before You Begin Investing $1 Million

Before you start investing, there are a few things that you should do.

Think About Your Investing Goals

Before you start investing, you need to know why you’re investing. Your goals will play a significant role in determining how you invest.

For example, if you’re young and investing for retirement age, you can afford to own volatile stocks. You’ll probably want to build a portfolio that’s heavy on stocks and light on less risky investments like bonds. This can give your portfolio the highest potential returns.

If you’re investing for a more short-term goal, you’ll likely want to build a more conservative portfolio so that you don’t lose your savings right before you need them.

Your goals can also determine the account you use to invest. If you’re saving for retirement, you’ll want to use a 401(k) or IRA. If you want to help a child pay for college, you might use a 529.

Related: The 10 Best Investment Strategies for Short-Term Savings Goals

Think About Your Investing Style

Are you the type of person who enjoys managing their money, or do you want to take a hands-off approach to investing?

If you’re an active investor, look for a brokerage that offers low or no commissions on trades and has tools you can use to research stocks and other securities.

If you’re looking for more passive, buy-and-hold investments, consider working with a company with low-cost mutual funds, such as index funds.

Related: The 5 Best S&P 500 Index Funds (and the Worst Ones)

Think About What’s Important to You

Some people want to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to investing. Before you start investing, you might want to consider ESG investing, which focuses on Environmental, Social, and Governance factors in companies.

For example, you might want to focus on investing in companies that work to benefit the environment or take steps to ensure they treat their workers fairly and pay them well.

ESG investing has grown popular in recent years, and some argue that it can improve performance compared to investing without focusing on these factors. However, ESG investing is often more difficult or expensive because you have to do the work to assess companies’ commitment to ESG concepts or pay a mutual fund manager to do that for you.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Socially Responsible Investing

How to Invest $1 Million: Overview

Type of InvestmentBest For
Robo-AdvisorsLowest Fee Structure
Stocks and Mutual FundsAutonomy
Real EstatePhysical Asset Value
BondsProper Risk Balance
P2P LendingHigher Risk / Return

1. Pay Off All High-Interest Debt

First, if you have any major debts, you’ll want to pay those off. There’s some debate about whether or not you should pay off your house, so put some thought into that one. But, at a minimum, you should knock out all high-interest debt. Most of the investments below will not come anywhere near beating the 20%+ interest you’re paying for credit cards and personal loans. So get rid of those first so you have a great financial base to launch your investments from.

2. Be Sure You Have a Fully-Funded Emergency Fund

CIT Bank savings

Again, before we talk about investments, let’s be sure you’ve got your financial base in place. A fully-funded emergency fund of six months or more worth of expenses is your next step. For this, you’ll want to put the money somewhere liquid and insured, so look for an FDIC-insured savings account with a high yield.

One of the best options today comes from the CIT Bank Savings Connect Account. You’ll earn a cool 4.65% APY on your money which should keep you in line (or ahead) of inflation. The money is always liquid so if there’s an emergency, you’ll have full access to the account.

Also Read: Best Online Savings Accounts with High Interest

3. Max Out Your Retirement Savings

With a million dollars to invest, you can max out your retirement savings vehicles first, and using these tax-advantaged accounts should be your priority each year that you possibly can. If you already have money going into a company 401(k), consider a service that can analyze the fee structure of your account to make sure you’re maximizing your return.

And if you don’t already have an IRA, open one to use with some of the following investing options. Then max out those accounts before you direct money to your taxable accounts.

4. Use a Robo Advisor

Any time you’re looking to make a big investment, big fees will have an amplified effect. So you’ll want to look for the lowest-fee options with a good yield when you’re looking to invest this much money. One option for that is to invest with a robo advisor. Using algorithms instead of individuals, these services make historically solid investing decisions but cost far less than traditional investment advisors.

Wealthfront robo advisor

Wealthfront is one of the best robo advisors out there and they’ll give you $50 on the house for creating an account with a $500 deposit. Wealthfront has dozens of features that will allow you to set a personal risk tolerance and create a portfolio that suits you. After you’ve created your profile, it’s largely hands-off from there.

