Why El-Erian’s views on bitcoin may not work for you


Bitcoin might be winning back favor in the public eye. Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor at Allianz, called bitcoin a buy if its price falls below $5,000.

The highly volatile cryptocurrency made waves recently after falling 70 percent from its peak, when the price was near $20,000. But today it’s reaching a point where it might be worth considering again. It was trading around $5,870 as El-Erian made his statement on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Some financial advisors are skeptical, however. Traditionally, bitcoin is not an advisable investment for someone who wants to grow their portfolio, advisors said.

“Regardless of where the price is, any investor should be cautious before investing,” said certified financial planner Douglas Boneparth, president of Bone Fide Wealth and a bitcoin miner himself. “By and large cryptocurrencies are speculative and should be treated as such.”

Bitcoin is alluring to many because of the classic risk versus reward scenario it offers, Boneparth said.

“It’s cool, it’s in the news, it’s fresh,” Boneparth said. “But it does not change the rules of the game.”

Priya Malani, founding partner of Stash Wealth, agrees. She said bitcoin is a gamble, not an investment.

“If you want to gamble with your money you might as well go to Vegas, it’s much more fun,” she said.

For those who still want to buy in, she said clients could take out a tiny portion of their investments to purchase bitcoin. She said it should be 3 percent or less.

Not all financial advisors are against investing in bitcoin.

“I believe that certain crypto assets, bitcoin and ethereum, are poised for a strong future,” said Ric Edelman, founder and executive chairman of Edelman Financial Services. But, investors “have to stay very long-term focused and recognize that it’s still the Wild West.”

He said that cryptocurrencies are a legitimate asset class to diversify your portfolio, but for any investor it should make up less than 5 percent.

“You have to treat it as lottery tickets, be prepared to lose what you invest,” Edelman said. In addition, he said investors should also look at investing strategies like dollar-cost averaging, investing a specific amount of money at a consistent interval, to help reduce risk.

Other advisors might not recommend investing in bitcoin specifically, but see value in the cryptocurrency industry.

“It is an emerging industry, and we are in the early innings,” said Joe Elsasser, president of Covisum, a financial planning software company. He said to look across the industry to invest.

“It’s dangerous to try to pick one company or one currency and expect that if we fast forward 10 years that one will be the winner,” he said.

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