It is no secret that diversifying is the key to success for investing and as humans we love our options! Many investors assume diversifying means investing in different types of securities like bonds, stocks, and options. However, the top investors take the term in their most exclusive form and invest in truly diversified assets. This brings us to alternative investments.
What are alternative investments?
Outside stocks and bonds, there is a world of investments that we can choose from. Alternative investments are those investments that vary from the traditional forms of investing in terms of liquidity, how they are regulated and the way they are managed. Having a mixed basket of investments is very beneficial for an investor especially during a downturn. People who have experienced a recession or inflation will tell you that investing in only one type of asset will result in great losses.
A few examples of alternative investments include venture capital, real estate investments and even gold efts. These assets are usually more illiquid than traditional investments and have little to no correlation with stocks and bonds. However, alternative investments are less regulated than traditional stocks which are under the control of organizations such as FINRA, SEC in the U.S or SEBI in India. On the flip side, although they are not controlled investments, the performance of alternative investments is difficult to measure. This is because, unlike stocks, there is limited information available on alternative investments, making them difficult to assess.
Types of alternative investments
Alternative investments is a mindset approach to investing rather than a specific investment. There are various alternative investments out there and investors can choose the ones that best suit their management style. A few investments include:
1. Private equity
Investing in the stock market is great but not all companies are listed on the exchange. There are more private companies than public companies and the companies often take on an investor to help fund their growth. Private equity is the broad term to describe the spectrum of investors in the private market. The funds raised by the private equity firms will be invested in private companies, many of which include promising startups. The capital raised is used for organic and inorganic growth of the company. The amount invested is then returned back to the investors during an exit event such as the private firm issuing an IPO to go public or an acquisition or merger.
To assess the performance of this alternative investment, many investors use the internal rate of return (IRR) however this does not take into consideration the interim or negative cash flows. In recent years, this formula evolved to the Modified IRR which is a more holistic approach to analyze the performance of a private equity investment.
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Collectibles is the broad term used to describe items such as cars, antiques, paintings and various vintage items. In other words, they are items that have a low intrinsic value. Many people place a high value on these items, but unlike stock and bonds that can generate profits and income, the value of the collectibles is based on the speculations of buyers and sellers. An investment into collectibles can help diversify your portfolio but you need to have a good understanding of the items you are collecting to reduce risks.
One of the best ways to invest in collectibles is to have a personal interest in what you are collecting. This will help you develop an interest in the market and gain expertise on the items you are investing in. Items collected this way will give the collector personal satisfaction of the items they own whether or not they receive the expected return.
It is important for investors to remember that collectible items have a long holding period. While stocks and shares can be sold at a whim, depending on market conditions, collectibles, on the other hand, need to be ‘held’ by the owner for an extended period of time. This is because collectibles tend to gain value over time and selling them too quickly can only result in high transaction costs.
While collectibles can help diversify your portfolio, an investor requires extensive knowledge in the market to make the right decisions. But collectible investing is great because not only is it an alternative investment but it is also a hobby for many!
3. Hedge funds
A hedge fund isn’t a single investment but rather a pooled investment that is managed by an investment advisor. A hedge fund raises money from investors and uses the money to buy up entire businesses, either through a takeover or by investing in the business to improve operations. There are also hedge funds that specialize in real estate or other assets such as patents and trademarks.
Investing in hedge funds can help an investor diversify their portfolios because hedge fund managers used a variety of strategies when investing. This includes arbitrage, distressed assets, and macro-trends. They also take a Leveraged approach to investment which is using borrowed money for investment.
Hedge Funds vary from private equity investments because they invest in public companies, thereby providing more liquidity and making it easier for investors to take out their money if required. A report by the World Economic Forum states that in the U.S investments in hedge funds represent 40% of total alternative investments.
Diversification is the mantra when it comes to earning high returns on your investments. While the stock market allows investors to assess the performance of their stocks and provides liquidity, it is not always the safest investment as the markets are constantly volatile. This has led to an increase in the popularity of alternative investments in the last couple of years.
Historically, however, alternative investments are more popular among high net-worth individuals as they require a large initial investment and cannot be converted to cash quickly. Nevertheless, alternative investments have numerous advantages such as portfolio diversity and active management of funds.
Alternative investments are now an option for all classes of investors and not just the wealthy ones. But these investments requires a lot of research and study and investing in them without a thorough assessment can be incredibly risky.