By Natalie DeCoste
Cryptocurrency continues to gain traction in mainstream finance as some workers can now invest their 401(k) in cryptocurrencies.
401(k) provider ForUsAll Inc. will allow workers in plans it provides to invest up to 5% of their 401(k) contributions in bitcoin, ether, litecoin, and up to 50 other cryptocurrencies through a partnership with leading cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. The program is called “the Alt 401(k),” and ForUsAll said this is the first 401(k) plan to include cryptocurrencies.
“By introducing the Alt 401(k), we are democratizing access to what drives wealth for the wealthy – alternative investment options, combined with our original core offering of low-cost index funds, and personalized help,” ForUsAll CEO Jeff Schulte said in a statement.
ForUsAll will monitor the employees’ plans and alert employees when their overall cryptocurrency allocation exceeds 5% of their portfolio. These employees will also be able to invest their 401(k)’s in other popular industries, including mutual funds, “environmental, social, and governance” funds, and real estate.
Representatives from ForUsAll have yet to disclose how many of its 400 employer clients have signed up for the cryptocurrency platform. However, a spokesperson for the company told FOX Business that more than 60% of its clients expressed interest in the plan over the past three months.
ForUsAll makes up only a tiny fragment of the retirement account market. The company has just $1.7 billion in retirement plan assets, while the industry as a whole consists of $22 trillion. Adopting this new cryptocurrency plan is a far cry from making it a norm for the retirement industry and is another step towards bringing crypto onto the main stage.
Currently, companies like Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab Corp. do not allow their customers to buy or sell cryptocurrency in taxable accounts or IRAs. Fidelity does allow its clients to manage their Coinbase accounts through Fidelity.com, but the company still does not allow retail investors to purchase the currency through its site.
More and more companies are helping to make cryptocurrency more mainstream, such as BNY Mellon. BNY Mellon announced on Feb. 11 that it was creating a new Digital Assets unit to help the bank’s clients address evolving needs related to the growth of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies.
Developments within the traditional banking sector and now the retirement market are helping companies like Coinbase broaden their reach.
“When we created our institutional platform, our initial focus was making cryptocurrency accessible to institutional investors and high net worth individuals. The next evolution is to broaden our reach, and we are thrilled to be working with ForUsAll, the leading 401(k) technology platform, to expand access to cryptocurrency through 401(k)s,” said Coinbase head of institutional coverage Brett Tejpaul.
Proponents of increasing access to cryptocurrency investments argue that it can raise expected returns without increasing overall risk in a portfolio. Others believe it can serve as a hedge against inflation. There are still those, like Lew Minsky, president of the Defined Contribution Institutional Investment Association, that maintain that cryptocurrencies are too volatile for major investments like retirement.