There are literally hundreds of off-the-beaten path ways to invest your money, and no list can cover them all. These aren’t just part-time jobs or side hustles, but alternative investments or non-full-time business opportunities that require some type of upfront capital. You can read our latest blog posts, or keep reading for the complete list.
The List of Unusual Investments
Our list of Unusual Investments is constantly growing and is currently up to 125+. Some of the unusual investments we cover include:
1. Active Bets – buy someone else’s sport bet that is in-the-money or has a pretty good chance at winning for less than it would cost to place the same exact bet with the casino or sports book. At the right price, gambling starts to make sense even when paying the house their “juice.”
Let’s says someone picked a long shot Major League Baseball team at the beginning of the season to win the World Series. That team has made it through the regular season and playoffs and is now one of the 2 teams playing in the World Series.
The person who made that bet might be willing to sell it to another investor so they can lock in some profits and eliminate the risk of that team losing.
2. Air Rights – increase the value of a particular parcel of real estate by purchasing the air rights of another parcel. Done correctly, the value of the additional square footage that you can develop will far outweigh the cost of the air rights required.
3. Aircraft Leasing – hedge funds and wealthy investors have bought large numbers of aircraft that they have turned around and leased to airlines of all sizes. Airlines would sometimes prefer to lease vs. buy in order to preserve capital and reduce their asset base on their balance sheets.
4. Algorithms – even if you are not a statistics wiz, you can make money off an algorithm. You would have to find someone that is willing to sell you their algorithm, and then you take that algorithm and monetize it. You could either trade directly with it, or license it to other investors through a website that lets you share in investors’ profits.
5. Backyard Chickens – for most people with backyard chickens, they provide a way to connect with agriculture while producing a few eggs for their families. For a few others, the investment can yield some side income through egg and meat sales.
6. Bank Failures – while shorting the stock of an individual bank would be illegal if you know for a fact that the FDIC was about to put it in receiver status, it is perfectly legal to short the stock or buy put options on a bank stock that you feel is likely to fail.
You might develop your investment thesis by looking at declining bank ratings, looking for recorded real estate loans that are underwater, and looking for commonalities between a struggling bank and other publicly-traded banks that have recently failed.
7. Bankruptcy Claims – there is a vibrant market of investors seeking to purchase bankruptcy claims at a discount if they think there is a reasonably good chance of being paid back their principal plus a return on an investment.
8. Baseball Cards – every eight year old boy in America has some understanding of the value of baseball cards. While newer cards are largely shunned by investors, there are some classic baseball cards typically from about the turn-of-the-20th century to the 1950’s which have preserved their value and appreciated in recent years.
9. Beekeeping – besides generating enjoyment, many people have been able to use their beekeeping hobby to turn a profit by offering honey, beeswax, nectar and other bee byproducts for sale. Buyers might be willing to pay a premium for a product that is fresh and local.
10. Billboards – the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 and local laws make developing new billboards extremely difficult if not impossible. This large barrier to entry makes existing billboards very valuable.
11. Bitcoin Mining – most businesses look at computers as a necessary expense in order to keep their employees productive and connected in today’s business world. Computer hardware for bitcoin mining is more of a pure investment; its like buying a factory whose sole purpose if to mine bitcoin through massive amounts of computing power and electricity usage.
12. Boat Shares – boat share are different than boat clubs, which give you the right to use a boat in a club’s boat fleet. With boat shares you actually own a percentage of a particular boat.
You have the right to use it for a particular time slot during the busy season, and might get use of the boat for extra time in the off season months if no one else is using it. The boat is typically held in an LLC, and you own a percentage of that LLC. When the boat is eventually sold, you receive proceeds from the sale.
The investment play is buying a resale boat share from someone who needs to get out or has no use for the boat, and does not want to wait until the boat is sold to recover some of his investment.
13. Border Businesses – border businesses take advantage of differences in laws by offering people on the other side of the border something that they want, whether it be low-priced goods, alcohol, fireworks, un-taxed inventory storage, lottery tickets, or a variety of other products or services. Often having a location right on the border will provide someone’s business a sustainable competitive advantage.
14. Bull Semen – whether it is the semen of a very productive dairy cow or a champion rodeo bull, people are willing to pay a pretty penny to have one of their female cows inseminated by a great male cow. The money that some people pay for a straw of bull semen is mind-boggling to those not familiar with the practice.
15. Burial Plots – someone who inherits a burial plot, gets divorced, file bankruptcy, or moves away from an area, may be looking to unload it at virtually any price they can get, rather than hold the asset that they now see as worthless. An investor that is ready to buy it now may be able to buy low and sell high, but it might take years to realize the profit.
