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How to Invest in Gold

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You can invest in gold by buying physical gold, gold ETFs, gold futures or investing in gold mining stocks and funds. There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, and pros and cons to gold in general: It’s a good safety net in a down market, but storage of physical gold can be a hassle and liquidating it may be expensive. Here’s the lowdown on how to invest in gold, and what to consider before you do.

4 ways to invest in gold

There are a variety of ways to invest in gold — and yes, you can buy solid gold bars. (Although that might not be practical.) Here’s how it breaks down.

1. Physical gold

On the most basic level, you can purchase physical gold — gold bars, gold coins, gold jewelry or even gold by the gram or fraction of a gram.

“One gram of gold seems to be where a lot of growth is happening right now,” said Ed Moy, former director of the U.S. Mint and chief market strategist for gold seller Valaurum. “The executive assistant making $75,000 a year can’t buy a one-ounce gold coin, but they can afford $50 worth of gold.”

Pros

  • Gold is a tangible asset: Even if the financial system fails and stock prices fall to zero, you still have actual gold.
  • It diversifies your portfolio: Gold does well in times of uncertainty, providing stability in your portfolio when other investment classes dip.
  • Gold tends to hold its value over time: Even during times of high market volatility or inflation, gold is a steady commodity.

Cons

  • Storage can be a challenge: You must physically store the gold, which may require a safe (and the headache of having it in your house), or paying storage costs to hold it somewhere secure.
  • It’s tougher to cash in: There are costs involved in buying and selling gold, and you must do so through a gold dealer. “You can’t just spend it at Costco and get change from it,” Moy said.
  • Ongoing investment is a challenge: Ongoing investment, such as investing a certain amount each month, is difficult because you must buy gold in whole quantities unless you’re buying gold by the gram.

How to buy physical gold:

Unless you’re a large institution, you’re probably not going to buy gold bullion directly from a mint. Mints sell gold to wholesalers, who then sell it to retailers, and you must locate a reputable gold dealer from the bunch. This may be as simple as searching for gold dealers online and researching them. Look at their rating with the Better Business Bureau, see if consumers have made complaints against them and look into what those complaints are.

“There are a lot of fly-by-night operations,” Moy said. “Look for companies that have been in business for a long time, usually through several up and down cycles for gold, and someone with a good reputation.”

Gold is commonly sold in bars, rounds and coins. Collectors tend to like gold coins, which come with designs on them and are easily sellable to people who buy and sell gold. You can also buy coins in one-ounce denominations or fractions of an ounce. APMEX is a large precious metal dealer, as are companies like JM Bullion and Lear Capital.

Although gold jewelry isn’t necessarily a good investment — you typically pay a high premium over the inherent value of the gold — there are a few companies that have started to produce investment-grade jewelry. JM Bullion, for instance, sells one-ounce gold bullion bracelets.

2. Gold ETFs

If you’re looking to put some money into gold but you don’t want to stockpile gold bars in your basement, gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are an option. Instead of owning gold, you’d own shares of a fund that gives you exposure to gold. Some gold ETFs own actual gold, while others deal in gold futures contracts or invest in gold companies, such as those that mine gold. Gold ETFs are generally considered commodity ETFs, because they’re invested in a physical commodity.

“If somebody says, ‘I just want exposure to the price of gold and I want to do it in the most efficient, cheap way possible, and I don’t care if I ever see or touch that gold,’ an ETF is the way to go,” said Michael Wittmeyer, CEO and founder of JM Bullion.

Pros

  • Low fees: The expenses of buying and selling an ETF are lower than the spread of buying and selling physical gold.
  • Liquidity: Shares of large gold ETFs, such as SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), can be easily bought and sold.
  • More accessible for beginner investors: It’s possible to buy shares of a gold ETF with small amounts of capital.

Cons

  • No direct ownership: You own an investment that is backed by gold, but you have no gold coins in your pocket.
  • Risk: If the market tanks, an ETF is an investment and can tank right along with it, depending on the underlying investments. You don’t get the protection of owning actual gold.
  • Volatility: ETFs that invest in gold mining companies, for example, can experience large peaks and valleys, and may not match the performance of gold at all.

