Are you rich and sophisticated enough for private funds?

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Part of the appeal of investing in hedge and other private funds is their inherent exclusivity.

If you've got money with one, it's shorthand for being rich and, in the eyes of the government, sophisticated enough to understand the added risks. In other words, private funds seem sexier to some than pedestrian investments like stocks and mutual funds.

But access to those funds may get much more exclusive.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering changing how a so-called accredited investor is defined. In doing so, it's facing pressure from outside groups to dramatically increase the minimum savings and income requirements to invest and adding other measures of financial sophistication, like being a chartered financial analyst or having an advanced business degree. If approved, the changes would slash the number of people who the government deems wealthy and sophisticated enough to invest in hedge, private equity, venture capital and other private funds and investments.

"The new rules could significantly reduce the number of accredited investors. That would narrow the amount of eligible U.S. investors for hedge funds and others," said Steve Nadel, a private funds-focused partner at the law firm Seward & Kissel.