16. Business Assets – investing in business assets from printing presses to commercial ovens reminds me of the saying that you can give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, or teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Making money this way does not necessarily require operating a business as you could just loan money to another operator and use the business asset as collateral.
17. Car Sharing – you can generate income from an extra car by renting it out on a daily basis. Investing in a new car solely to rent it out may not be profitable.
However, keeping a used car for car sharing and as a backup (instead of trading it in or selling it) can create a profitable income stream if you have the right car and there is enough demand in your city.
It is also a way to generate income for a car that would normally just sit in the garage if you frequently travel or go days without actually needing to use your primary vehicle.
18. Car Title Loans – car titles are good collateral for smaller loans since cars can be repossessed and sold in a reasonably cost-effective manner if the borrower defaults. The market is fragmented and even small investors can often participate in this investment.
19. Car Washes – car washes are a popular passive investment for people like doctors and other professionals. The reality is that they are not as passive as they seem with the equipment often breaking down or needing upgrading. Investors do like the fact that they are often located on decent retail sites that could be re-developed in the future.
20. Cat Bonds – big name insurance companies offload their risk of a large catastrophic event such as Hurricane Katrina by selling high-yielding cat bonds. Investors get a nice coupon and the return of their principal if a catastrophe above a certain dollar loss threshold does not hit while they own the bonds.
21. Churches – while churches are not-for-profit, there is quite a bit of real estate demand in certain areas for buildings with a lot of parking that can be configured as a church. While it involves taking on extra risk from a tenant that often has shaky credit, lack of credit history and no strong personal guarantees, it can also be a way to monetize a property that is otherwise difficult to lease or sell.
22. CoCos – also known as contingent convertible bonds, cocos are a type of bond that converts into stock if the strength of the issuing bank worsens. Investors want the bank to maintain its health or to get stronger, so that they can keep getting their interest payments and eventual repayment of principal.
23. Coin Operated Pool Tables – coin operated pool tables are like giant vending machines, only instead of selling snacks, you are renting the pool balls so that the players can complete one game. With no real marginal cost per game, the entire sale is a profit to you the owner. The key is finding the right location to place the table, in order to assure a steady flow of customers.
24. Commission Advance Loans – some commissioned salespeople don’t live paycheck to paycheck (they don’t get a regular paycheck), but instead from deal to deal. Some rely on getting loans against a future commission in order to pay monthly bills or to have cash now for some other opportunity.
25. Covered Calls – with covered calls, you sell call options to buy a stock you already own. If the market goes down, stays flat or doesn’t increase to the strike price of the option, you pocket the income. If not, you still make some money because you can sell your appreciated shares to pay the buyer the money you owe them.
26. Crane Rental – developers of high rise condos and other projects often rent their cranes from companies or investors that are willing to pay the large price to purchase one. A crane owner can take advantage of the fact that a developer only needs the crane for a relatively short period of time so buying makes no sense.
27. CrossFit® Gym – owning a gym (or box) has become a very popular investment for fitness trainers as well as rich guys with a CrossFit® addiction. Without geographic restrictions on competing gyms, the only way to earn a decent return is by creating a sense of community that keeps members loyal and attracts new members with word-of-mouth.
28. Cryptocurrency – you’ve heard of Bitcoin, but there are quite a few other less well known cryptocurrencies. Highly speculative for a variety of reasons, buying low and selling high has made some cryptocurrency investors extremely wealthy because of dramatic price appreciation in recent years. Whether it will sustain its popularity, and whether it has any intrinsic value at all is still up for debate.
29. Cuban Property Claims – when Fidel Castro expropriated private businesses and real estate for the state, the prior owners were never compensated. There is hope that as the embargo against Cuba goes away, Cuba will finally settle its debts either with money or by providing claimants with some other asset that could generate cash flow in the future.
30. Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) – the businesses themselves are on legally shaky ground, but they have served as a solid income source for a select few that have been able to find undervalued players and consistently win daily fantasy contests. For those who treat the business like a math problem requiring a lot of input and analysis and who use software to enter tons of contests at once, DFS has produced a good investment return.
31. De Novo Banks – after a drought of new bank openings after the Great Recession, de novo banks are again starting to form. De novo banks are small startup banks typically formed to serve a particular community or underserved niche of the market. Investors like the adding oversight and scrutiny that bank regulators place on the management of the bank.
32. Debtor-in-Possession Financing – also called DIP financing or DIP loans, debtor-in-possession financing involves making loans to companies that have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Making loans to bankrupt companies sounds crazy, but keep in mind that these types of loans often have priority over existing debt and equity.