How to buy gold ETFs:

You can buy gold funds the same way you’d buy any ETF — through a brokerage account, such as Charles Schwab or E-Trade — and you should research your investment options. Check the expenses associated with the gold ETF, look at its history and volatility and make sure you understand what the fund invests in. (Is it invested in gold futures? Gold mining stocks? Physical gold?) The largest gold ETFs in terms of assets include SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), iShares Gold Trust (IAU) and Aberdeen Standard Physical Swiss Gold Shares ETF (SGOL).

One thing to note is that capital gains on ETFs that invest in precious metals are treated differently, because precious metals are considered a collectible. Although short-term gains on collectibles are still taxed as ordinary income, long-term capital gains are taxed at a maximum 28% rate, which is higher than the maximum rate of 20% on most long-term capital gains.

3. Gold futures

Gold futures investing is a way to trade gold in a leveraged fashion. Gold futures are a financial contract in which you agree to buy gold from a seller at an agreed-upon price at a specific date in the future. You put down a percentage of the full price, allowing you to bet on a large amount of gold with only a fraction of the full investment needed. Most futures contracts are bought or sold before the delivery date, so most investors never take delivery of physical gold.

“It’s a way for investors to make bets on their convictions,” said Peter Palion, a CFP in East Norwich, N.Y. “If you strongly believe that next week, the price of gold is going to double, you can get into a futures contract with a small percentage of the money that its face value is worth. Then, when that price doubles and you sell your position, you end up with a greatly amplified gain.”

The problem with futures is that the above scenario also works for losses — if the price of gold goes in the wrong direction, you stand to lose a lot. “You could cause yourself a pretty bad loss if you don’t know what you’re doing,” Palion said. “For most people, the best advice is, ‘Forget about it.’ You’re playing with things that, especially right now, are not predictable.”

Pros

  • Cash flexibility: You don’t have to pay the full price to purchase a contract on a certain amount of gold.
  • Speculation: You can make a bet on where you think prices are headed in the future and capitalize on that market movement if you’re right.

Cons

  • Risk: The price of gold varies, and you could lose a lot of money if your prediction is wrong.
  • Amplification: While a correct prediction can yield great gains, an incorrect prediction can intensify losses, since you’re working with leverage.

How to buy gold futures:

Futures contracts trade on exchanges, so you’ll need a brokerage account with a broker that offers access to the futures contracts you want to buy and sell. The most familiar exchange for trading metals is the COMEX exchange. You must put up a margin deposit — a good-faith deposit that you’ll honor the contract — to buy or sell a futures contract.

In a traditional gold futures contract, you agree to buy or sell 100 troy ounces of .995 minimum percent fine gold. At a recent gold price of $1,768 per ounce, a gold futures contract would be worth $176,800.

4. Gold mining stocks and funds

Gold mining stocks and funds are just what they sound like — they are stocks of companies that mine for gold, or funds that include stocks of companies that mine for gold. This isn’t so much an investment in gold as an investment in the operations that are looking for gold, and it comes with risks, like any investment.

“Gold mining stocks tend to be riskier investments that don’t correlate perfectly with gold prices,” Wittmeyer said. “Mining companies have operational risk, regulatory risk, environmental risk and corporate governance risk, and frankly are not the best mechanism for investors who only want to gain exposure to gold prices.”

The price of gold could be going up $1,000, for instance, but if a gold mining company has taken on a foolish amount of debt and a chief executive commits an infraction that results in the company getting sued, that stock could quickly take a dive.

Pros

  • Take advantage of rising gold prices: If the price of gold goes up but a company’s costs to mine stay the same, you stand to make money as stock prices rise.

Cons

  • High gold prices aren’t a cure-all: The price of gold might go up, but companies could fail due to other circumstances.
  • Other costs can impact value: There are operational costs to running mines, and if the price of gold drops below a company’s base costs to mine it, the entity can fail since there’s no way to mine gold for less. Hence, a slight drop in gold price can cause a big drop in company stock value.
  • Mines can run dry: There are physical limitations to gold mines, and no one knows how long one company will be able to mine gold from one location.

