piles of $10,000 each
Andy Dean Photography—Shutterstock

What to Do With $100,000 Now

It's not everyday you find yourself with $100,000 to invest or spend. So when you do, use it wisely. And if you have a more modest sum at your disposal, check out these smart ideas for $1,000 or $10,000.

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Getty Images

Launch Your Dream

Having a hundred grand for a startup is sweet. "The average small business starts with less than $10,000," says small-business expert Susan Solovic. The typical time to turn a profit is two years. With a fairly uncomplicated, low-overhead business like consulting, you can deploy your 100K like this while you wait: As much as $5,000 for upfront legal help; $12,000 for an accountant (over two years); the bulk of the rest for living expenses and a reserve for a 30- to 90-day gap between invoices and payments.

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Villa by the sea, on a hillside in the Castellammare area of Pacfic Palisades, listed with Airbnb.courtesy Airbnb

Open Your House to Strangers

An extra room is great for an older parent someday—or rent-paying tourists now (if you live in a vacation spot and can list on Airbnb). "Make sure it has a separate entry and feels like its own space," says Florida architect Bud Dietrich. Figure $150 to $200 a square foot if you're remodeling or converting a basement or garage; $200 to $300 if adding on. For a 450-square-foot space, that's $90,000, leaving $10,000 to furnish it (don't skimp if you want vacationers).

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Keith Morris—Alamy

Hold Out for Richer Social Security

Worried you'll run out of money over a long life? Delay collecting Social Security for as long as you can. Say you'd get $27,000 a year claiming at age 66. If instead you live off $108,000 of savings until 70, your initial benefit jumps to nearly $36,000.

Read Next:

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Austin, TexasJeff Gardner—Getty Images

Get In On Today's Rental-Market Boom

Median rents are up 4.2% over the past year, vs. a 3% gain for home prices. Want in? For the best mortgage rate as a landlord, real estate author Leonard Baron suggests putting 25% down. That's $75,000 on a $300,000 home, plus $5,000 for closing costs. Hold back cash to spruce up the place ($12,000) and cover costs when you're out a renter ($8,000).

Three affordable cities where rents are growing fast:

CITYMEDIAN MONTHLY RENTGROWTH 2014–15MEDIAN HOME PRICE
AUSTIN$1,6925%$232,900
DENVER$1,93113%$300,300
PORTLAND, ORE.$1,66511%$291,900

Notes: Medians for metro areas; 12-month growth through July. Source: Zillow

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Tripplaar Kristoffer—AP

Take Advantage of Low-Cost Help

This year Vanguard opened its Personal Advisor Services to investors with as little as $50,000. You can work with a financial pro (by phone) for an unusually low 0.3% of assets a year. A heavy reliance on technology keeps costs down. Learn more about the new wave of web-based investment advice here.

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courtesy of General Motors (2)

Upgrade the Family Fleet

Why spend $100,000 on one luxury car—or even one Tesla Model S—when everyone in the family can get a fresh set of wheels? Here's how Kelley Blue Book's Nerad would fill a three-car garage with that budget:

1. Upgrade the Main Ride: Cadillac ATS ($41,000). A luxury sedan that's a good value, sporting an up-to-date style that competes with imports.

2. Haul the Whole Family: Chevrolet Tahoe LT ($47,000). An exceptionally roomy and comfortable SUV. With 18 mpg, the fuel economy is decent for a large SUV.

3. Put Teens in a Boring-But-Safe Used Model: 2010 Honda Civic ($10,000): Strong crash ratings should make you feel better about giving teens keys to their own car.

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Jeff Gilbert—Alamy

Leave a Legacy with Your IRA

If you won't spend your entire IRA (average size: $96,300), name a charity as the beneficiary. Your heirs would owe income taxes on withdrawals, but a charity gets all the money tax-free, notes estate-planning attorney Tracy Craig.

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The campus at the University of California BerkeleyMelanie Stetson Freeman—AP

Earn Your Degree

Don't think you can keep the four-year cost of college under $100,000 without hefty financial aid? How about living at home to save? With many top urban colleges, total tuition and commuting costs come in under six figures. For example, at the University of California at Berkeley, No. 9 on MONEY's best college value rankings, you can walk away with a degree for an estimated $63,500, assuming average institutional financial aid and the typical time to a degree. That includes your commuting costs. And since 74% of students live off campus, you're less likely to feel left out of the dorm scene. Other stand-out campuses where you can earn a sub-$100,000 degree include the University of Washington, Seattle ($76,500), Baruch College of the City University of New York ($55,000), and the University of Pittsburgh ($92,000). Check out all 10 top commuter colleges here.

Read More: Find the best college for your student—and your wallet.

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