If you want to build wealth, you have to invest in the stock market. The market has provided average returns of over 10% for nearly 100 years. Financial expert Dave Ramsey even claims you can earn 12% per year through mutual funds.

A lot of people are afraid to invest in the stock market, mainly because they don’t know how. But the easiest way to do that is through an index fund. Those are funds tied to specific market indexes, that match the performance of the index.

For that reason, they tend to be more stable than owning individual stocks. Mostly, they don’t take the wild swings individual stocks do, particularly to the downside.

An excellent example is the Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares (VFINX), an index fund that has close to a half billion dollars.

No less an authority than Warren Buffett recommends investors buy index funds. Ironically however, Warren Buffett didn’t make his money investing in index funds! And you may not either.

No, there are other ways you can invest, most that are outside the stock market, and they can provide much higher returns. That’s why in this article we’re going to talk about investments that have produced higher returns than index funds, at least they have for me.

I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t invest in index funds. But you should also know you’re not limited to index funds, and that’s what we’re going to discuss. Each of these nine investments I’ve put my money into over the years have produced much higher returns than index funds. Each has yielded many times more than 11%.

Interested? You should be! Just be prepared to fully expand your idea of what an investment is. We’re going out-of-the-box with this list – way out!

Here goes…

1. My Blog

My blog, Good Financial Cents required only a small investment of money. That included buying the domain, the WordPress theme, the logo and then a pretty header for my site. My total cash outlay was only between $700 and $800. From that modest investment I’ve made literally millions of dollars.

A lot of people I talk to would like to do something similar. They’d like to start a blog or an e-commerce store, but they don’t take that first step. Or they’re afraid of the complications and the cost. But it’s really not that complicated And in my case, it wasn’t that costly either. You can do the same.

All you need to do is go to GoDaddy, and spend maybe $10 or $12 to buy a domain. In fact, today you can buy a domain, a theme, and a hosting plan for less than $200! That’s a tiny investment for the income potential you’ll gain. So if you have an idea for a blog or an online store, take the plunge and get started today. Yes, it’ll take time, but it won’t require nearly as much capital as you think.

2. Online Courses

I’ve paid anywhere from $47 to as much is $3,500 to buy online courses, and most have been well worth the money paid.

One of the best courses I bought was from Michelle at Making Sense of Cents, and it cost me just $197. Her blog is earning – get this – six figures per month. She made an online course – Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – showing how she makes $50,000 per month from affiliate marketing on her blog.

I also have a YouTube channel with over 270,000 subscribers, but I didn’t get to that point overnight. I invested money in online courses that helped me get there. Altogether, I’ve invested over $6,000 on courses to help me up my game on YouTube. They helped me learn how YouTube works, including the lighting and everything you need to do to stand out from other content creators.

There are people running very successful YouTube channels, and investing in their courses is one of the fastest, easiest ways to fast-track your own success. The first course I bought was from James Wedmore, Video Traffic Academy, outlining everything I needed to do to begin producing videos for YouTube. There were others, and they all allowed me to learn the business of YouTube, without all the painful trial and error of going to do-it-yourself route.

3. Facebook Ads

My first experience running Facebook ads was promoting my online course, The Online Advisor Growth Formula – Master Level. The course was aimed at financial advisors who were looking to build an online presence to grow their businesses. I chose to reach them using Facebook ads.

That course ultimately earned me $225,000, and I paid only a small fraction of that for the Facebook ads that brought in the paying customers. The return was between $2 and $3 for every $1 in advertising costs. It felt a lot like printing money!

If you have a product or service you want to sell, you need to look into Facebook ads. Marketing has changed dramatically in the last few years, and the social media is emerging as one of the best places that do it, starting with Facebook.

4. Cryptocurrency

I’m almost embarrassed to include this one on this list because I spent a lot of time badmouthing it. A lot of people were promoting it, promising overnight riches, and I was having some fun arguing with them against it.

But I’ve become a convert....sort of.  Cryptocurrency has made me more than the stock market has, and certainly more than index funds.

I put $1,000 into a Coinbase account, and split it between Bitcoin, Ethereum, and a few others. In just a year or so I’ve had the account, I’m up over 300%.

Now admittedly, that return is just for one year. But there have been a lot of skeptics when it comes to cryptocurrencies, and over time most been proven wrong. Yes, I was a doubter for years. But the evidence is piling up that cryptocurrencies are a real thing, and are increasingly looking like they’re here to stay.

It may be that you can’t afford to be out of cryptocurrencies. But you don’t need to be all in either. It certainly is speculation at this point, but the kind where you can make a lot of money from just a small investment. You certainly don’t want to bet money you can’t afford to lose on this one, but you can make a lot of money on just a little bit of money.

5. Street Cred

This is another way of referring to my professional designation, which is certified financial planner (CFP). When I got started as a CFP I paid for the courses out of my own pocket. It was an investment in my career. That’s one of the very best investments you can make, if only because your career is the source of all other investment capital you’ll need.

The CFP designation didn’t increase my income. But it gave me something that was absolutely necessary in order for me to earn more money, and that’s street cred.

