Here are the ideas I've started kicking around, in no particular order
1. Buy one or more franchises - franchisor wins out big with $15,000-$50,000 initial franchise fees and 5-10% royalties on sales, franchisee profits are questionable. Depending on the franchise, I'd have to own 2-5 of them just to make up for my current salary.
2. Start business either by myself or with partner - high chance of failure, lots of work.
3. Buy an apartment building - I haven't seen anything in Northern California yet where this would be a winning proposition from the first day of ownership. Need a property manager since I don't have time to do maintenance (will be too busy relaxing). Property manager takes 5-10% of the rent per month right off the top. Difficult to compete on rents vs properties that have low cost basis at the county tax collector (low property taxes).
4. Angel investor in neighbor's technology start-up. Initial review of prospectus shows that risk is high for the reward. Business is in consumer electronics, which would be difficult to take to IPO, most likely the business will be bought by another company.
5. Tax lien certificates - this looks pretty good, low risk with double digit returns. Average returns of 12-30% annually, sometimes as high as 300%. Involves ongoing research and time commitment. Alternative is to find a financial services company such as Merrill Lynch which has a private client group that may do the legwork. I'll have to look into that.
6. Invest in more real estate development projects. This seems pretty high risk, and due diligence is required per project. The current project that I invested in is projected to generate 66% return over 3 years, or 22% annualized. Not bad. It seems that once you hook up on one of these projects, more project offers start coming out of the woodwork. I believe the private client group at Citibank also offers these types of investments. My current investment is a private deal.
7. Japanese real estate. This looks like a good opportunity to buy low. The value of Japanese real estate has been declining for 15 years, since 1990. It's cheaper to buy Japanese real estate now with 1990 dollars than it was in 1990. The Nikkei has already been on the upswing for 2+ years, but the real estate market has not turned yet. However, some Japanese REITs have already advanced on expectations of an eventual real estate bounce. I've asked a broker to look into investment possibilities here.
I seem to give this particular broker more tips than he's given me (none). I told him at the beginning of 2003 that I was placing bets on the Japanese stock market bottoming, and I was buying EWJ (Japan ETF), FJPNX, and FJSCX (Fidelity Japan funds). He told me a year later that he had given that advice to his clients, and they were doing quite well. They're doing really well now, EWJ has tripled.
The only investable, declining, real estate markets in the world are in Germany and Japan. All other countries I've looked at are in an asset bubble, with some European countries even more over-inflated than the US.
8. Throw everything into stocks and bonds and pray. This seems super-risky. All markets are tied together. Does anyone believe that Europe and Asia will hold up if the US market collapses?
9. Invest more in commodities. I have small positions in commodities, and should probably increase them. Commodities do well during periods of inflation. The Fed has been printing money like mad for many years now. They continue to print money even while raising interest rates. And they eliminated the M3 money supply measure so that we now have even less visibility of just how much money they are printing. Scary stuff.
I bought GLD (Gold ETF, backed by physical gold bullion) the first day it came available on NYSE (already up >50%) in 2004 - I had been waiting for the ETF offer for a while. Also I initially bought TGLDX back in 2003. I foolishly sold TGLDX 6 months later after a quick 50% gain (paid half to taxes), and it subsequently more than doubled after my sale. I also missed a 4-bagger with PD (copper producer) because I sold after a quick 50% gain. I recently reopened my TGLDX position, and it's already gone up 10+% in just a couple of weeks. This time, I'm holding long-term. GLD and TGLDX are my only metals holdings now.
I think gold/silver/copper have a bright future. PAAS is a good representative for silver, and the silver ETF is coming out soon.
A word about risk: I do not recommend speculative investments in the areas I'm considering above, unless you do due diligence and have considered your own financial situation. It's a quick way to lose your life savings, because many investments are extremely volatile. I use controlled, managed risk, or at least have fooled myself into thinking that I do.
Being a fiscal conservative, I invest only relatively small amounts in speculative areas. For example, I only have $50K in the Japanese stock market, and $50K in gold commodity, and my cost basis in both of these is very low. My Japanese stock market bets were pretty low risk at the time I made the purchases, my cost basis is somewhere around $15-20K after selling half of my EWJ position last year.