33. Deconstruction – deconstruction involves taking a house apart and recycling the materials instead of just demolishing everything and sending it to the dump. It can be used to generate tax write-offs, or to provide materials to re-use in another construction project. Its possible it could be used as part of a flipping strategy to buy a lot with a house on it, deconstruct it, and then re-sell the lot.
34. Delivery Routes – a number of companies such as FedEx, Flowers Bread or Mission Foods contract with independent companies to deliver their products or packages in a particular area. The exclusive service areas can make delivery routes very valuable. Some route owners handle deliveries themselves, while others just own the trucks and hire the drivers.
35. Designer Handbags – unlike most accessories, designer handbags can hold their value for many years or even appreciate in some cases. They are fairly easy to sell through online auctions and consignment stores. Turning a profit, however, usually requires buying a resale bag at a discount to market value and then re-selling it.
36. Dim Sum Bonds – these bonds which are denominated in the Chinese currency (renminbi) allow foreign investors to invest in the debt of Chinese companies. Other issuers including American companies and foreign countries have also issued dim sum bonds. It’s a mix between investing in bonds and speculating on a foreign currency.
37. Discontinued Consumer Products – certain brand names have developed a loyal following of consumers; everything from shampoo to makeup to cereal. For investors that are able to stockpile products prior to them being discontinued, they make be able to take advantage of existing demand that has no supply to satisfy it.
38. Dividend Capture – some investors have no interest in long-term holding of stocks. Instead, they own a stock just long enough to earn a dividend. Once they earn that right, they sell the stock and buy another stock. This strategy can be implemented through direct ownership of stocks or through a mutual fund.
39. Domain Names – there are several ways to invest in domain names. Everything from flipping domains, to holding for appreciation, to parking or developing the name into an income-producing website. Brandable domain names have a lot of value, but others buy domain names simply for their existing traffic, inbound links or other search engine ranking factors.
40. Drink Coupons – drink coupons, most notably of the Southwest Airlines variety, entitle the user to one alcoholic beverage of their choice on a flight. While airlines try to prevent them from being bought or sold, that has not stopped them from being traded as clearly they are something of value.
41. Easements – the right to use someone else’s property for something can be quite valuable. Examples include billboard ground leases, cell phone tower leases, and the right to place solar panels on top of a large warehouse. Leases can be monetized in one lump sump payment by selling an easement to the user or a 3rd party company.
42. Excess Proceeds – this investment strategy usually involves buying a property which is going to be foreclosed upon. The investor is counting on the property selling more for the debt or tax liability and thus being able to receive the excess proceeds of the sale; if this works out, the loan company or county treasurer is almost functioning like a real estate broker selling the property for them.
43. Food Trucks – many entrepreneurs dream of owning a food truck, but don’t have the means to pay the $25,000 to $100,000 cost of owning the truck itself. Buying a food truck and leasing it or financing it for a food truck entrepreneur has venture capital-like elements for the investor. Is this concept likely to succeed? Is there an unmet need for a particular type of food?
44. Foreign Currency – there are a variety of ways to invest in foreign currency, from FOREX trading to opening an actual checking account in another country like Canada. Some do this as a way to make huge speculative bets, while others are look at it as an insurance policy against inflation or civil unrest.
45. Forever Stamps – Forever Stamps which are issued by the US Postal Service are worth more money as the price of postage goes up over time. Investing in them is a tricky proposition and unlikely to be profitable.
46. Franchise Opportunities – franchise opportunities are available in a wide variety of industries and interests. Some offer massive up front investment and full-time job commitments, while others have minimal investment and can be run absentee or part-time. They allow you the ability to run your own business, but still require you to play by someone else’s set of rules.
47. Gift Cards – it makes no economic sense that people give each other gift cards as gifts rather than just money, but gift cards are still extremely popular and billions of dollars of years are spent on them. Investing in gift cards involves buying gift cards at a big discount and selling them at a small discount or at face value.
48. Good Neighbor Next Door – this program allows teachers, firefighters, and other first responders to purchase a home in certain revitialization a for 50% off its list price. You have to live in the home as your primary residence for 3 years, at which time the silent second mortgage (representing 50% of the purchase price) is forgiven. While the program is not for investment purposes, someone who is eligible for the program and willing to live in the home for 3 years, could obviously turn a profit if the home held its value when it was re-sold.
49. Golf Courses – the golf industry on the whole has been on the decline for some time. While great golf courses and premiere country clubs continue to be in high demand, a lot of average courses have become unprofitable and put up for sale. There is a way to make money buying an average golf course, but it is usually dependent on some type of redevelopment of some or all of the course.
50. Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance – it sounds morbid to talk about, but someone who knows they are dying can buy life insurance even if they are in poor health. The only caveat is that your heirs will probably not be eligible to receive a death benefit until after you have lived (and paid premiums) for 2 years after issuance.
51. Guest Houses – some areas allow homeowners to rent out a guest house separately from their main house. This presents the rare home improvement opportunity where you can add value to your property and generate a rental income stream.
52. Gun Buyback Programs – sometimes local governments will pay people to turn in their guns and ammo as a way of clearing them from the streets.
While it is highly debatable if the programs work at all in reducing crime, if you could buy legally buy guns or ammo for less than the government was offering to pay, you would have a good moneymaking opportunity.
53. Hard Money Loans – hard money lenders make high interest loans to real estate investors. They make loans that commercial banks and mortgage companies would never make. Even though these loans can be easily re-sold to Fannie Mae and don’t qualify for government programs like FHA and VA, does not mean that they aren’t still sound.
Hard money loans often require large down payments and many hard money lenders walk the properties themselves to get comfortable with the collateral.
54. Haunted Houses – every year around Halloween, haunted houses spring up in major cities around the US. They generate serious money during a short period of time. A small number of investors has figured out how to make money on this opportunity without quitting their day job.
55. Hotel Points – “buying low” then “selling high” (or instead of selling, just using the points) is difficult in most airline and hotel miles or rewards programs because either they are not transferable or have a relatively high transfer fee. However, a few hotel programs do offer you the ability to transfer points at no cost, and these present a unique arbitrage opportunity.
56. House Plans – house plans are one example of intellectual property. One quality set of plans that is designed by an architect can be resold many times over by the rights holder. Architects have been aware of this potential income stream, but even non-architects could participate in this type of investment if they had bought control of a particular house plan.
57. Ice Vending Machines – you’ve probably seen one of these freestanding large vending machines where you can drive up and get large bags of ice or fill your cooler with 20 lbs. or more of ice. They lease small pieces real estate, typically 80 sq.ft. or less, at a high traffic location like a convenience store. Customers insert their cash or credit card and buy ice. Some also offer water vending.
58. Individual Development Accounts – IDAs are programs eligible to lower income earners. Non-profit organizations match your savings at between a 2:1 and 8:1 ratio. You can typically use the funds to purchase a home, start a business or pay for education or job training.
59. Inflatables – bounce houses and inflatable slides can make the owner good money when leased for weekend parties. They are also frequently available to be purchased as they are not typically businesses that people are involved with for a long time. Investing in inflatables does not require the investor to operate the business themselves as they can rent them to an operator or sell them with owner financing.
60. Inflight Magazine Advertisements – these are an arbitrage play. They require an investor to pay the price for a full-page advertisement in airline magazines, then turn around and sell it to 12 different doctors, business owners, etc. Each doctor or business owner is featured one month out of the year and is on a list all 12 months. This gets them exposure at a price point that is much more palatable.
61. Insurance Book of Business – most people renew their insurance policies each year, generating recurring revenue for the agent of record on the policy. This income stream can be bought, sold, and financed.
62. Islamic Bonds – also known as Sukuk, Islamic bonds do not pay the bond holder any interest, but instead let them participate in the income or rent from an asset like properties or power plants. Since Shariah law prevents them from being bought or sold above or below par, most are held until maturity.
63. Junk Silver – junk silver is commonly-issued currency like nickels, dimes, and quarters that also has precious metal value because it it made up of mostly silver. These coins were mostly minted in the 1960’s and earlier. They are especially popular among people preparing for hyperinflation or a temporary break down in the economic system.
64. Landscaping Equipment – many small landscaping companies own everyday equipment like mowers, blowers and rakes, but don’t own really expensive, rarely-used equipment like wood chippers, stump grinders or backhoes. Invest the money in this equipment and earn a return by renting it out.
65. Law Firms – non-attorneys were previously banned from having an ownership stake in law firms. However, laws have recently changed in some states and this has opened up an opportunity for a savvy entrepreneur to partner with an attorney and become a part-owner. The ownership structure generally needs to first be approved by the state supreme court.
66. Lawsuits – because plantiffs’ lawsuits can be expensive and take a long time, there is an opportunity for investors to finance the plantiff’s legal or other costs in exchange for a portion of the recovery. The key is knowing that the plantiff is likely to win or at least receive a settlement.
67. Legal Brothels – a few investors have turned down the moral filter and dialed up an investment in the legal brothel industry in rural Nevada; the one place in America where prostitution is legal (with proper licensing).
