Several bills were recently introduced in Congress (passed through committee with bipartisan support) to lower the barriers to entry for investing in private placements. A private placement is the sale of stock or bonds to a limited set of investors. Often used by start-up companies, a private placement offering has only minimal disclosure requirements about the company’s business prospects and financial well-being. The bills propose to loosen the current definition of “accredited investor” to include, among other changes, people with lower net worth than what is presently required and those who “self-certify” that they are capable.
You might ask whom the constituency is for opening up high-risk investments to people who can ill afford to take such risks with their money. The answer, as is usually the case, can be found by asking a further question, “Cui bono?” As Cassius famously asked in Roman courts, “Who benefits?”
Consider this: the most amusing change would be that an investor would be allowed to participate in a private offering based on having received a recommendation to do so from a financial advisor who is accredited. Hmm, who might that be?
On the one hand, meh. In the grand scheme of things that one could be concerned about (threats to democracy, for example), I am not sure that this proposal rises to the level of outrage.
But on the other hand, it really is quite maddening. There is this whole narrative in the personal finance media space (and not just on TikTok) that we could all be richer if we just had access to the same investment products as “the rich guys.” This is the same school of thought that has driven Blacks disproportionately into crypto investing. This whole idea that there is some bright, shiny world of superior investment products that are being kept away from the little guys, and if we only had access to it, we would be rich too.
Investing for the long term is important as a path to building wealth. But you don’t need any tools different than what is readily available to you: low-cost index funds. It really is that simple.
Rich people did not get that way because of exotic, risky investments. They were wealthy first. Then, because they could now afford to lose, they take bigger risks with their money. That’s probably not a description of you.
It’s not even abundantly clear that private equity returns are always vastly superior. Part of the problem is that while the value of a widely traded public security can be easily observed and is based on a mass of publicly available financial information, the value of a private security is pretty much a black box.
If you are doing it right, investing is pretty boring. And not terribly complex either. Unfortunately, there are a lot of incentives in the market that drive the narrative that there are “investing secrets” that, with the able and well-compensated assistance of a guide, you can be let in on. Don’t fall for it.