Add Simple Investments to Your Personal Budget for Big Returns

The world of stocks, mutual funds, IRAs and ETFs doesn't have to be a journey into extensive mental stimulation and rigorous Gordon Gekko techniques to earn generous dividends. By adding simple investments into your personal budget, you can help generate big returns. All it takes is a little bit of research, time and disposable cash.

Since the end of the Great Recession, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has more than doubled from around 8,000 to nearly 17,000. The S&P 500 has experienced the same path of prosperity also more than doubled from 900 and is inching towards the 2,000 mark.

This has led many bears, who have stayed out of the market for fears of a second collapse in the market, to start becoming, or at least considering becoming, bulls and entering the fray. Of course, with the median household income in the U.S. actuallyseven percent lower than it was in 2000 when adjusted for inflation, it's certainly understandable why some are apprehensive of taking a step into today's market.

What's the secret then for middle-income households? Baby steps. That's right; taking small steps is a sufficient measure to take when looking to incorporate simple investments into your personal budget for significant returns in the long run. This can be done by utilizing various budgeting tools and applications from Mint to find that spare money.

The first step to take is to start off with a reasonable sum of money. This means beginning with anywhere from as low as $500 to as high as $2,000 per year, whichever seems more comfortable at first. Rather than forking over this much money throughout the year, consider setting aside this amount of cash one time annually.

What's next? Well, here are three simple investments to add to your personal budget:

401(k) Contributions

The 401(k) industry has remained the backbone of the middle-class retirement for decades. It has become a safe haven for all kinds of employees to park their money for their winter years. This is one of the best and simplest investments to make all year: adding an additional $1,000 per year to a 401(k) by just heading over to the human resources department.

It also offers tax advantages, a better long-term investment average and fewer complications.

Mutual Funds

For those who are too busy to regularly check CNBC or research corporate bonds and stocks, a mutual fund is an attractive investment hub for individuals that want to get in the market but are too concerned about putting all of their eggs in one basket. A mutual fund allows investors to buy a pool of stocks, bonds and other investable assets that are professionally managed.

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Financial institutions offer a wide variety of mutual funds (balanced, fixed income, global equity, money market and sector) and provide flexible options to match the client's personal budget needs.

Precious Metals

With the cost of living rising, a lot of investors seek a safe haven from the tough environment. Precious metals, like gold and silver, are a popular investment to make for many reasons: the yellow metal has been a reliable resource for 6,000 years and its price has remained steady for more than a decade. This can be acquired from a bank, private dealer or a brokerage firm (exchange-traded funds).

Remember: make a plan, don't be afraid of any setbacks in the market and track your results.

Investing doesn't have to be a complicated process so be sure to sign up for Mint and start using its free budget tools and peruse its money tips today to start making returns tomorrow.

Andrew Moran is a full-time professional writer and journalist, who covers business, economics and personal finance in Canada and the United States.

Photo credits: Image courtesy of worradmu /, hyena reality /