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

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“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?

It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.

Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.

But Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000.

Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money.

But it leaves the complicated investment terms out of it. You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.

Bonus: Right now, The Penny Hoarder is teaming up with Stash to fund your first investment — so you’ll get a $5 bonus to get started.

3. Open a High-Yield Bank 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.

Varo Money has combined traditional banking tools with modern technology to help its customers become financially healthy. Its big selling points include:

  • All-in-one: In addition to a  bank account, you can open a Varo Savings Account, earning 1.35% Annual Percentage Yield — nearly 20 times the average savings account.
  • No fees: With Varo, as long as you use one of its 55,000 ATMs across the world, you’ll never pay fees. Additionally, you’ll pay no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, no foreign transaction fees and no cash replacement fees. You’ll just pay out-of-network ATM fees and cash deposit fees if you deposit cash in-store through Green Dot.
  • Early access to your paycheck: Get paid up to two days before your check is typically posted when you set up direct deposit with Varo.
  • Varo Forecast: Varo keeps tabs on how much you spend across all your accounts so you can better analyze and project your cash flow. It also allows you to set spending caps.

To sign up for Varo, you’ll have to download its free iOS app. (Sorry Android users and desktop traditionalists!)

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.
  • ParibusIt turns out deleting your emails could be costing you serious money. Intrigued?One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get money back for what you paid for shipping.
  • 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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This article contains general information and explains options you may have, but it is not intended to be investment advice or a personal recommendation. We can't personalize articles for our readers, so your situation may vary from the one discussed here. Please seek a licensed professional for tax advice, legal advice, financial planning advice or investment advice.