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How to invest money in Australia in 2024

From stocks and cryptocurrency to bonds and index funds, these are the 9 ways to grow your money generally.

It has been a volatile 2 years for investors who have dealt with COVID-19, rapidly rising inflation, fears of a recession and geopolitical tensions which might have you wondering "what should I do with my money?".

Worse still, Australia is experiencing 30-year highs in inflation, meaning if you don't invest you might end up further behind when it comes to purchasing power. And this is even after banks have lifted saving rates.

As such, we have compared multiple investment options and chose the best 9 ways to invest your money based on rate of return, liquidity, time horizon and how much knowledge or technical skills you'll need to have this investment strategy.

1. For those who want to control their portfolio: Shares

Shares have the greatest variety of trading options because you can choose from emerging businesses you think will explode, companies that pay dividends, established businesses in industries that are resistant to downturns and more. It's easy and often free to open a stock trading account and start trading.

  • Where to invest: >Online brokers / trading platforms
  • Risk level: Medium to high – varies greatly based on what you own
  • Liquidity: High
  • Minimum: Minimums start from $0 to hundreds of dollars pending the platform you use
  • Fees: $0-$30 per trade in brokerage fees depending on the broker

2. For those who want to be hands-off: Robo-advisors

Robo-advisors trade automatically based on an algorithm and invest your funds on your behalf. All you have to do is set up guidelines, such as your risk tolerance and preferred investment types, then the algorithm will allocate your funds and rebalance your portfolio accordingly. This is great for people who don't want to dedicate the time and energy to building and maintaining their own portfolio.

  • Where to invest: Sign up to a robo-advisor like Stockspot
  • Risk level: Low, medium or high – depending on the strategy you choose
  • Liquidity: High
  • Minimum: Starting from $0 – depending on the robo-advisor
  • Fees: From $0 to 1% – depending on the robo-advisor

3. For those that want to keep it simple: High interest savings account

Like each of these options, high interest savings accounts can be a practical way for Aussies to take advantage of long-term compounding, with very little effort required. While this might not be inflation-beating, banks will pay out savers in return for storing their money, which they use to finance loans. In Australia the first $250,000 you have in your savings account is protected by the government, as a bit of a legacy following the global financial crisis. Overall, savings accounts have had a bit of resurgence lately, as some banks have gone from offering 1% to over 5%.

  • Where to invest: With a bank
  • Risk level: Low – the first $250,000 is guaranteed by the government
  • Liquidity: High
  • Minimum: Starting from $0
  • Fees: Varies depending on the bank's fees

4. For passive long-term investors: Index funds

Index funds offer one of the best risk/reward ratios for long-term investing, meaning they offer decent rewards for relatively low risk. That's because major indices have consistently gone up in the past 90 years. For example, the S&P 500 has averaged a 10% annual return during this time, while in Australia the ASX 200 has a 30-year average of 9.4%. If you invested $10,000 into the ASX 200 30 years ago, you would have $146,000 by 2022 and that is after superannuation being introduced, GST commencing, the dot-com bust, the global financial crisis and COVID-19 lockdowns.

  • Where to invest: Through a fund manager or online broker
  • Risk level: Low, medium – depends on which funds you invest in
  • Liquidity: High
  • Minimum: No investment minimums
  • Fees: Annual fund management fee of about 0.5%-2.5% depending on the fund

5. For those close to retirement: Government bonds

Investing in Australian government bonds is one of the safest investments you can make but you'll get a return that matches the risk. This is because the chances of the Australian government not being about to pay its bills are incredibly low, especially any debt in its own currency. As such most investors see it as safer than the share market or ETFs. Investors who are trying to preserve their assets, such as those who are closer to retirement are most likely to trade in the bond market.

  • Where to buy: Brokers and directly from the government via broker
  • Risk level: Low
  • Liquidity: High
  • Minimum: Typically $500 minimum with bond ETFs, but a $250,000 minimum investment if you invest in government bonds directly
  • Fees: From 0.5% to 1% – depending whether you buy bond ETFs or bonds directly

6. For those who are just starting out: Micro investment

Following a spate of investment apps coming to market and a younger audience, there has been a spate of new micro investing apps that have come to market of late. Micro investing is effectively pooling your money into a portfolio of stocks or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that the provider manages for you. The good thing about micro investing apps is you can start with just a few dollars, with features such as a round-up on everyday purchases helping to grow your balance.

  • Where to buy: Download a micro-investment app
  • Risk level: High
  • Liquidity: High
  • Minimum: Usually no investment minimum
  • Fees: Usually a monthly services fee

7. For those with a larger starting amount: Property

Property investment can be a way for young Australians to grow their wealth, although the 6-figure deposit can be a major barrier to investors getting started. But with a range of government schemes to get people invested, plus the rise of rentvesting, property can be an option to grow your wealth.