68. Legal Monopolies – sometimes a law which outlaws a particular business opportunity in a particular location will have grandfathering or some other loop hole which allows for one business to operate. Legal monopolies have a sustainable competitive advantage unless or until the law is overturned.
69. Leveraged ETFs – exchange traded funds consist of a basket of stocks, not unlike a mutual fund, but in a more liquid form and often at a lower cost. With leveraged ETFs, an investor can take advantage of leverage to amplify returns if they underlying stocks appreciate.
70. Licensing – by licensing a brand name, trademark, or other intellectual property, an investor can receive an upfront fee or an income stream without putting up capital. Licensing touches a variety of different industries from software to hotels to sports wear, as well as many less obvious ones.
71. Life Estates – life estates typically sell at a discount to normal fee simple real estate; the reason being is that someone else can live in or have possession of the property until someone dies. After that happens, the real estate should return to its normal market value.
72. Lifetime Warranties – sometimes you can buy something for very little money that actually has value because the manufacturer’s lifetime warranty on the product. As long as the warranty is transferable, you can stand to benefit by exercising the warranty and getting the item repaired or replaced.
73. Loan Forgiveness – this is an investment opportunity that is unique to people that don’t necessarily have to have a loan to pay for college, but take one out anyway because they know a program exists to forgive the loan in the future. The idea is to invest the money that would have been spent on college and invest it in something that provides a higher return than the interest cost of the debt.
74. Lottery Winnings – the state is not the only one willing to give lottery winners a cash payout rather than a stream of payments over many years. Investors frequently offer their own cash buyout to lottery winners in exchange for the future installment payments.
75. Marijuana – there are a variety of ways to invest in marijuana besides cultivating or selling it. As marijuana is increasingly being legalized on the state level, many investors are jumping in.
76. Medical Practices – doctors and dentists can buy themselves an instant stream of customers by acquiring a medical practice. There are some opportunities for outsiders to invest by partnering with doctors for an equity stake or making loans to doctors, secured by the practice itself and/or real estate.
77. Merger Arbitrage – an individual investor can access this investment strategy through mutual funds. After mergers are announced but before the closing is certain, these funds by the stock of a company being acquired and take advantage of the small increase in the stock as the deal becomes more certain. This investment typically has a low correlation with the overall stock and bond markets.
78. Mineral Rights – some people luck into mineral rights by owning land that ends up having oil, natural gas, or some valuable mineral underneath. They allow someone else to extract the minerals for a fee. Others systematically buy the mineral rights from many landowners. The goal is to turn a profit by selling or leasing them to companies that want to explore for, drill, and extract minerals.
79. Mortgages and Notes – there are a variety of ways to use mortgages and notes as an investor. It might be to sell a property for more money and to generate income over time. For other investors, they look to buy an owner carryback mortgage at a discount which yields a very high effective interest rate.
80. Move a House – in some unique cases, you can make money by picking up a house and moving it to a different part of the lot or a new lot altogether. For instance, if a home sells at a huge discount because coastal erosion is about to swallow it, you might be able to move it away from the shoreline and in a safer position on the lot, effectively making it worth more money.
81. Niche Websites – niche websites present an opportunity to buy or develop a narrowly focused website that generates money, often through an affiliate program like Amazon.com or through Google AdSense or other ads. One of the keys is finding a website that ranks well in Google’s search results on a term that is not overly competitive.
82. NNN-Leased Properties – the easiest form of real estate to manage, tenants pay all costs to own and manage the properties. The landlord just cashes the rent checks. These properties have become very popular and the ease of management coupled with ease of financing has made them pricey in many cases.
83. Nuisance Properties – these are the worst properties out there, in terrible shape or occupied by drug dealers. If you can buy the property cheap enough or eliminate the nuisance at a reasonable cost, you can turn a profit.
84. Overbooked Flights – when an overbooked flight is full, airlines will offer compensation to passengers to get off the flight. If there are no takers, they will typically raise the rate, but eventually will involuntarily bump a passenger and pay the passenger a government-mandated amount of money. It is possible to turn a profit if you can book cheap enough ticket on a likely-to-be-overbooked flight in advance, then actively try to get bumped off the flight by being one of the first ones to volunteer to accept the compensation for being bumped.
85. Parking Spaces – in certain big cities like New York and San Francisco, parking spaces sell at surprisingly high prices. For an investor looking for a real estate investment that generates income, parking spaces can be a low maintenance alternative to rental houses or commercial property.
