I’m in search of a bitcoin investment for my retirement account — but that doesn’t mean that I consider bitcoins safe for retirement.
By placing a bitcoin investment into my retirement account, I’m adhering to an asset allocation “rule” that suggests I should have some small portion of my overall portfolio in “alternative investments.” Alternative investments include hedge funds, private equity, real estate, commodities such as gold and silver — and I would think that bitcoins fall into that category.
My search to find a bitcoin investment for a retirement account hasn’t been easy.
There is no way that I’ve found to place individual bitcoins into an IRA or any retirement account. Although you can buy and sell bitcoins on exchanges, my research shows that this can’t be done in a qualified retirement account. Many of you may say, “that’s a good thing,” — and you would probably be right.
Let’s be honest, bitcoins are a risky investment vehicle. In fact, most investments considered “alternative” are risky.
Alternative investments are used in asset allocation models as a way to provide diversity, and in many cases, to limit volatility caused by market swings and events. Most alternative investments have low to no correlation to market securities such as stocks and bonds. This provides some cushion for your portfolio should events create wide swings in the returns of these securities.
“Alternative Investing and Your Retirement,” an article that I found on the Nasdaq website, reminds us that alternative investing isn’t for everyone — and certainly not a novice:
” … alternative investing is no safe bet, and requires both a deep knowledge and experience to master, thus making professional financial advice key. Furthermore, even the best advice may not be enough and the general rule of thumb with alternative investing, according to Investopedia, is no more than 10% of your portfolio should go toward these investments.”
Many advisers and investment firms saw wisdom in alternative investments after the crisis in 2008 and more than likely, if you don’t have alternative investments in your portfolio, your adviser probably discussed them with you.
In fact, if you don’t think that “alternative investing” is for you, ask your current adviser if you have any alternative investments in your portfolio (retirement included) or if any of your existing holdings in funds have them. You might be surprised by the response.
The difficulty that I’m having in finding an appropriate bitcoin investment vehicle as an “alternative investment” for a retirement account proves that investing in bitcoins, regardless of what you may believe about them, is a risky business at this point.
There are plans in the works for an exchange-traded fund for bitcoins. Most talked about is an investment that has been associated with the Winklevoss twins. But until this is created, the average investor won’t be able to avail themselves of an investment that can be placed in a qualified retirement account.
An accredited investor , though, isn’t the average investor.
“It’s why hedge fund investors are ‘accredited,’ that is, they attest to their personal wealth and willingness to lose money in the markets. Accredited is a fancy way of saying you can afford to take a hit.
“Retirement investors can’t. No retirement investor should be rolling the dice with the gunslinger managers of Wall Street. The problem with gunslingers is that, eventually, they come face-to-face with a faster gun. Somebody ends up face down in the dust.”
So the bottom line at this point is that for the average investor, bitcoins aren’t accessible for their retirement account — yet.
My research has shown, though, that the Winklevoss twins aren’t the only managers “gunning” to make bitcoin investments available to the average investor through ETFs and other vehicles.
One such investment is the Bitcoin Investment Trust, which is a private, open-ended trust that is invested exclusively in bitcoin and modeled on the popular SPDR Gold Trust ETF GLD, +0.20% There are plans to make the trust available to average investors, but for now, it’s only available to accredited investors, who as Mitch says, can “take a hit.”
Of course, you could say that about many alternative investments that I’ve seen over the years — and perhaps there should be more concern when you’re considering bitcoins for a retirement account. Don’t think so? Check out some of the comments provided by my “supporters” in last week’s column.
In the next article, I’ll discuss the process of investing in the Bitcoin Investment Trust and the specifics of this investment. Due to its availability only to accredited investors and because of the sizeable amount of disclosures and paperwork required, it’s clearly not for the average investor. And as my check is in the mail and the paperwork is soon to be processed, I may soon be the only person who has bitcoins in their retirement account (or at least the only person I know).
If there’s anyone else out there who has done this for a retirement account, I’d love to hear from you. I need all the support I can get!