To give you an idea what street cred is, would you rather go to an accountant or CPA? That’s how it works for me as a CFP. The designation enabled me to win clients over financial planners and didn’t have the designation. It gives potential clients a higher level of confidence in who I am and what I can do.

The CFP designation has even enabled me to be featured in major publications like Forbes, CNBC, FOX Business, Business Insider, and others. That in turn has helped my business as a CFP, as well as my online blog.

Whatever the financial cost of obtaining the CFP designation has been, I’ve gotten my investment back many times over.

6. Individual Stocks

I used to hold a lot of funds in the past, but in more recent years I’ve mostly been holding individual stocks. I mostly purchase these in my Roth IRA and in my joint account with my wife. Compared to index funds, I’ve doubled my money in one account, and tripled it in the other.

Examples of stocks I’ve purchased in recent years include UnderArmor, Visa and Facebook, just to name a few. I certainly don’t make money on every stock I purchase, but I have on most. That’s part of the process when it comes to individual stocks. You will lose money on some, but the money you make on others will more than offset it.

Now I have to admit that I’m more of a risk taker than most when it comes to investing. I’m willing to accept that some stocks don’t perform well, because I’m more interested in the ones that do.

7. Website (Re)Design

Naturally, this investment relates to my blog (#1 above). Now I mentioned the upfront investment on the blog was in the $700 to $800 range. After a few years, the site was in definite need of a facelift. I was about to release a new book, and felt it was time to modernize my website.

A website designer gave me a quote of $8,000 to get the job done. That was at least 10 times my initial investment in the blog, and it was a tough pill to swallow. But I knew I needed to make a change with the site.

It ended up being money well spent. After the redesign, all kinds of opportunities came my way, and the site was drawing more traffic as well.

But as you might guess, redesigning a website, just like any kind of business, needs to happen every few years. And just a few years later, that’s exactly what happened.

It was another $8,000 on the second redesign, which means I was investing an additional $16,000 into my blog between the two redesigns. But considering how much money the blog brings in, it was a relatively modest investment. And just as was the case with the first redesign, the second one improved the look of the site, and brought more traffic and opportunities.

More generally, this “investment” refers to reinvesting in your business. In my case, it meant reinvesting in my blog, which is a major source of income. For you, it could be reinvesting in whatever business you have, including a side business. It’s very similar to investing money in your career, in the form of getting new certifications or learning new skills. It’s how you stay competitive in the business world.

8. Coaching

More precisely, this is about investing in business coaching. About eight or nine years ago I invested somewhere between $7,000 and $8,000 in joining a coaching program. It was called The Strategic Coach, and it was the most I’d invested in something intangible up to that time. But it proved to be another winning investment.

What was the return on investment (ROI) for the coaching program? Within three years I more than tripled my income, which was sitting at about $250,000 at the time I signed up for the coaching program.

But seven years after completing the program, my income is now 10 times higher than it was before.

You can’t even put a number on that kind of ROI, because it resulted in a permanent increase in my income. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s well into several thousand percent. If that isn’t an investment, I don’t know what is.

9. Ghost Writer

Okay, let’s start with this: using a ghost writer isn’t something everyone needs to do. But it’s an example of spending money to hire a professional to perform or complete a project you either don’t have the time or expertise to do yourself. It’s another form of investing in your business or career, which is something everyone needs to do.

In my case, yes, hiring a ghostwriter was exactly what I needed to do. A few years back I was writing a book, Soldier of Finance. It took me two years to write the basic manuscript. But not being a professional writer, plus having a family and several business ventures going left me little time to complete the book.

To solve that dilemma, I hired a professional ghostwriter for about $8,000. The process involved seven or eight Skype conversations of about 90 minutes each. But based on my rough manuscript, and our conversations, the ghost writer was able to have the manuscript ready for publishing in just three months.

Now it may seem as if hiring a ghostwriter to write a book is somehow cheating. But the fact is my book is all about my ideas and my story. The ghost writer was able to take the raw information and convert what was essentially a book idea into a published book.

Having a published book is another form of street cred, much like having my CFP designation. Even though I have a blog, your credibility and authority increase when you’re a published author.

Maybe you’re not going to write a book, but you probably have projects on the back burner that can seriously advance your career and your income. If you’re struggling to get it done, paying a professional is a true investment.


If you read this article thinking I was going to come up with nine traditional investments that will outperform index funds, you may be a bit confused. Other than cryptocurrency and individual stocks, the other recommendations I made are business related.

But that’s really the point. Yes, when it comes to traditional investing, index funds are the best basic investment for most people. But if you’re looking to earn more than 10% or 11% on your money, it’s critical to think outside-the-box.

That’s what you’re doing when you invest in your business or your career. Unlike index funds, where you’re investing a large amount of capital in the hope of earning a 10% return, investing in your career or business can produce returns of 10 to 1, 100 to 1, or even more. Much more.

While it might take you 30 or more years to turn $10,000 into $100,000 using index funds, you might be able to achieve the same results in just a few short years making investments in your business or your career.

And in 30 year’s time – the sky’s the limit!

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