  • Where to buy: You will need to buy a place
  • Risk level: Medium
  • Liquidity: Low – although you can borrow against a house
  • Minimum: Hundreds of thousands
  • Fees: Depends on the services you use and the location of the property

8. For risk takers: Cryptocurrencies

Being a relatively new investment option among mainstream investors and institutions, cryptocurrencies are a high-risk, high-reward investment. What’s more, there are always new coins coming out or older ones getting the spotlight every now and then. Because of that, the rate of return could be way higher than investing in stocks. But since cryptos aren’t regulated, you could lose your entire investment.

  • Where to buy: Brokers and crypto exchanges
  • Risk level: Very high
  • Liquidity: High
  • Minimum: No investment minimums, pending the exchange you use
  • Fees: Starting from 0% depending on the broker and the exchange
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Disclaimer: Cryptocurrencies are speculative, complex and involve significant risks – they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances, and obtain your own advice, before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant Regulators' websites before making any decision. Finder, or the author, may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed.

9. For the traders: Forex

Forex or foreign exchange is the buying and selling of global currencies. The global forex market is the largest in the world, with a daily trading volume of more than US$6 trillion. When it comes to trading forex, you're trading on the percentage in points, or PIPs, with major currencies usually trading to 4 decimal places. On the downside these tiny percentage movements, along with leverage makes trading forex incredibly risky.

  • Where to buy: Brokers and directly from the government via broker
  • Risk level: High
  • Liquidity: High
  • Minimum: Varies depending on the brokers
  • Fees: You'll face a number of different fees including PIPs and inactivity fees

Bonus: A way to beat inflation

Believe it or not, inflation can be a good time to get in on certain market sectors. Consumer staples, for instance, are typically resistant to volatile periods. This is because regardless of the price, consumers need to buy these items. As such, businesses will simply pass on rising input costs to their customers.

Not only are brands with pricing power usually strong performers during a period of high inflation, energy and commodities are typically the big winners. One of the major drivers of inflation can be rising costs of commodities. It goes without saying rising commodity prices are good for the commodity sector.

Finder survey: Do Australians of different ages have an investment plan?

Response75+ yrs65-74 yrs55-64 yrs45-54 yrs35-44 yrs25-34 yrs18-24 yrs
No85.07%76%75.31%76.67%75.5%72.35%74.74%
Yes14.93%24%24.69%23.33%24.5%27.65%25.26%
Source: Finder survey by Pure Profile of 1145 Australians, December 2023

5 steps to start investing

Now that you have an idea of the best ways to invest your money, here’s how to start:

1. Identify your goals, time frame and risk tolerance

  • Time horizon: Your time frame should dictate your risk. The sooner you'll need the funds, the more liquid you want to keep them. This way, a dip in the market (assuming it recovers, but we don't know how long it will take) won't destroy the retirement fund you'll need in a year.
    • If you’re nearing retirement, typically a low-risk investment, such as bonds, is the way to go. You would earn less, but the risk is minimal compared to stocks or crypto.
    • If you’re younger, you have a long way to go before retirement so you might want to consider setting aside some funds for riskier investment options (like more speculative stocks or crypto).
  • Risk: Be honest with yourself about how much risk you can reasonably tolerate. If it is going to be impossible for you to watch your portfolio drop in a downturn, you'll want to use a robo-advisor (which is immune to emotional investing) or invest in lower-volatility assets like bonds. Remember, an easy way to hedge risk is through diversification – investing in different assets so that your entire portfolio doesn't depend on the success of one investment (read more on asset classes below).
  • Goals: Do you want to be highly involved in picking stocks? Are there some industries you aren't comfortable investing in? Is your goal retirement or do you have other shorter-term goals? The answers to these questions, as well as those above, will dictate the best way to invest your money.

2. Decide how much help you need

Investors who are just starting out or those who never had the chance to manage their portfolio may consider using a robo-advisor or consulting an expert. Investors who want to try their luck can always start by themselves, as many platforms have research tools and low barriers to entry. Make sure you use money that won’t impact your life if you lose it.

3. Choose your account type

Depending on your goals and investment time frame, you can choose several types of accounts:

  • Self managed super fund (SMSF). Superannuation is compulsory in Australia, but for those who want to manage their own retirement they can select a SMSF. This comes with the perk of being able to choose your own investment but comes with drawbacks including costs associated with the account, legal and compliance obligations and that your money will no longer be professionally managed. In Australia, regardless of what type of super fund you choose your employer should be adding 10.5% to this account, which needs to be paid out every quarter. But for those looking to accelerate their wealth they can take advantage of the tax benefits with superannuation. Earnings in super are taxed at 15%, which is likely less than your marginal tax rate.
  • Individual accounts. This is the most common type of account you can open with any broker and start investing your money as soon as your funds land. This account has no limits to depositing and withdrawing but gains are taxable.