How to buy gold mining stocks and funds:

Gold mining stocks and funds can be bought and sold through a brokerage account. Large gold mining companies include Newmont Goldcorp, Barrick Gold and AngloGold Ashanti. Some of the biggest gold miners ETFs include VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX), Direxion Daily Gold Miners Bull 2X Shares (NUGT) and iShares MSCI Global Gold Miners ETF (RING).

Is gold a good investment?

Gold is a solid choice if it’s only a small portion of your portfolio (experts recommend 5% to 10%) and you understand what you’re invested in. Gold tends to hold its value, and it helps to balance out more volatile elements of your portfolio. That being said, if you’re purchasing physical gold, you’ll have to deal with storage. Gold also doesn’t produce income (no dividends), and the IRS taxes gold as a collectible. And although gold keeps its value, it doesn’t grow in value over time the way that stocks and bonds might.

Still, gold is a good option for investors who want to go against inflation and market volatility. During the stock market dive from October 2007 to March 2009, when the S&P 500 lost 56.8%, gold rose in value by 25.5%.

“On the days when the market tanks and you see that you’re only down a fifth of what the markets are, you say, ‘Okay, it’s doing what it’s supposed to,’” said George Gagliardi, a CFP in Lexington, Mass.

Gold as an investment: FAQ

Recent gold value — called the “spot price” — was as follows on June 25, 2020:

  • $1,768 per ounce
  • $56.84 per gram
  • $56,842.52 per kilo

Gold is also sold in special products, such as the Gold American Eagle coin, which is traditionally one ounce of gold, although it’s also sold in half-ounce and one-tenth-ounce increments.

  • Gold American Eagle: $1,884.60
  • Gold American Buffalo: $1,885.30
  • Gold Maple Leaf: $1,863.10
  • Gold Philharmonic: $1,864.80
  • One 1.5 oz Gold Leaf: $2,845.00

The price of gold is determined by several factors. Gold futures prices have an impact, as does the gold “spot price,” which is the price of gold that is to be delivered right away. Supply and demand play a role, as do market conditions, which are affected by political and economic events. Lastly, currency depreciation can cause the price of gold to rise as a weakening currency may lead people to invest in gold.

The best way to buy gold depends on your goals and preferences. For people who enjoy collectibles or who wish to keep their wealth in physical form, gold bullion, bars and coins can be a good option. Otherwise, gold ETFs are an easy way to invest in gold without worrying about the liquidity of your gold bars. “ETFs are going to be the best-fitting choice for most investors,” Palion said.

Most banks don’t carry gold or make it available for their customers. “Banks have shied away a bit from precious metals,” Wittmeyer said. “Gold is more of a niche investment.”

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Inheritance Tax: How It Works and Who’s Exempt

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Inheritance tax is a state tax charged by only six states when someone receives an inheritance from someone who has died. Unlike estate tax, which can be levied by both the federal government and states, inheritance tax comes out of the beneficiary’s pocket — not out of the estate. The rate varies depending on how much you inherit and your relationship to the deceased.

However, many beneficiaries are exempt from paying this tax. If you’re getting an inheritance, you’ll want to know whether you’ll owe inheritance tax — and if so, how much you may have to pay.

How inheritance tax works

The federal government doesn’t have an inheritance tax — this is a state-specific levy, and it is only present in six states. As of 2020, the following are states with inheritance tax:

  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania

In states that have taxes on inheritance, a person who inherits money or property after someone dies may owe taxes on it. Inheritance tax only applies when the beneficiary inherits property from someone who lived in a state that has an inheritance tax. It matters only where the deceased lives, not the beneficiary.

For example, if you live in Florida and you inherit money from an uncle who lives in Kentucky, which is one of the six states that does impose an inheritance tax, you may owe inheritance taxes to the state of Kentucky. However, if you live in Kentucky and inherit assets from an aunt who lives in Florida, a state that does not have an inheritance tax, you would not owe inheritance tax.

How much is inheritance tax?

