Despite what some spruikers (and crypto currency dealers) might say, making money is never easy. Especially when interest rates are low.
Ten years ago, the big banks were offering term deposits at 8%. Yes, you heard right.
Looking around at the range of investment options at the time, 8% on your money for doing nothing was a good alternative to staring into a screen day trading stocks, or breaking your back ripping out mouldy carpet as you flipped an investment property.
Today, interest rates are so low that it’s almost as if you are paying the banks to keep your money for you. It also means that anyone who aspires to make real returns is going to have to be active, innovative, and also take a few risks.
Not everyone has several hundred thousand dollars to get into the property market, and for those people alternatives such as shares or even that exotic new asset class, crypto currencies, might be worth a try.
There really is no minimum investment for either shares or crypto, and while the markets are volatile right now there are significant returns to be made if you get it right. Who hasn’t heard about someone who is now a Bitcoin millionaire who started out with as little as $500?
As investment guru Alan Kohler wrote recently, “serious attention needs to be given to digital currencies.”
But Kohler added a word of caution to his advice, saying that while crypto currencies were “driving a profound revolution in commerce that will be bigger than the internet itself” there could also be an “almighty crash at some point as the price bubble deflates.”
As ever, making money from investments is all in the timing.
But let’s get back to property for a moment, which is always an attractive asset class but is really on the boil at the moment.
With the property market it all depends on when you get in and when you get out. If you’d bought a house in any Australian capital city a year ago you could probably sell it for 15 or 20% more than you bought it for, even if you’d done nothing to the house. In Byron Bay, the stampede by celebrities has inspired a whopping 31% return.
One expert who thinks the property market has some distance to run is SQM’s Louis Christopher, who said that with low interest rates set to prevail for some time to come, “we expect to see moderate to strong activity in the housing market over this quarter, which will likely push house prices even higher.”
Alternately, there is the sharemarket, and the Australian All Ordinaries Index has surged 30% or so in the last year. So passively buying the index has paid off, but the market has also been uneven which means that some active investors have done even better.
Shares in buy now pay later provider Afterpay are up 100% in 12 months, but if you’d bought in May 2020 and sold in March – before the recent fall – you would have more than tripled your money.
So will the sharemarket boom continue? The deputy head of investments at asset manager Van Eck Australia, Jamie Hannah, is upbeat.
“There is not a lot stopping growth at the moment,” he said. “Everyone hates buying in at the top of the market, but I can’t see any factors to stop it.
Then there are cryptocurrencies, and people who kept saying it was a bubble which could never last are curiously silent.
The price of Bitcoin is up 400% in the last year, and there is array of other currencies to choose from. No-one had heard of Dogecoin a year ago and it has been the most spectacular ride of all, starting from a value of US0.002 a year ago and surging to US72 cents before falling back to US50 cents.
The point about these non-property investments is that the last year might not be the best indicator of what is to come.
Crypto currencies may rise and fall on any offhand comment from Elon Musk. Are the share and property markets now bubbles waiting to burst?
All anyone can do is make sure their research is thorough, and they have the courage of their convictions and are prepared for losses if they come.
The probability is that, despite the risks, getting active with investment is likely to deliver a better outcome than letting your money sit in the bank.