My Bitcoin Investment Journey, Part One

What happens when the author decides to invest in bitcoin for retirement.

My interest in bitcoin in 2013 led me to co-write the book, “What’s the Deal with Bitcoins?” with Ryan Lancelot.  At the time of the writing of the book, the ability to gain bitcoin was mainly limited to either mining or through direct transactions with those who had bitcoins. 

Many people found out during that early time of bitcoin that transacting dollars for bitcoins was possible on exchanges such as Mt.Gox, but that came with risks (evidenced by the scandal of Mt.

Gox that led to many people losing their bitcoin balances). In 2013, I was also writing for Marketwatch.com as a contributor to their RetireMentor sections, which focused on providing retirement information to its readers (I’m author of numerous books on retirement including my latest, “Having the Talk”). So, in August of 2013, I raised the question of whether or not bitcoins had a place in someone’s retirement portfolio. 

I recognize that at the time, bitcoin was primarily seen as a form of payment for transactions and not exactly something that most people were viewing as an investment. However, whenever a form of currency can be exchanged for dollars on a legitimate exchange, there’s the potential for a gain in value, and thus profit. Additionally, there were people such as the Winklevoss Twins, who were recognizing this and were exploring opportunities to make the investment opportunities for bitcoin more widespread.

 

In May of 2014, I decided to merge my interests and knowledge in both retirement and bitcoins and began a journey to explore the ability to invest in bitcoins for retirement. As a former financial professional, I wanted investors to view bitcoin properly when considering it as an investment.  Therefore, I began to examine bitcoin for consideration as an alternative investment in an investor’s portfolio.

For years, investment firms and professionals have advocated the need to include a small percentage of high risk and potentially high reward assets into your retirement portfolio. The thinking is that including a small percentage of your overall asset allocation (from 5% - 10%) into these assets can provide high potential returns with only a small impact on your portfolio if the risk becomes too great.

As Brad Zimmerman writes, "the general rule of thumb with alternative investing, according to Investopedia, is no more than 10 percent of your portfolio should go towards these investments."

Typically, investments such as gold, real estate, and hedge funds were considered by advisors as alternative investments for investors’ portfolios. The inclusion of these alternative investments into a portfolio is based on the tenets of asset allocation, which demands that an investor spread their risk among various asset classes.  Alternative investments are typically regarded as “noncorrelated” investments, meaning that they’re not typically directly correlated to the equity or bond markets, this helping to further spread out that risk. 

Thus began my journey to not only find an investment for my portfolio that could be made in bitcoin, but it also had to be an investment that I could make for my retirement account as well.

 

The most likely investment that could​ be made by the general investor seemed to be an exchange traded fund that was associated with the Winklevoss Twins. The only problem is that at the time, it was “in the works” and not yet available.

However, there was an investment called the Bitcoin Investment Trust that could be placed into a qualified investment account.  The only caveat was that you needed to be an “accredited investor” to purchase it. 

An accredited investor is someone with a high level of income and net worth to essential take on the risk that was associated with an investment such as the Bitcoin Investment Trust.

My fellow writer at Marketwatch, Mitch Tuchman, provided what is perhaps the best definition of accredited investors and their ability to invest in alternative investments for Forbes when he wrote,

"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."

The reality was also that I would be considered an accredited investor, and as someone who likes to "practice what I preach", I decided to invest in bitcoin for my retirement account.

Please come back and see what happens in Part Two of this series.