How much you’ll pay in inheritance tax can depend on multiple factors. This includes your relationship to the person who has died (also known as the decedent) and how much you inherit, as well as the laws in the state in which the decedent lived. If you inherit an individual retirement account (IRA), additional factors come into play.

State inheritance tax rates

Each of the six states that impose an inheritance tax has its own brackets and rates. The tax rate is effectively a percentage of the value of the assets you are inheriting from the decedent. Nebraska has the highest cap, at 18%, while Maryland’s is the lowest, at 10%.

State

Inheritance tax rates

Iowa0% to 15%
Kentucky0% to 16%
Maryland0% to 10%
Nebraska1% to 18%
New Jersey0% to 16%
Pennsylvania0% to 15%

Inheritance tax exemptions

In some cases, certain beneficiaries are exempt from paying inheritance tax based on their relationship to the person who has died. Spouses are always exempt, meaning that if your spouse dies and leaves you all of their worldly possessions, you won’t owe any inheritance tax, no matter where you live.

Children may be exempt as well, or they may have to pay taxes on only part of the inheritance. Charitable, religious and educational organizations are also usually exempt from paying inheritance tax. There are also certain situations that may exempt someone from inheritance tax. In Pennsylvania, for instance, if a parent inherits property from a child age 21 or younger, the inheritance tax rate is 0%.

Additionally, some states offer exemptions on some amount of inheritance before taxes are due. In Kentucky, for instance, a niece or nephew of the deceased would be exempt on the first $1,000 of inheritance before owing taxes, while a cousin or nonrelative would be exempt on the first $500. A spouse, parent, child, grandchild, sibling or half sibling would owe no inheritance taxes. In Nebraska, close relatives (parents, grandparents, children and siblings) are exempt on the first $40,000 of inherited assets. For other relatives, such as aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, the exemption is lower, at $15,000, and the tax increases to 13%.

IRAs and inheritance tax

If you inherit an IRA, how much you’ll owe in taxes will depend on the situation:

  • If you inherit an IRA from your spouse: You can leave the money where it is or roll it into an inherited IRA or your own IRA, and you don’t have to take required minimum distributions unless you choose to do so. As a spouse, you owe no inheritance taxes. You may owe income taxes depending on your spouse’s age and what you choose to do with the IRA.
  • If you inherit an IRA from a nonspouse: Whether you’ll owe taxes in this situation depends on the state. You may owe inheritance tax on a traditional IRA, but in some states it will depend on whether the deceased was under age 59 ½ or over age 59 ½. It will also depend on your relationship to them. You may also (or only) owe income taxes on distributions.

“This is why I recommend making the IRA or qualified plan the first source for any charitable bequests at death, using beneficiary designations,” said Michael Whitty, a CFP in Chicago. “The charity pays no estate, inheritance or income taxes.”

Inheritance tax vs. estate tax: What’s the difference?

Inheritance tax and estate tax are very similar, in that both are assessed after someone dies. “Estate taxes and inheritance taxes are both a type of tax on the transfer of wealth,” Whitty said. However, there are key differences between the two types of taxes.

With inheritance tax, the person or organization that inherits the assets pays the taxes, and they pay only on what they inherit. Their tax rate varies depending on their relationship to the deceased. In Pennsylvania, for instance, direct descendants pay 4.5% on inheritances, siblings pay 12%, and other heirs pay 15%.

With estate tax, on the other hand, any taxes owed are paid by the estate when someone dies, and those taxes are based on the total value of the estate on the date of death. While inheritance tax is limited to only six states, estate tax can be levied by the federal government and/or states. As of 2020, 12 states and the District of Columbia impose an estate tax.

The federal government exempts estates that do not exceed $11.58 million in 2020, meaning that most people won’t owe estate taxes to the IRS when they die. At the state level, the exemption is often lower. In Oregon, for instance, the state estate tax only exempts estates that do not exceed $1 million.

Can states have an inheritance tax and an estate tax?

States can have both an inheritance tax and an estate tax, but only one does: Maryland. (The state of New Jersey used to also have both taxes, but the state repealed its estate tax in 2018.)

