Last year, the average federal income tax refund was $2,741. Tax season 2020 wasn’t exactly a great time for most Americans, and for many, that money immediately went to paying rent or bills, buying necessities or paying down debt. Plenty of others, however, were able to tuck some or all of it away in an investment account.
Depending on how that money was invested, those savers might have had a very, very sweet year. Even those who put it into a standard index fund that tracks the S&P 500 would have seen a hefty return on their investment. Other stocks, however, delivered much bigger returns — enough to translate into potentially life-changing money in only a little more than a year, in a few cases.
Many of the stocks on the list, however, were ripe for selling earlier in 2021 and are now trading lower — much lower, in a few cases — than they were when the year was still young.
Here’s a look at what a tax refund can become if invested wisely as proven by some of the stocks that were hottest between April 15, 2020, and May 5, 2021. The tax filing deadline was extended to July 15 last year, but refunds began on schedule. This year it has been extended to May 17.
- Stock price on April 15, 2020: $2,307.68
- Stock price on May 5, 2021: $3,270.54
- Your $2,741 investment would be worth: $3,884.55
Amazon is frequently cited as one of the few companies to come out of the COVID-19 crisis a winner — and its investors certainly have won. The truth, however, is that from Tax Day 2020 through early May, Amazon fell short of the S&P 500 — the most common measure of the stock market as a whole — returning 41.72% over that time.
SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY)
- Stock price on April 15, 2020: $274.27
- Stock price on May 5, 2021: $415.75
- Your $2,741 investment would be worth: $4,549.24
One of the most basic, most popular ETFs in the world, SPY tracks the benchmark S&P 500 index. That means whoever owns a share of SPY owns a sliver of all 500 of the biggest U.S. corporations. Even this common index fund, which offers immediate diversification among the best-known stocks in the world, delivered an impressive 51.58% return from last Tax Day to now. Other individual securities — many of which are part of SPY — did about as well or even better.
Zoom Video Communications (ZM)
- Stock price on April 15, 2020: $151.56
- Stock price on May 5, 2021: $297.59
- Your $2,741 investment would be worth: $5,381.95
Many people who didn’t use video chatting for work or school might have never heard of Zoom before the coronavirus trapped millions of Americans at home. Then, like the virus itself, it seemed like that’s all everyone was talking about.
The software app soon became a necessary and ubiquitous quarantining staple for millions and the company’s stock price has risen by 96.35% since then. If you had sold earlier in the year when it was trading well above $400 in February, you would have done even better.
Looking Ahead: All You Need To Know About the Economy and Your Money
- Stock price on April 15, 2020: $56.72
- Stock price on May 5, 2021: $184.57
- Your $2,741 investment would be worth: $8,919.21
The pandemic brought unemployment, underemployment and general financial anxiety to the masses. Many tried to generate cash on the side by making their hobbies pay or by leveraging their talents into side hustles. Etsy is the biggest name in handmade e-commerce, and the company’s stock grew by 225.40%.
- Stock price on April 15, 2020: $35.61
- Stock price on May 5, 2021: $82.62
- Your $2,741 investment would be worth: $9,100.12
Gyms became a flashpoint for debate as America argued over the necessity of America’s fitness clubs during economic shutdowns. Either way, scores of gyms were shuttered and millions of Americans had to adapt to working out alone at home. Peloton, the hottest name in both stationary bikes and fitness as a subscription service, was poised to gain from the crisis, and gain it did — to the tune of 232%. Like so many others, however, Peloton has fallen from early-year peaks — and a highly publicized treadmill recall didn’t help.
- Stock price on April 15, 2020: $145.97
- Stock price on May 5, 2021: $670.94
- Your $2,741 investment would be worth: $11,627
Few people in the world had a better 2020 than Elon Musk, the engineer/CEO/mad scientist behind both Tesla and SpaceX. Tesla, the world’s premier electric car company, experienced growth so extraordinary — 359.64% in the months examined here alone — that Musk briefly dethroned Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the world.
- Stock price on April 15, 2020: $31.51
- Stock price on Jan. 13, 2021: $183.88
- Your $2,741 investment would be worth: $15,995.38
Fiverr is to services what Etsy is to products. For those who do things instead of making things for their side hustle, Fiverr is the go-to gig site of choice. As the unemployed, laid off, furloughed and fired scrambled to bring in alternative income streams, the country’s top site for freelancers experienced stunning growth of 483.56%.
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