4. Open your investment account

Depending on who manages your account, there are 2 types of investments accounts to choose from:

  • Standard account with an online broker. This is the most common option for those who want to place their own trades and choose their investments. You will need to open a stock trading account, which is easy and usually free.
  • Robo-advisor. This option is for those who want an algorithm to manage their account based on parameters set by the investor.

5. Deposit and invest

Once you open and fund your account, it’s time to put your money to work. Make sure to choose the best way to invest, depending on your financial situation and goals.

Select a platform that offers a diverse range of investment options, such as ETFs. Also, ensure the platform aligns with your individual investment goals and risk appetite...Finally, make sure the platform has an AFSL (Australian Financial Services Licence) for that peace of mind that it is being regulated by ASIC.

Chris Brycki

Chris Brycki
Founder, Stockspot

What is an investment asset class?

Once you start thinking about investing, you'll hear the term "asset class" come up a lot. Simply put, the asset class refers to a group of assets or investments which are similar in nature. It's important to understand the difference between the main asset classes when building your portfolio as it will affect your investment returns and the level of risk you're taking on.

What are the main asset classes?

There are five main asset classes.

Equities

Equities include all shares listed on a public exchange, for example shares listed on the ASX or the NASDAQ in the US. These are publicly listed companies and when you buy shares in these companies you own a portion of that company. Equities are often considered to be the highest-risk asset class.

Fixed interest

Fixed interest assets are those which offer a fixed rate of return, for example bonds. Bonds are essentially a form of loan used by both companies and also governments when they need to borrow money. Investors who lend their money will earn a pre-set, fixed interest rate on that money.

Cash

This is the lowest-risk asset class and includes deposits with banks via products like savings accounts and term deposits.

Property

This includes property investments in residential homes as well as investments in commercial property like major offices or industrial buildings. This is known as unlisted property, as it's not bought and sold on an exchange like shares are.

However, you can also invest in listed property in the form of a managed fund that invests in a range of properties. Although you do access listed property via an exchange, it's still considered part of the property asset class, rather than equities.

Alternative assets

Alternative assets are harder to identify, but they typically include assets that don't fit into any of the above asset classes. For example, private investments made into a private company (one that isn't listed on an exchange) would be classed as an alternative asset. Another example is collectibles like antiques, art or even an extensive stamp collection.

Commodities like gold and precious metals are sometimes included in the alternative asset class and sometimes they're referred to as their own asset class.

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Defensive vs growth assets

These five asset classes can be further grouped into either defensive or growth assets. Defensive assets are lower risk and often offer investors a level of guaranteed income, for example interest payments. Growth assets on the other hand are riskier and typically aim to achieve capital growth over the longer term rather than income over the short term.

While returns are never guaranteed, it's expected that high-risk growth assets will outperform lower-risk, defensive assets over the long term.

Defensive assets

  • Fixed income
  • Cash

Growth assets

  • Equities
  • Property
  • Alternative assets

Investing for income vs capital growth

You could also divide the assets up depending on whether you're investing for income or capital growth. Income assets are those which provide an ongoing level of income while you hold the asset. Capital growth assets may not provide any income for the short to medium term, but the investor hopes the asset itself will grow in value so that when it's sold, they'll make a profit. Antiques are an obvious example here.

One asset class can include both income and capital growth assets. Let's look at shares as an example. An established blue-chip share like BHP or Commonwealth Bank that makes a profit every year and consistently pays a large dividend to its shareholders would be classed as an income asset, as it offers value while you're holding it. However, shares in a newly-listed technology startup that pay no dividends would be classed as a capital growth asset, as the shareholder buys it with the hope it will increase in value over the longer term.

What is investment risk?

Investment risk is the risk of financial loss. All investments carry some level of investment risk. When you decide to invest your money, it's never guaranteed that you'll make a return on that money. In fact, you could even stand to lose the money you initially invested (and sometimes more, if you're trading products like CFDs).

Diversification between asset classes

To avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, one simple way to reduce your risk is by diversifying your investments across a range of asset classes. This is because each asset class behaves differently. For example, if the property market is doing poorly, it's possible the share market could be performing strongly (or vice versa). If you're only invested in one asset class, and that asset class does poorly, your entire portfolio will suffer.

You don't need to invest in every asset class, but making sure you're invested in more than one or two different asset classes will help reduce your risk. The amount you invest in each asset class will also depend on the amount of risk you're happy to take on.

For example, let's say you wanted to take on a moderate level of risk. That is, you're happy for some of your investments to be high-risk, but you don't want your entire portfolio to be. You might decide to invest a third of your money in equities, a third in property and a third in cash. If you were striving for a very low level or risk, you could reduce this to be only 10 to 20% of your money in equities, and the rest in fixed interest and cash.