Having both taxes means that the estate might have to pay taxes to the IRS and to the state, and then beneficiaries might have to pay out of pocket again on any assets they inherit from the estate. That said, Maryland exempts estates of up to $5 million in value, and many direct relatives of the deceased are exempt from inheritance taxes.

How to minimize inheritance tax

One common way to reduce inheritance taxes is to give some of your estate away before you die so there’s less to inherit. Each year, you’re allowed to gift up to $15,000 to any individual before you have to worry about gift taxes. This is true for each donor and each donee, so you and your spouse could each give $15,000 to a child for a total of $30,000 per child, or you could give a combined $60,000 to an adult child and their spouse in a tax year.

You can also gift non-cash assets, such as investments or property. “This can help transfer wealth without having to be subject to the inheritance tax,” Whitty said.

Luckily, with only six states assessing an inheritance tax, there’s a good chance your loved ones won’t have to pay anything, particularly if you’re leaving everything to direct descendants (like your children). If you’re concerned about the inheritance taxes your beneficiaries may pay, a financial planner or estate attorney can help you determine the best strategy for reducing their tax burden.

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The Best Passive Income Ideas for 2020

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The idea behind passive income is that you can earn money over time without actively being involved in anything day to day. There may be work involved in the setup, but once your passive income earner is up and running, you get income on a regular basis without daily effort.

Passive income is important because it can both supplement your regular paycheck and act as an income safety net if you lose your job. It can also be an additional revenue stream once you retire. In short, passive income is a powerful tool to have in your financial portfolio.

How to make passive income

To earn passive income, you will need to set up a situation that brings in continuous income over time. This could be anything from a rental property that generates rental income each month to an e-book that puts money in your pocket every time another copy sells.

Passive income opportunities are plentiful, but some of them are easier (or more successful) than others. You’ll have to ponder your skills, what strategies might be easier or more available to you (some of them require cash, while others call for time and talent) and how much time you have to get something started before deciding on a passive income stream.

If you’ve got cash but no time, for instance, you might be able to get involved in real estate or peer-to-peer lending. If you’ve got artistic talent and are willing to invest the time, you might consider creating a print-on-demand product that you can sell.

10 passive income ideas to consider

1. High-yield savings and money market accounts

Earning interest on your money is a reasonable way to generate some passive income, particularly if it’s cash that’s just sitting in the bank. To do this, make sure your emergency fund (you do have an emergency fund, right?) is in an interest-earning savings account or money market account. In either type of account, you can earn between 1% and 2% on your cash savings.

2. Cashback cards and websites

A variety of financial products and websites allow you to make money by spending money in a particular way — either via a credit card with cashback rewards or by doing your shopping through an online portal that pays you a percentage of your purchases back in cash. (Or you can do both at the same time for two passive income streams.)

Look for a cashback credit card paying at least 1% on all purchases and preferably greater rewards in certain categories. Then, shop via an online portal like Rakuten (formerly Ebates), which will pay you a percentage of purchases with participating retailers, such as Petco and Lands’ End.

3. Peer-to-peer lending

Peer-to-peer lending platforms, such as Prosper, allow you to loan money to individuals or small businesses via the platform and, in turn, earn interest, typically at a rate higher than you’d find at a bank. Your returns will depend on how much risk you’re willing to take, and you can spread your money out over multiple loans with multiple risk profiles. Prosper states that its loans have historically returned an average of 5.10%, while Funding Circle, another peer-to-peer lender, estimates its historic returns at 5% to 7%, even after the 1% servicing fee.

The downside is that borrowers could default on their loans and you could lose your principal. But sites rate borrowers by credit score and other factors to help you determine how much risk you’re taking. “It’s not as risky as having all [your money] in the stock market,” said Manny Hernandez, CEO of global manufacturer Omni, Inc. “It’s the share economy coming into play.”

4. Dividends

In terms of true passive income, it doesn’t get much more passive than dividends, which are distributions made from a portion of a company’s earnings to investors in that company. If you’re invested in companies that pay dividends, you’ll receive periodic cash payments.

