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Do Alternative Investments Belong in a Retirement Account?

Do Alternative Investments Belong in Your Retirement Account?

Retirement accounts are designed to provide individuals with a safe, secure, and reliable source of income when they retire. Traditionally, these accounts have relied on stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to generate returns and accrue value over time. However, with the rise of alternative investments, many investors are wondering whether they should be considering more diverse investment options when planning for their retirement. In this article, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of alternative investments and whether they belong in a retirement account.

Understanding Alternative Investments

Before we delve into the question of whether alternative investments belong in a retirement account, let’s first define what we mean by “alternative investments.” Simply put, alternative investments are any assets that fall outside of traditional investment categories like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. This can include everything from real estate and commodities to private equity and hedge funds.

What are Alternative Investments?

Alternative investments are asset classes that are not typically found in traditional investment portfolios. These might include, but are not limited to, private equity, venture capital, real estate, commodities, and hedge funds. Investors who are looking to diversify their portfolios beyond traditional assets may consider alternative investments as a way to potentially boost returns while offsetting some of the risks associated with market volatility.

Types of Alternative Investments

There are many different types of alternative investments, each with their unique investment characteristics, risks, and potential rewards. Some of the most popular types of alternative investments include:

  • Real estate
  • Private equity
  • Hedge funds
  • Commodities
  • Art and collectibles
  • Cryptocurrency

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you a sense of the breadth of investment options that fall within the category of “alternative investments.”

Risks and Rewards of Alternative Investments

As with any investment, there are both risks and rewards associated with alternative investments. Here are some of the key things to keep in mind:

  • Potential for higher returns: alternative investments tend to have higher potential returns than traditional investments, but they also carry more risk.
  • Diversification benefits: because alternative investments tend to behave differently than traditional assets, they can help to diversify your portfolio and reduce risk.
  • Inflation protection: some alternative investments, like commodities, can provide a hedge against inflation, which can be particularly important in retirement when you’re living off of a fixed income.
  • Liquidity concerns: alternative investments can be difficult to sell quickly, which can be a problem if you need to access your retirement savings in a hurry.
  • Complexity and management challenges: alternative investments can be complicated to manage, and may require specialized knowledge in order to make informed investment decisions.

Traditional Retirement Account Investments

Now that we understand what alternative investments are, let’s turn our attention to traditional retirement account investments.

Stocks, Bonds, and Mutual Funds

The vast majority of retirement accounts include a mix of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. These assets are typically chosen for their long-term growth potential and ability to generate reliable income streams.

Diversification and Risk Management

Diversification is an important part of retirement planning, and traditional retirement account investments offer plenty of opportunities to spread your risk across a variety of different asset classes. By investing in a mix of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, you can offset the risks associated with any one specific asset class.

The Role of Traditional Investments in Retirement Planning

When it comes to retirement planning, traditional investments like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds play a critical role. These assets are designed to provide reliable, consistent returns over the long-term, which makes them an ideal choice for investors who are looking to build wealth over time.

Pros and Cons of Alternative Investments in Retirement Accounts

When it comes to investing in alternative investments within a retirement account, there are both pros and cons to consider.

Potential for Higher Returns

One of the main benefits of investing in alternative investments is the potential for higher returns. Because alternative investments tend to be riskier than traditional assets, they also tend to offer higher potential rewards. This can be particularly important for individuals who are looking to build wealth over the long term.

Diversification Benefits

Alternative investments can also help to diversify your retirement portfolio, which can reduce your overall risk. By investing in a variety of different assets, you can spread your risk across a range of different investments and avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.

Inflation Protection

Some alternative investments, like commodities, offer a hedge against inflation, which can be particularly important in retirement when you’re living off of a fixed income. By adding alternative investments to your retirement portfolio, you can help to protect yourself against the erosive effects of inflation and keep your spending power intact.

Liquidity Concerns

One of the disadvantages of alternative investments is their lack of liquidity. Because these assets are often difficult to sell quickly, they may not be an ideal choice for individuals who need access to their retirement savings in the near term.

Complexity and Management Challenges

Finally, it’s worth noting that alternative investments can be complicated to manage. These assets often require specialized knowledge in order to make informed investment decisions, and they may be subject to a range of complex tax and regulatory considerations.

Regulatory and Tax Considerations

Before you invest in alternative investments within your retirement account, it’s important to be aware of the regulatory and tax considerations involved.

IRS Rules for Alternative Investments in Retirement Accounts

The IRS has a range of rules and limitations surrounding alternative investments in retirement accounts. These rules are designed to protect investors and ensure that retirement accounts are used for their intended purposes.

Tax Implications of Alternative Investments

Alternative investments can also have a range of tax implications that investors need to be aware of. Depending on the specific assets you choose, you may be subject to different tax treatments and reporting requirements.

Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) and Alternative Investments

Finally, it’s worth noting that alternative investments can complicate the process of calculating required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your retirement accounts. Because these assets may be difficult to value or sell, it may be necessary to work closely with a financial advisor or tax professional to ensure that you’re meeting all the necessary requirements and avoiding any penalties.

The Bottom Line

So, do alternative investments belong in a retirement account? The answer, as with most things, is “it depends.” Alternative investments can offer some benefits in terms of potential returns and diversification, but they also carry additional risks and management challenges. Ultimately, the choice to invest in alternative assets should be based on your specific financial goals, risk tolerance, and long-term retirement planning needs. By working closely with a financial advisor or investment professional, you can make informed decisions about how to best allocate your retirement assets and build a diversified portfolio that meets your unique needs.

Best Alt Investing Platforms


Minimum Investment





American franchise businesses

Investment returns and passive income


Hedge fund investments

Open to non-accredited investors


Multiple investment classes like art

High annual return over 9%