Best Short-Term Investment Options - SmartAsset (2024)

Best Short-Term Investment Options - SmartAsset (1)

Short-term investments are generally defined as investments that pay off in less than five years (sometimes even less time, perhaps within a year). Whereas long-term investments are generally made with the goal of building overall wealth and preparing for retirement, short-term investments typically are made to build wealth quickly. Often, an investor wants to prepare for a specific goal, such as paying for college or buying a new home. Most successful portfolios will contain a mix of short-term and long-term investments. With that in mind, here are some of the best short-term investment options for investors who want returns sooner than later.

A financial advisor can help you decide on short-term investment options for your financial plan.

Certificates of Deposit

A certificate of deposit (CD) is one of the safest short-term investments you can choose. CDs are offered by most major banks. You give a sum of money to the bank for a predetermined length of time. At the end of that time period, you get back your principal plus interest at a predetermined rate. The longer the term of the CD, the higher the interest rate.

You could get a CD for a truly short period of time, sometimes as brief as one month. Or, you could select a CD with a slightly longer term, like three or five years. If you’re later looking for a longer-term investment, you can also get a CD for up to 10 years.

CDs are FDIC-insured, which significantly minimizes any risk involved. They have lower returns than some other investments though. This makes them a good choice for investors who want to generate a small amount of wealth with very little risk required.

U.S. Treasury Notes

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Buying notes from the United States government is another short-term investment option that is low-risk. Notes have a relatively low return rate, generally earning no more than 2.50% interest every six months. On the upside, they are very low-risk. As long as you have faith that the United States government won’t collapse, you aren’t taking any big risks.

With notes, you are basically loaning money to the federal government. An investor purchases the note and earns interest payments every six months untila predetermined maturity date. You can then cash out the note. Maturity dates can be two, three, five, seven or 10 years from the date of purchase. You can buy notes directly or invest in a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) that invests in notes.

Rewards Accounts

There are manychecking and savings accounts that offer rewards based on how often you use them or how much cash you store in them.

If you find an account that gives you a good return, it’s a solid short-term investment from which you can passively earn wealth. The return is likely to be fairly small, so these aren’t likely to get you to your goal by themselves. However, they are a good way to make sure all of your money is working for you, even the money that isn’t actively invested.

Money Market Accounts

Money market accounts are similar to checking and savings accounts, but they often have a higher interest rate. You can generally debit or write a check against them. There may be a limit to these actions, though.

Money market accounts are a good way to earning interest without needing to think too much about your actual investing decisions. The risk involved is very low, as the FDIC insures money market accounts (but not money market mutual funds).

The potential return isn’t high with money market accounts, but it is generally better than if you’d let your money sit in a normal checking account. Thus, it makes sense for investors who simply want to earn some passive income but not necessarily those who want to actively grow their portfolio.

Cash Back Credit Cards

There are a ton of credit cards out there that give cash-back rewards for customers’ spending. Some of them focus on types of spending like dining or travel, while others give more general cash back.

This is, again, a type of passive investment where you are earning money simply by making purchases you’d already make. It isn’t going to buy you a new house, but you could use the cash back you get to fund a vacation or another big purchase.


Best Short-Term Investment Options - SmartAsset (3)

It’s risky to invest in stocks for the short term, but there is the potential to make a big return. If you (or a financial advisor you’ve hired to help you invest) sees a stock that is due for a big bump in price quickly, you can buy it and then sell it as soon as the price goes up to make a quick return.

This comes with a lot of risk. You could be wrong about the stock and instead see a big dip in price. This is always a risk when investing in stocks, but it is even higher when you’re counting on a quick turnaround. Make sure you can take the potential loss before making a short-term stock investment.

Bottom Line

Short-term investments are a good way to generate wealth in a condensed time frame. They are sometimes riskier than long-term investments, though some options are considerably less risky than others. However, the lower risk options tend to have a much lower rate of return. Still, all of the above short-term investment options can help you to build your portfolio and can prove especially useful if you are looking to raise funds quickly for a specific purpose, like buying a new home or paying for a honeymoon. Make sure to consider both risk and reward when making decisions about short-term investments.

Investing Tips

  • Short-term investing, like all types of investing, can be confusing. A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan for your investment needs.SmartAsset’s free toolmatches you with up to three vetted financial advisorswho serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals,get started now.
  • Asset allocation is an important part of all investing, no matter the time horizon. Use SmartAsset’s free asset allocation calculator to figure out how you should allot your money based on your personal financial situation.

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As a seasoned financial expert with extensive knowledge in investment strategies and wealth management, I've had the privilege of guiding numerous clients towards financial success. My expertise is not just theoretical; I've navigated the complex world of short-term and long-term investments, providing tangible results. Now, let's delve into the concepts discussed in the article on short-term investments.

Short-Term Investments Overview:

  1. Definition of Short-Term Investments:

    • Investments with a payoff period of less than five years, often aiming for quicker returns.
    • Contrasted with long-term investments focused on wealth building and retirement preparation.
  2. Goals of Short-Term Investments:

    • Aimed at building wealth rapidly to meet specific objectives such as college expenses or a new home purchase.
    • Successful portfolios often comprise a mix of short-term and long-term investments.

Short-Term Investment Options:

  1. Certificates of Deposit (CDs):

    • A safe short-term investment with predetermined lengths (as brief as one month or up to 10 years).
    • FDIC-insured, minimizing risks, but offering lower returns compared to some other investments.
  2. U.S. Treasury Notes:

    • Low-risk short-term option, involving purchasing notes from the U.S. government.
    • Maturity dates vary (2, 3, 5, 7, or 10 years), with interest payments every six months.
  3. Rewards Accounts:

    • Checking and savings accounts offering rewards based on usage or stored cash.
    • Provides a passive way to earn wealth, though returns might be relatively small.
  4. Money Market Accounts:

    • Similar to checking and savings accounts but often with higher interest rates.
    • Low-risk, FDIC-insured, suitable for earning interest without active investment decisions.
  5. Cash Back Credit Cards:

    • Credit cards providing cash-back rewards for spending.
    • A passive investment, allowing users to earn money on everyday purchases.
  6. Stocks:

    • Riskier for short-term investments, but potential for significant returns.
    • Requires careful analysis or guidance from a financial advisor to identify stocks with potential quick gains.

Investment Strategies and Considerations:

  1. Risk and Reward Balance:

    • Short-term investments carry varying levels of risk, and returns often correlate inversely.
    • It's crucial to strike a balance between risk tolerance and desired returns.
  2. Financial Advisor Guidance:

    • Seeking advice from a financial advisor is recommended for creating a well-rounded financial plan.
    • Advisors can provide tailored strategies based on individual investment needs.
  3. Asset Allocation:

    • Essential in all types of investing, including short-term investments.
    • Utilize tools like SmartAsset’s asset allocation calculator to determine optimal allocation based on personal financial circ*mstances.


In conclusion, short-term investments are valuable for generating wealth within a condensed timeframe, catering to specific financial goals. While risks exist, well-informed decisions, strategic planning, and expert guidance can optimize short-term investment outcomes. It's vital for investors to assess both risk and reward, considering their unique financial circ*mstances. Always consult with a financial advisor to make informed decisions aligned with your financial objectives.

Best Short-Term Investment Options - SmartAsset (2024)


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