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Powell: Buying bitcoin to fund retirement? Make sure it fits plans

Robert Powell

A big British bank is considering bringing Bitcoin 'into play.' Barclays CEO Ashok Vaswani has spoken to regulators about engaging with the cryptocurrency, although he did not elaborate on what that would involve. Newslook
Average investors are often accused of buying high and selling low.

And that may very well be the case for investors who are jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon. Bitcoin, a digital currency, has doubled and then some since the start of 2017 (it’s risen from $1,016.30 on Jan. 2 to $2,469.38 as of June 16) and many investors are taking note that a $1,000 investment in bitcoin in 2010 would now be worth $35 million.

To be sure, many experts, including Goldman Sachs, are turning bearish on the digital currency at its current price. But that hasn’t stopped investors from asking the question: What about the long-term? Should I invest in bitcoin in my accounts earmarked for retirement, which could be decades away and then last for decades?

Does it fit in your portfolio?

In the main, as with any investment, experts say investors should evaluate the pros and cons. What’s more, investors should take the very same approach to investing in bitcoin as they would any other investment: Evaluate whether it meets the criteria established in your investment policy statement, which outlines your time horizon, risk tolerance and investment objective.

How to invest in bitcoin

Assuming you’ve done all that, Jack Tatar, co-author of “Cryptoassets: The Innovative Investor’s Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond,” says there several ways to invest in bitcoin and other digital currencies in a retirement account.  

Bitcoin Investment Trust: The easiest way, he says, is to invest in the Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), the first publicly quoted securities solely invested in and deriving value from the price of bitcoin. According to the investment firm that manages the fund, the trust enables investors to gain exposure to the price movement of bitcoin through a traditional investment vehicle, without the challenges of buying, storing and safekeeping bitcoins.

“The Bitcoin Investment Trust has an underlying value of 1/10 the price of bitcoin but it has been trading at a substantial premium, which indicates that there’s a real appetite for placement of bitcoin into investment accounts,” says Tatar. “In terms of advice, I would say that the Bitcoin Investment Trust is too pricey and should be avoided.”

Self-directed IRAs: Most brokerage firms don’t allow investors to invest directly in bitcoin, or at least not yet. But investors can establish something called a self-directed IRA at firms such as Pensco, The Entrust Group, or the Millennium Trust Company and invest in bitcoins directly through those accounts. To do so, investors typically have to establish a legal entity that would allow them to invest in bitcoin. Qualified accredited investors also invest in the Ethereum Classic Investment Trust on those platforms as well. To be sure, self-directed IRAs can be more costly than traditional brokerage IRAs, but investors do get the chance to invest directly in bitcoin.

Another option, according to Tatar, is the Bitcoin IRA, which is a financial conduit pioneering the use of bitcoin as a retirement tool. “The Bitcoin IRA is simply a self-directed IRA which is a neat idea but requires a separate account away from typical retirement accounts held at wealth management firms,” says Tatar. “It also has an additional fee for their custody, and the like.”

The Bitcoin IRA also lets savers invest directly in ethereum, which according to Tatar, is another digital currency that has been on a “major run this year.”

Taxable accounts: Another option is to buy bitcoin or ethereum separately and directly in a taxable account versus an IRA, Roth IRA or similar retirement account. “Just follow proper asset allocation rules,” says Tatar. “And don’t invest no more than 10% of your overall portfolio. Even if it’s in a taxable account, view it as something to complement your retirement savings.”

To read this story on USA Today, click here.