How to make a million: Buy real estate
If you are of modest means and hope to get rich late in life, you need to make a lot of money relatively quickly.
"Given a short time horizon, the client's advanced age and the lofty goal, he would have to be willing to take significant risk," says Eric Toya, partner and director of wealth management at Navigoe, a financial planning firm in Redondo Beach, Calif.
One of the best -- albeit riskiest -- ways to boost returns is to use leverage. Traditionally, real estate has been the chief way people have used leverage to get rich in shorter periods of time.
For example, if you buy a $500,000 property with a 20 percent down payment, your investment is $100,000. If the property appreciates 5 percent in the first year, it will be worth $525,000 -- a $25,000 gain, or a 25 percent return on your original investment.
However, Toya offers a word of caution to those who are determined to channel their inner Donald Trump.
"The risks are significant," Toya says. "(The investor) might overpay for a property, or underestimate the amount of work a property needs to rent or flip."
And as millions of Americans have discovered in recent years, a large decline in property values locally or nationwide can leave you underwater and staring at a large loss.