The advisory fee to use Wealthfront is 0.25%. So for example, if you invested $500,000 with them, you would pay an annual fee of $1,250. That may sound pretty steep, but if you’re generating returns of 7%+, it represents a very small fraction of what you’ll gain. In this example, a 7% return means your end of year balance after one year would be ~$533,750 after the fee was taken.

5. Invest $1 Million In Your Values

Stash robo advisor

If you’re interested in using that million dollars to spread some good in the world, you can do that while earning money through a company like Stash. Investing in socially responsible companies is easier than ever now. You can invest in these types of stocks (or any other stock) with as little as $5 from the palm of your hand with Stash. It’s an app that simplifies and democratizes investing so everyone, from first-time investors to pros, can reach their financial goals regardless of income or experience level.

With detailed stock market data and educational materials, personalized portfolio tracking, easy-to-read reports, and personalized notifications on your personal moments of success, this app not only lets you invest without any brokerage fees but also equips you with the tools to make more informed decisions about when it’s time to sell up or down.

Read our Stash Review

6. Consider Adding Real Estate

Fundrise real-estate investing

Even with a million dollars to invest, you may not be able to buy a property outright in some areas of the country. And if you do own property on your own, you’re stuck with the headache of managing it. If you want to avoid that but still want to add real estate to your portfolio, Fundrise is a company that can get you invested.

Through crowdfunding, your investment is pooled with others to purchase property. There are different investment strategies and goals within every Fundrise account so you can play it safe, or take on more risk for a higher return. Fundrise even offers a self-directed IRA option so your contributions can reduce your annual tax burden.

Crowdstreet investing

If you’d rather not invest directly in a single property, CrowdStreet also offers real estate funds that let you diversify your investment. You can also sign up for the site’s advisory service, which lets you work with a professional to build a real estate portfolio that can help you achieve your investing goals.

In order to become a CrowdStreet investor, you will need to have an income that exceeds more than $200,000 annually and a total net worth of at least $1 million (not a problem if you’re reading this post). And unlike Fundrise, you won’t be able to invest in single family units. CrowdStreet is for retial and commercial real estate only.

7. P2P Lending for Higher Risk & Return

Prosper investing

Another way to be choosy and to get a potentially hefty return on your investment is with a peer-to-peer lending platform. Prosper is great for lending your money to individuals who need to consolidate debt, fix up their homes, or need a cash infusion to start a business.

When you invest in this platforms, you can create a portfolio of loans that you partially help fund so that you can spread your risk across multiple loans quite easily. The historical returns are generally well above that of savings and CD’s but the more risk you take, the greater the chance that the customer you lend to could default, which will offer negative returns.

P2P lending was a very hot idea 15 years ago and has cooled considerably since. Still, when you choose a blended loan portfolio, the returns through Prosper can be quite generous. And perhaps the greatest upside to Prosper is that your investment helps others achieve their financial futures.

8. Consider Balancing with CDs and Securities

Of course, even millionaires have to worry about keeping a balanced portfolio and ensuring that not all of their capital is in riskier investments. That’s where options like CDs and securities come in. These have traditionally been a way to out-earn inflation, so you aren’t losing money with it sitting around.

But they’re also much safer than any other type of investment. So be sure you talk to your financial advisor about the best way to utilize tools like these to bring balance to your portfolio.

Ponce Bank CDs

Creating a CD ladder is a great way to lock in guaranteed returns and diversify. Short-term CD interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades and you can lock in a 4-month no penalty CD with Ponce Bank right now and earn 5.15% APY.

A no-penalty CD means you can withdraw the funds at anytime and even thought it’s a CD, there won’t be an interest penalty for early withdrawal. Your investment is always protected and always available.

How Did We Come Up With This List?

When creating a list of ways to invest $1 million responsibly, we looked for investment strategies available to most people that will help them build a diverse portfolio and earn solid returns. We also considered the cost of the investment strategy, as costs play a direct role in your returns. Every penny you pay in fees can have a compounding effect on your future returns.