86. Pawn License – a license to operate a pawn shop can have value if the government makes it very difficult or impossible to get a new one. It is an investment opportunity for those that are willing to operate a pawn shop or make a loan to one.
source: Wikimedia Commons
87. Pedicab Permits – cities are increasingly capping the number of pedicabs allowed to operate on the streets. It may serve some public purpose like increasing safety or decreasing congestion, but for the permit holder, it serves the more important purpose of limiting competition. Pedicab permits are most valuable when they can be renewed and transferred (sold or leased) to others.
88. Person-to-Person Loans (P2P Loans) – P2P loan companies, most notably Prosper and Lending Club, allow an investor to loan money to someone and to receive (hopefully) a return on their investment. By spreading out small amounts of money like $50 over a large number of loans (instead of say $15,000 to one person), the risk of one person defaulting and wiping out one’s entire investment can be managed.
89. Poker Entry Fees – poker tournaments can be expensive to enter and often a poker player will agree to split the winnings in exchange for someone else paying the entry fee. While in some ways it is just gambling, it has yielded some huge returns in a few cases for a lucky investor.
90. Pool Service Routes – the guy servicing your pool each week actually owns an asset (the pool service route) that he can sell to another pool guy. An investor could buy and sell pool service routes or make loans to someone looking to buy.
91. Permanent Seat Licenses – permanent seat licenses are a financing technique that many major sports franchises use to raise a lot of money to put toward the construction of a new stadium. Buying from the franchise is usually a very poor investment, but there is an opportunity to make money as an investor if you can buy the PSL cheap enough from someone looking to get out.
92. Ponzi Scheme Claims – investors who have had their money stolen through a Ponzi scheme have a claim against whatever monies the receiver is able to eventually recover.
The recovery might come from sales of legitimate assets that the investment fund or the principals owned, or from suing and settling with third party entities that were negligent or culpable.
Investors that have a claim but need money now may be willing to sell their unpaid claim to another investors in exchange for cash.
93. Prize-Linked Savings Accounts – unlike playing the lottery, everyone wins with a PLSA. Depositors keep their principal and interest even if they don’t win. Lucky winners also receive additional cash prizes of $10, $25, $100, or even as much as $5000 or more.
94. Prop Bets – with prop bets, you bet on something other than the outcome of a game. It could be anything from who will win the coin toss to how many times Donald Trump will tweet during the Super Bowl.
Unskilled bets like the coin toss are pure gambling, but some feel that they can use analytical skills or proprietary knowledge to gain an advantage on more skilled bets like the odds of a particular team making it to the College Football Playoff.
95. Publishing Rights – by offering the author a book advance and future royalties, a publishing company can buy the rights to future income generated by the sale of a book.
Because much of what a publishing company does can be easily outsourced (printing, editing, cover design, PR, advertising, consigning inventory to an Amazon warehouse), many authors leave millions on the table between what they sell their publishing rights for and what the book can actually generate after all expenses.
96. Racehorses – many people dream of owning a Kentucky Derby winning racehorse. There are a wide variety of other races, however, and there are investment opportunities to put smaller amounts of money into fractional ownership of a horse; this opens up this opportunity to others besides the über-rich.
97. Raw Land – raw land usually does not generate monthly income, but still remains a practical investment opportunity. There are many ways to approach it, from buying land for development, to assemblage, to subdividing, to selling land owned free-and-clear on a note.
Land banking is also popular; holding land for future development while trying to generate interim income or at least minimize taxes and holding costs.
98. Real Estate Crowdfunding – a number of websites have sprung up to give investors to invest in commercial real estate or hard money lending without directly owning and managing the real estate or loan themselves.
While buying a net leased single tenant retail building might require hundreds of thousands of dollars in downpayment and other expenses to buy it, there are real estate crowdfunding sites that let you own a piece of the deal for $5000 or less.
99. Real Estate License – the money and work that goes into getting a real estate license can sometimes pay off, even if you have no intentions of taking up real estate brokerage as a profession. The most obvious would be to be able to keep the buyer agent commission when you buy your own home.
100. Real Estate Options – real estate options offer the investor the opportunity to tie a piece of property for a fixed period of time. Money might be made by taking advantage of appreciation during that period, lining up another buyer and assigning the contract or flipping the property to them, or lining up a tenant and then developing the property.
101. Rent Control – rent control laws are immoral, but you still must obey them. You can, however, make money by legally removing rent-controlled units from rent control and then selling them at market prices.
102. Rent-a-Cows – this oddball investment involves buying cattle to graze on someone else’s land. By having your cattle graze on their land, the land can be assessed as agricultural and they can get a large tax break. The landowner pays the owner of the cattle, thus the term “rent-a-cow.”
103. Reservations – popular restaurants have started to catch on to the fact that reservations at prime times are worth something. Entrepreneurs have also caught on to this and looked to tie up free or below market cost reservations then sell them at a profit to others.