Balancing risk and reward

It would be nice if you could earn high returns while taking on little risk, but unfortunately investing doesn't work this way. It's typically understood that the higher the risk, the higher the potential reward. This means that in order to earn a return on your investment, you're going to need to take on a certain level of risk.

It's fine to exclusively invest in low-risk products like savings accounts, but you won't get a very big return on your money by doing this. On the other hand, investing exclusively in high-risk shares could have the potential to get you much higher returns, but you're also taking on a much higher level of risk in exchange.

To find the right balance, it's a good idea to start from the outcome you're hoping to achieve with your investments. Try to figure out what success looks like for your portfolio, then work backwards to determine what investments you'll need to make to get there and how much risk you'll need to take.

Investing for the long term

Another way to reduce your risk is to invest with a long-term mindset. Investments, like shares, can be very volatile, often rising and falling by a significant amount in the space of a month or less. But if you're invested for the long term, say 10, 20 or even 30 years, you won't be as bothered by short-term market movements. A lot of higher risk share portfolios predict they'll achieve their objective (i.e. they'll achieve the high returns that they're aiming for) after 7-10 years, despite a lot of ups-and-downs along the way.

The dollar cost average strategy

The dollar cost averaging strategy is a way of buying small parcels of the same asset gradually over time, rather than buying it all at once. For example, let's say you wanted to invest $20,000 into The Smith Company. Instead of buying $20,000 worth of The Smith Company shares in one hit, you could buy $2000 worth of the shares each month for 10 months.

This means that you're not having to pick a certain share price to buy your shares, which opens you up to the risk of buying them at a bad price. Instead, by buying the shares in The Smith Company in smaller parcels over a longer period of time, the average price of your shares will be a lot more accurate and closer to the true value of the shares.

This strategy helps reduce the risk of buying the shares at a bad price; however, it does mean that you'll pay more in brokerage fees as you'll need to pay brokerage on each trade. For this reason, the dollar cost average buying strategy is more worthwhile when you're investing large amounts of money.

How to find the right mix of assets for your portfolio

When designing your portfolio, take the following factors into consideration when deciding which asset classes to invest in.

  • Your age. The younger you are, the more risk you can afford to take on because you have more time to ride out any market falls.
  • Your risk tolerance. Regardless of your age, if risky assets are going to keep you awake at night it might be best to invest in asset classes that are lower risk.
  • Your goal (income or growth). Why are you investing? Do you want to earn a regular income stream now or are you investing for way into the future?

Now that you understand the different asset classes, if you're ready to start building your portfolio you might want to check out our seven-step guide to buying shares online.

Research before you invest

It may go without saying, but one of the main strategies to reducing your investment risk is to do your research. Investing in assets with little thought, or investing in something based on rumours or speculation from others, is a sure-fire way to increase your risk.

Here are a few easy ways to research potential investments:

  • Watch the news. Make a habit of reading the financial news in the morning or listening to the market updates on the radio on your way to work. You'll get updates about the economy and how different asset classes are performing.
  • Read the product disclosure statement (PDS). Each investment product will offer a PDS online that's free for anyone to read. The PDS will outline how the product works and includes all the fees you need to be aware of.
  • Read annual reports. If you're investing in shares, read the company's annual reports to get an idea of how the company is performing and what its plans are for future years.
  • Do online research. You can access more comprehensive guides on different aspects of investing via our investing hub here.

Investment options for those starting out their journey

It is best to start investing as early as possible. As such, investing when you're young is one of the best ways to achieve a strong financial return over the long term. This is because returns compound, which given enough time will see your earnings-on-earnings returns grow your balance.

So while it can be beneficial to start out now, knowing what to invest in can be tricky. For those starting out, it is best to keep things relatively simple and learn as you go along. This means options such as a high yield savings account, micro investment funds or even index funds might be a way to get started.

Of course though, there's no perfect way to start investing and what works for others may not work for you.

Bottom line

The best way to invest money in Australia depends on factors like your financial goals, risk tolerance, level of involvement and time frame. There is no single best way to invest your money, but these 5 investment options (stocks, robo-advisors, index funds, cryptocurrency and bonds) are good places to start when you are deciding how to invest money in Australia.

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To make sure you get accurate and helpful information, this guide has been edited by Jason Loewenthal as part of our fact-checking process.
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Cameron Micallef was a utilities writer for Finder. He previously worked on titles including Smart Property Investment, nestegg and Investor Daily, reporting across superannuation, property and investments. Cameron has a Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies/ Commerce from the University of Wollongong. Outside of work Cameron is passionate about all things sports and travel. See full bio

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Alison Banney is the money editorial manager at Finder. She covers all areas of personal finance, and her areas of expertise are superannuation, banking and saving. She has written about finance for 10 years, having previously worked at Westpac and written for several other major banks and super funds. See full bio

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