We also tried to come up with a list of investment strategies that meet different risk tolerances and investing goals. People who are less risk-tolerant may not want to invest in real estate because real estate investing often involves high risk and leverage. Instead, they might want to focus on safer investments like mutual funds or even CDs.

When looking for financial help online, it’s hard to know whether you can trust the information you find. Anyone can publish on the internet, and they may have an ulterior motive.

Diversify Your Investments

One essential thing, no matter how you choose to invest, is to make sure you diversify your investment portfolio.

Diversifying your investments, in essence, means not putting all of your eggs in one basket. If you decide to invest in stocks, don’t put all your money into a single company. If you’re purchasing real estate, try to buy more than one property.

Think about what would happen if the company you invested in goes bankrupt or the property you buy burns down. You’d lose all of your money. If you diversify your portfolio, even the worst-case scenario for one of your investments wouldn’t completely doom your portfolio.

Mutual funds, real estate investment trusts (REITs) that own multiple properties, and robo advisors that build balanced portfolios are all great ways to easily diversify your investment portfolio.

Strongly Consider Working with a Professional

If you have $1 million to invest, you have to be incredibly smart about managing that money. As we’ve written before, $1 million isn’t as much as it used to be. In fact, the argument can be made that you need at least $2 million to retire. So this would only get you halfway home.

So, it’s important that you not only preserve the $1 million the best you can but also help it grow. Investing is one thing you have to do, but only if you are comfortable managing that large of a portfolio. If you’re not (and even if you are), I would STRONGLY consider looking at working with a professional.

I get that you’d want to manage $1 million on your own (heck, even getting to this point is an accomplishment), but don’t be silly and mismanage it.

Track Your Investments

track your investments

As you begin pulling together your various investments, it’s important to figure out how you will keep track of them. Sure, you could pay someone to do it all for you. But that would just eat into your returns and your ability to grow your money. If you’d prefer to keep an eye on your investments yourself, check out services like Empower, which help you pull together all the various threads of your financial life, from your budget to your investments on different platforms.

Empower can help you track your investment performance, spot potential problems, and keep an eye on your overall portfolio balance. It can also run your day-to-day budget, so it’s a very flexible platform worth using once you’re ready to start keeping track of all this money.

The most important thing to remember is once you hit that million-dollar goal mark you’ve been saving for, the work isn’t over. You could easily lose it with celebratory spending. Have a plan in place for how you want to make this money work for you. With the right investment vehicle, you’ll be cruising down the road toward financial freedom.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How much interest will I earn on $1 million?

To use a basic example, say you had an account with $1 million that paid 4% annually–in such a case, you’d earn $40,000 per year. What’s great about compounding interest, though, is by leaving your money in the account, interest would accumulate on the new balance. So after the second year, assuming no other changes, you’d have $41,600.

Can I retire with $1 million?

You can retire with $1 million dollars if you manage your withdrawals appropriately (it’s pretty tight, but do-able). The Rule of 4 says that you should withdraw no more than 4% of your total portfolio each year. Assuming you’re earning at least 4% in returns, you can effectively live off of interest earned without touching your principal balance. With a $1 million portfolio, this is $40,000 per year.

What’s the best way to invest $1 million short-term?

The best short-term investment for $1 million is a low-cost index fund that broadly diversifies your investments in stocks across a variety of industries. Alternatively, you can invest your $1 million in a robo advisor which will pick low-cost investments across different areas for you.

Read More: Best Investments for Passive Income

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are many ways you can invest $1 million. The first thing to recognize is that you’ve amassed this much money, which is more than many people can say for themselves. Next, though, you need to determine a strategy and focus on executing that strategy (and stick to the plan!), so you can make that $1 million last and grow even more.


  • Abby Hayes

    Abby is a freelance journalist who writes on everything from personal finance to health and wellness. She spends her spare time bargain hunting and meal planning for her family of three. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, and lives with her husband and children in Indianapolis.