104. Restaurants – restaurateurs are often looking for outside investors to fund a new restaurant. However, the industry is extremely competitive and even successful restaurants can be short-lived, so extreme due diligence and some luck is often required to achieve any type of positive return.
105. Reward Checking Accounts – some banks and credit unions offer reward checking accounts which offer above-market interest rates on balances as sort of a “loss leader” to attract more customers. Savvy investors can open multiple accounts across several financial institutions in order to take advantage of this.
106. Retail Arbitrage – this investment has become popular with the rise of Amazon‘s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program. Investors buy discounted goods at retail, then ship them to Amazon.com for immediate re-sale to other consumers.
107. RV Shares – the concept of RV shares are that owners rent out their RVs when they are not using them. They tend to be newer RVs in great condition. While it might be a way to offset the money spent on buying a new RV, being able to turn a profit on an RV share requires buying a newer RV, trailer, fifth wheel, camper, or toy hauler at an extremely good price, keeping it leased, and eventually selling it at market value when demand declines.
108. Salon Suites – by leasing or owning a large space, a landlord can then rent individual spaces to hair stylists that want to own and operate their own business independent of the oversight of a traditional salon. Salon suites are very different than traditional salons where the owner would need to be much more involved in operating the business.
109. Sandwich Leases – a lease at below market value might have some value for the tenant if the tenant has the ability to sublease the property to someone else. This phenomenon has spread for commercial to residential properties with the rise of sites like Airbnb and Homeaway.
110. Scotch Whisky – single malt Scotch whisky is not only enjoyable to drink, but has generated a nice investment return for those that bought and hold some of the better bottles out there. There are other ways to invest as well including cask schemes and some whisky-focused investment funds.
111. Securities Lending – it sounds complicated but actually it is pretty simple and requires no work. Several major stock brokerages let you lend your idle shares of stock to other investors that want to short them. They pay interest while the shares are being borrowed and the brokerage splits it with you. You don’t lose your shares nor do you miss out on the dividends.
112. Shared Appreciation Investment – invest in someone else’s home, providing them with part of the downpayment to buy the home or cash in exchange for some of their equity. Typically, no payments are required, but when the home is sold or refinanced, the investor gets their equity share back plus a proportionate amount of the appreciation.
113. Slot Machine Royalties – slot machines have historically been the bread-and-butter for the casino industry. Some classic TV shows, bands, and others have generated six figure incomes from slot machine royalties.
source: Flickr MsSaraKelly
114. Social Media Accounts – social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest do have value for people or businesses that want to own accounts with real followers, usage history, etc. While the terms of the social media companies typically do not allow them to be bought and sold, that has not prevented it from happening.
115. Solar Panels – disregarding the real and/or perceived environmental benefits like CO2 reduction and energy independence, solar panels may make financial sense if the cost to own or lease solar panels is less than the cost to buy electricity from the utility company. Tax credits and other government subsidies typically are a key driver of that ROI.
116. Sneakers – mint condition “dead stock” sneakers are collected by sneaker heads. Some appreciate over time and others are released in such small numbers when they first come out, that someone who is able to get a pair can immediately flip them for a profit.
117. Sports Teams – while these trophy assets typically aren’t extremely profitable when it comes to income they generate each year, they can generate a windfall when they are sold. A variety of opportunities exist from minor league hockey and baseball teams to the most valued NFL teams.
118. Stock Photos – stock photos like the ones you find on this website and many others, are licensed and bought from stock photo providers. The owner of the photo (usually the photographer who took it) receives income each time his photo is re-used. A portfolio of thousands of commercially-useful photos can generate a decent monthly income stream.
119. Storage Lockers – this investment opportunity has become popular from reality TV shows like Storage Wars. When renters of storage lockers stop paying their bills, the contents are put up for auction. A winning bidder might be lucky enough to get a hidden treasure for a fraction of its value.
120. Tattoos – this bizarre investment opportunity involves owning tattoo designs, then demanding a licensing fee if the tattoo is ever used in a movie, in an advertisement or any other commercial endeavor. Its a very raw opportunity and still playing out in the court system.
121. Tax Liens – in some states, when property owners don’t pay property taxes, and investor can step in and pay the taxes in exchange for a tax lien. In order to redeem the lien, property owners must pay the amount of back taxes plus interest to the investor. If the property owner fails to redeem after some period of time, the investor can foreclose and take ownership of the property.
122. Taxi Medallions – some cities require a taxi medallion in order to operate a taxi; this limits competition and places a large barrier to entry to someone trying to add taxis in order to take advantage of demand. For years, taxi medallions appreciated and banks readily made loans available to those looking to buy them, then Uber and Lyft came along and decimated the value of taxi medallions.
