Accredited Investor Definition: What Does It Mean?

Do you know the accredited investor definition? It takes money to make money. To become an accredited investor, it definitely takes a lot. It also opens the door to a variety of new investment opportunities to diversify a portfolio. Accredited investors can open almost any investment door that isn’t governed by the SEC they want with little opposition. It doesn’t even require a membership card or any kind of certification.

Requirements to Become an Accredited Investor

Accredited Investor Definition

There are a few requirements to fulfill, but it is up to the investment managers to verify that all the boxes are checked. How does one become an accredited investor and what doors open up? Let’s find out.

Every day investors need very little to open a cash account and begin their investment journey. The case is similar for accredited investors.

However, they have to fulfill certain requirements that may be checked by the investment managers, if they choose to. What are these requirements?

Accredited Investor Definition of Income

In terms of income, an individual must have at least $200,000 in each of the previous two years. For spouses, income must be at least $300,000. In both cases, there must be a reasonable expectation to maintain this income in the current year.

Net Worth

Accredited Investor Definition

To be considered apart of the accredited investor definition know this, income isn’t sufficient. Individuals or spouses must have an individual or joint net worth of at least $1M at the time of purchase.

It’s important to note that as of 2010, the value of the principal residence does not count in the net worth. However, cash, investments, secondary properties and other assets are counted in the net worth.

Fun Fact: In 2020, in the US alone there were over 13M accredited investors. This represents over 10% of the population and a total wealth of over $73T. In the last 2 years, this number most likely increased.

Other Qualifications

In 2020, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) added a few clarifications regarding accredited investors. Those who do not meet the requirements above can still be considered apart of the accredited investor definition if they meet any of the following requirements.

  • Those who have applicable certifications, designations and credentials (FINRA Series 7, 65, 82)
  • Knowledgeable employees of a private fund
  • Registered advisors with the SEC and the state
  • Entities with over $5M in assets

Membership Card

Unlike most official accreditations, there isn’t a membership card, a course to pass or an agency to contact. Basically, there isn’t an official process to become an accredited investor. Instead, the company issuing the investment has the responsibility to perform the due diligence on their buyers. They perform a screening process and determine who is qualified.

Every country has a separate process for accredited investors. The requirements differ across countries. Canada, Singapore and Australia have similar requirements to the US. 

In Europe and Norway, there are 3 tests (investment knowledge, quantitative test and work in the financial sector). In India and Switzerland, a local counsel determines the eligibility. 

What happens if someone lies? The blame falls on the issuer of the investment. However, there can still be repercussions for the investor in the future. It is best not to lie about it.

Accredited Investor Definition Pros and Cons

It may seem that having access to a brand new world of investments is mainly positive. However, the stock market is never an easy ride.

Pros

New investment opportunities: In the next section, we’ll get into specifics. As I said, new doors are opened that some of us may never see.

Higher return potential: High risk, high reward. Some investments may exceed popular benchmarks such as the S&P or the DJIA.

Diversification: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket is a very popular metaphor among traders. More diversity doesn’t automatically mean higher returns, but it protects our capital and spreads the risk among many sectors and investment vehicles.

Cons

High risk: New investments such as hedge funds and private placements are riskier than an ETF or an index fund. There is a reason these investments are limited to knowledgeable and financially responsible investors.

Minimum investment: Certain investments require hundreds of thousands of dollars as a minimum investment. For some, this can be a sizeable proportion of their portfolio. Not everyone can afford this.

Fees: Some investments charge high management and performance fees. Hedge funds used to live by the 2 and 20 rule. In other words, they take 2% as a management fee and 20% of profits. Nowadays, these numbers are much lower due to competitiveness. Today, the average is around 1.4% and 16.4%.

Time frame: Certain investments such as private placements have a long life. Returns don’t come quickly. Companies aren’t always profitable from the get-go. It can take many years or even a decade to grow and become profitable. Hence, some investments have a very long time frame. 

Investments Available to Accredited Investors

Accredited Investor Definition

The investment vehicles below are all associated with higher risk. Before investing in any of them, it is important to perform proper due diligence.

Hedge Funds: Hedge funds seek to be profitable every single year no matter the market conditions. Easier said than done. To attain this goal, hedge fund managers use a variety of investment tools with varying degrees of risk.

Hedge funds will offer a presentation and previous returns to anyone qualified. Some of them truly benefit the rich, others underperform the S&P. Don’t forget hedge fund fees mentioned earlier.

Accredited Investor Definition of Available Investments

Startups: Anyone can become a millionaire. Startups grant generous stock options to their employees. They can also be very fortuitous for early investors. There are many ways to invest in a startup. The most popular is through a venture capital company or a private placement. Below, we will discuss both. Recently, it also became possible to invest in a startup via crowdfunding. They are risky, but can be worthwhile if the investment pans out. Popular platforms are Indiegogo, SeedInvest Technology, StartEngine, GoFundMe, Patreon, WeFunder and NextSeed. It’s important to note that most startups lock your capital for the long term.

Venture Capital: When an investor puts their money in a venture capital firm, the funds are usually spread across many investments and startups. It can be compared to a fund invested in different stocks, but the companies are much riskier and the money is locked up for a longer period of time. Popular venture capital companies are YieldStreet, PeerStreet and Cadence.

Accredited Investor Definition of Investments

Private Placements: A private placement or private equity happens when a private company such as a startup, requires funds for growth. Private companies can be at different stages of growth and industry presence. Reasons for funding can be to pay a debt, acquire a competitor, merge with another company, research & development or simply to stay above water. 

Real Estate Investment Funds (REITs): Recently, REITs have been gaining popularity. They offer good returns, solid dividends, low risk and added diversification. REITs invest in mortgages, commercial properties and other real estate investments. It is possible to invest with them with a mutual fund, ETF or directly in a public company related to real estate.

Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG), Prologis (NYSE: PLD) and Public Storage (NYSE: PSA) are public REIT companies investing in different spheres of real estate.

ETFs are also very involved in the REIT business. Here are a few with the most Assets Under Management (AUM). 

Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund ETF (NYSEARCA: VNQ) – $44B in AUM

Charles Schwab US REIT ETF (NYSEARCA: SCHH) – $6.5B in AUM

iShares US Real Estate ETF (NYSEARCA: IYR) – $5.1B in AUM

However, private REITs can offer even better returns to accredited investors. Remember it takes money to make money. Yeah.

Now You Know the Accredited Investor Definition

To conclude, it is now easy to know if you qualify to be an accredited investor. Your eligibility depends on your income and net worth or specific certifications and qualifications. If you are, a variety of new and risky investments are available. Most of them are riskier than the average stock or ETF. Some even offer better returns. Furthermore, they offer some quality diversification for our portfolios. It is always important to perform adequate due diligence before jumping into any investment.

If you want to learn more about how you can profit from the stock market, head on over to our free library of educational courses. We have something for everyone, including trading options for those with small accounts.

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