That said, dividend investments tend to have different goals than other kinds of investments, and you shouldn’t swing your entire portfolio over to dividend stocks just to realize this kind of passive income. A financial advisor can help you determine what kind of role dividend investments can play in your financial plan.

5. Real estate rentals

Some people invest in real estate as a passive income investment. If you own a property and rent it out, for instance, you’ll receive income each month from your renters. But owning real estate isn’t labor-free if you’re managing the property, which involves finding and screening tenants and being available for emergency repairs and other assistance.

“To truly be passive, you’d want somebody else doing it and you get mailbox money,” said Matt Chancey, a CFP in Tampa, Fla. “But the more passive it becomes to you, typically the lower the income stream, because there are other professionals in the value chain doing part of the work for you.”

6. Affiliate marketing

If you’re willing to plug certain products or services online and on social media, you can earn a tiny piece of the profit if people click your link or make a purchase. This is called affiliate marketing, which is essentially earning a commission by promoting other people’s products.

You can do this via a blog you write or another social media account, such as an Instagram account with a lot of followers. The trick is that you need an audience — but once you have that audience, you can use affiliate marketing to monetize it.

“This isn’t a get rich quick scheme,” said Donovan Gow of home DIY site HouseAndTool.com. “You’ll have to learn a lot about SEO, website building and layout, keywords and link building in order to build traffic to your website. However, this is all very doable.”

There are various formats for affiliate marketing, including pay-per-click, pay-per-sale and more. You can check out affiliate networks like ClickBank, CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction), Google AdSense, Infolinks and Rakuten LinkShare to learn more.

7. Online courses

Do you have a particular skill, or is there a kind of training you regularly give to your employees or coworkers? You can package it into an online class or tutorial. Once it’s produced, you’ll receive income every time someone purchases it. You can use a site like Udemy, Teachable or Skillshare to make your course available to the paying public.

“Building a truly substantive and penetrating online course is essentially a one-time cost,” said Jason Patel, founder of college and career prep company Transizion. “Sure, you’ll have to pour a lot of time and effort into building the course, but once it’s made, you’ll only have to update it with design and curriculum.”

In addition, an online course gives you bragging rights, a portfolio item and a way to attract customers to your brand. “Even if the course itself doesn’t sell, you can offer the course as a lead generation tool, thus transforming it into a powerful passive marketing tool,” Patel said.

8. Print-on-demand business

Another example of passive income is a print-on-demand business, which allows you to list items for sale without having any of the items in stock. For instance, you might offer t-shirt designs, artwork or allow someone to upload a photo that is then printed on an article of their choice. (Picture your pet’s face on a pair of socks.)

When a person purchases the item from your store, the order is automatically sent to a print-on-demand fulfillment provider that prints the product and ships it out to your customer on your behalf. “My business is about 90% automated,” said Justin Blase, founder and owner of Ted’s Vintage Art, which sells vintage maps. “I also sell these products on Etsy, Amazon, eBay and Houzz.com.”

9. E-books

Like an online class, a self-published e-book gives you the chance to showcase your expertise and offer it to the world in the form of a purchasable product. “Some say self-published e-book publishing isn’t as lucrative as it once was,” Gow said. “While that may be true, it’s still probably the simplest way to begin generating passive income.”

That’s because once you’ve written the book, your work is available in perpetuity. “Our company has books that we self-published years ago that continue to generate hundreds of dollars a month in profit with absolutely no marketing or effort on our end,” Gow said.

And while many self-publishers offer only Kindle versions of their books, a surprising number of people still prefer to purchase a hardback book, and it’s easy enough to make one available via a service like Printful.

10. Selling stock photos

If you’re passionate about taking photos, another passive income idea to look into is selling your photos on a stock photo platform. Stock photos are what companies use in varying content, such as their website, internal and external publications and marketing materials.

To make money from stock photography, you simply would upload your photos to a stock photography site. Different sites have different requirements in terms of who can upload photos, and rates may vary. Some sites to check out include Alamy, iStock, Can Stock Photo and Shutterstock.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.