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Don’t get caught up in the hype as bitcoin hovers around $19,000

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Key Points
  • Bitcoin topped $19,800 on Monday, hitting a record and its highest level since 2017.
  • Even though it's become more commonplace and popular as an investment since its last rally, financial advisors are still wary of the digital currency.
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Call it deja vu. Bitcoin topped $19,800 on Monday to reach a record and its highest level since 2017.  

The digital currency has been on a tear this year and has nearly doubled since September, driven in part by new institutional support and low interest rates stemming from Covid-19.

Still, bitcoin's surge hasn't been without its trademark volatility – last week, it rallied to more than $19,000 before falling to about $17,000 per coin on Friday. And, after hitting the record on Monday, it swiftly dropped again Tuesday to less than $19,000.

Even though it's become more commonplace and popular as an investment since 2017, financial advisors are still wary of the digital currency.

"It's critically important to understand the risks associated with it," said certified financial planner Douglas Boneparth, founder and president of Bone Fide Wealth, adding that it's a highly speculative asset despite encouraging headlines.

"You don't need to look too far back in time to see how volatile it can be," said Boneparth, who is also a member of the CNBC Advisor Council.

Don't get caught up in the trend

Most advisors would caution clients who want to invest in bitcoin, or any other buzzy trend.

It can be easy to have FOMO, or fear of missing out, on the latest hot investing trend, according to Roger Ma, CFP and founder of New York City-based financial planning firm lifelaidout.

It's best to keep your goals in mind before putting money into a fad investment, which could be something like bitcoin, a commodity like gold or the latest hot stock that's taking off.

That includes understanding your net worth, living expenses and credit score, said Ma. From there, he recommends assessing where you are with other prerequisites to investing – do you have an emergency fund, are you paying down debt, contributing to retirement and on track for other financial goals?

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"What does your portfolio need to do to be able achieve your short- and long-term goals and for you to be able to lead your rich life?" said Ma. "If your plan relies on your portfolio returning 50% to 100% a year it might make sense to rejigger your plan to make it a little more feasible."

Also keep in mind that once something is making headlines or breaking records, it could be at the end of its run and be relatively expensive – meaning it's not a good time to buy in.

"The problem is that everyone wants to buy when things are at all-time highs," said Anjali Jariwala, a CFP and CPA and founder of Fit Advisors. "We should have investment decisions driven by things that we can control versus having it driven by emotion or feeling towards certain investments."

If you are going to invest, do your research

To be sure, some people will still want to invest in bitcoin or other trendy things.

Before putting money into bitcoin, it's important to do your research and understand as much as you can about the asset class.

"Bitcoin produces no earnings, it pays no dividends, it pays no interest, so it's not really an investment in the traditional sense, it's value is purely dependent on what someone else is going to pay for it in the future," said David Oransky, CFP and founder of Laminar Wealth in St. Louis. "It's very different than investing in stocks, where you're investing in the future earnings of the company that produces goods and services."

In addition, investors should research how to actually buy into bitcoin and withdraw money, as it's not something they can get through a traditional brokerage account.

"It's still kind of the wild, Wild West out there and that should scare people that don't know a lot about it," said Oransky.

We should have investment decisions driven by things that we can control versus having it driven by emotion or feeling towards certain investments
Anjali Jariwala
founder, Fit Advisors

Use play money

Once you've done your research and know you want to invest, financial advisors say that bitcoin shouldn't be a major part of your portfolio. Instead, it should be a less than 5% position that's thought of more as play money to be allocated toward fun investing and not tied to a goal such as retirement.

"It helps a person get their fix without disrupting their financial plan and achieving their financial goals," said Ma.

If you do want to have a bit of play money in your investment account, make sure it's an amount you're comfortable with going to zero, said Oransky.

"If you want to buy a lottery ticket and this is the ticket you want to buy, that's fine," he said.  

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