Exiting investment comfort zone can pay off: Kevin O'Leary

If you've seen me talk on TV, you know that one of my top investment tips is "Diversify your portfolio." Putting all your eggs into one basket is the dumbest decision you can make when it comes to the world of investing.

This is why I always advise against investing more than 5 percent of your money in any one stock or bond, or more than 20 percent in any one segment (energy or transportation, for example). Anything more than that and you're courting unnecessary risk and destabilizing your portfolio … and this advice isn't just true for the stock market.

There's a whole world of investment opportunities that most people don't give a second thought to, which is a real shame for their bank accounts. That's why I'm here to tell you that getting creative with where you put your money can pay off. Here are a few of my favorite "unique investments."

Business investor and television personality Kevin O'Leary
Amanda Edwards | WireImage | Getty Images
Business investor and television personality Kevin O'Leary

Everybody knows I'm "the wine guy." I even have my own label — but I don't just love to make and drink wine. I like to invest in it.

Most people only think about buying wine when they're having guests over or want something to sip on with dinner. Few realize that wine is also one of the most lucrative financial investments when you follow these rules:

  • Buy top wine with the best vintages when prices are still low.
  • Store wine in a proper climate-controlled environment.
  • Keep your hands off the bottle opener and exercise self-control.

The next tip is the hardest part, but trust me — it's worth it. Back in 1982 a case of Château Latour — a Bordeaux vintage — sold for about $400. Last year a case of the same wine sold for $33,000. If you didn't cave in and drink it, you made an amazing return on your investment.

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In addition to wine guy, business guy and grumpy "Shark Tank" guy, I'm also an art guy.

This summer, I toured North America with my own exhibit, "Irreconcilable Images" — a collection of photographs I've taken over the years. But if there's one thing I like as much as making art, it's making money, which is why I also like investing in art.

High-end art has proved time and time again over the years that it holds up its value even in financial downturns. During the recession of 2009, global art sales still hovered around $30 billion, and within five years that number almost doubled, to $54 billion.

"I never thought I'd say that I'd be making millions of dollars off cupcakes, but to this day, investing in Wicked Good Cupcakes on Season 4 of 'Shark Tank' was one of the best financial decisions of my life."

Now don't get me wrong — I'm not suggesting that spending a few thousand big ones on just any average Joe's art show is a surefire way to get rich. But if you follow these tips, there's a good chance you'll make your money back and then some (and hey, in a worst-case scenario, you'll have a nice wall hanging and a conversation piece):

  • Become familiar with all different mediums and styles.
  • Always verify authenticity before buying.
  • Remember today's struggling artist might be tomorrow's Picasso, so don't just focus on the "big guys."

If watercolor paintings and Cabernet are a bit too outside the box but you're looking for an alternative to the old-school method of buying and trading stocks, I strongly recommend you investigate the world of exchange-traded funds.

ETFs are traded on the same exchanges as stocks. The difference is that a stock focuses on one company, whereas an ETF lets you buy shares of a basket of stocks, commodities or bonds in one investment. There's a time and a place for both stocks and ETFs, but a few of the latter's possible benefits include:

  • Hedging the risks involved in individual companies through diversification.
  • Providing investors with access to a broader index or industry through one investment.
  • Lower costs — ETFs often have lower costs than other investment products.

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At the end of the day, I cannot, of course, guarantee or prove that any of these suggestions will make you rich. The world of investing is, in many ways, a game of trial and error.

That said, if there's one thing my years as an investor and a "Shark Tank" cast member have taught me, it's that going outside of your investment comfort zone can pay off. I never thought I'd say that I'd be making millions of dollars off cupcakes, but to this day, investing in Wicked Good Cupcakes on Season 4 of "Shark Tank" was one of the best financial decisions of my life.

Today my investment portfolio includes everything from energy stocks and ETFs to greeting cards and ugly Christmas sweaters. Some of these investments will be more profitable than others. But I'll tell you this much: Not a year's gone by where I haven't made more money than the last one.

— By Kevin O'Leary, chairman of O'Shares Investments