123. Tax Refund Loans – the big tax preparation firms like H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt and a few banks used to offer tax refund loans, but they were largely legislated out of existence.
Instead, they offer advances on tax refunds to customers at zero interest, but with the caveat that you pay them for tax preparation services.
An individual investor could use the same arrangement combined with low cost or free tax prep software to offer a “zero interest” advance bundled with paid tax preparation, thus earning a return on the money being advanced.
124. Timberland – mature trees have always had value in construction and other uses. Owning timberland allows you to sell mature trees and other side products while owning a very large tract of land. Direct ownership is not without its challenges, including the fact that trees take 20 years or more to mature.
125. Toll Roads – building and maintaining highways is very expensive. State and local governments have turned to toll roads in order to have someone else pay for this costs. The investor putting up the capital gets a return on investment through the collection of tolls.
126. Top Level Domains (TLDs) – long gone are the days when your only domain ending options were .com, .net, and .org. Over 1000 privately owned TLDs are now available from .xyz to .ninja. You can make money (and have a recurring income stream) by starting or buying your own TLD and selling the individual domain names in 1 year registration increments.
127. United States Currency – you might be able to take advantage of the fact that sometimes U.S. currency is worth more than the amount printed or stamped on it. Examples includes people paying a premium for 2 dollar bills and Jefferson nickels that contained 35% silver content.
128. Universal Life Insurance Side Accounts – universal life insurance will typically include an investment account in addition to the death benefit. The investment account might have an interest rate which is guaranteed by the insurance company.
While American tax law limits the amount that can go in, savvy Canadian investors took advantage of no such limit either by tax law or the insurance contract itself to invest vast sums of their money and the money of outside investors into the side accounts at interest rates that were well above market.
129. Used Cell Phones – a number of websites will pay cash for used cell phones, even broken or damaged ones in some cases. If you can find a source at a lower price, such as buying them in bulk from an auction or buying them from people who don’t know or care that they might be worth more money online, then there is money to be made on the spread.
130. Used Golf Balls – there is a vibrant market for used golf balls, and smart used golf ball traders can buy low and sell high by knowing the market exists, batching better balls together, and selling in larger quantities.
131. Vacation Rentals – in areas where people like to vacation, you can generally make quite a bit more money renting your house for daily, weekly, or monthly furnished rentals rather than your typical 6 to 12 month rental for a full-time renter.
Whether you hire a full-time property management company or do it yourself with your own website or sites like VRBO or AirBnB, you can turn a profit on a home or condo if you buy in the right area at the right price.
132. Vending Machines – while owning a vending machine is not necessarily a passive investment, it can generate a very good return on investment because the machine itself is typically not that expensive relative to the amount of sales.
Some vending machines are as basic as old school gumball machines or Coke and snack machines, while others dispense higher value items like electronics, clothing, face cremes, or even champagne.
133. Viatical Settlements – investors purchase life insurance policies from policy owners; they are banking on the fact that the named insured will die and they will be the new beneficiary of the death benefit. This type of investment is controversial; its also pitched as something that is not correlated with the stock market or other investments since death is not something that works off an economic cycle.
134. Volatility – the CBOE Volatility Index, commonly known by its ticker symbol VIX, measures whether investors think the market will fluctuate a little or a lot in the next 30 days. It does not matter that the direction is up or down, it is just a question of whether it will trade in a moderate range or whether it will greatly fluctuate. There are exchange traded products (ETPs) that allow you to invest in volatility going up or down.
135. Wardrobe Rental – buying something like Christian Louboutin shoes or a Chanel dress isn’t typically thought of as a money-making investment. However, if you can buy in demand, good condition items for a great price, you may be able to lease them out and generate a profit.
136. Water Rights – everyone needs water, but getting it from the ground or a stream to your faucet is complicated. Savvy investors that gain control of land with water rights can sometimes achieve a huge return on investment when they sell the water to a major or emerging city or municipality that needs to keep up with its citizens huge demand for water.
137. Wine – the vast majority of wine is simply consumed. However, at the very top of the market, certain fine wines can be collected, bought and sold. High quality wines suitable for collecting tend to be from France and tend to be reds, although there are quite a few exceptions to this.
138. Your Own ETF – if you have enough money and a unique investing idea or strategy, you can create your own private label ETF and have others invest alongside you. If you can attract enough outside investors, you can turn your passive investment idea into recurring profits.
Do you have an off-the-beaten path investment idea that you would like us to cover (or write about yourself)? Contact us.