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Invest in BRICs?

Chris Farrell Jul 15, 2009

Question: I am 56 years old. I got out of housing before the market fell. I sold my house. I stayed out of the stock market over the last 7 years, so I didn’t make or lose money. I was content with small but safe money market accounts. But I don’t know what to do now. I have in excess of 250,000 that I could invest. My banker thinks that I should get some money market linked CDs. There is 100% principle protection on FDIC Coverage to applicable limits, and “opportunity to participate in the leverage potential appreciation of equally-weighted BRIC foreign currencies. Is this a good idea? When I retire, I should receive between $2,200-$2,500 per month. I also have another $250,000 401 Ks and several stocks. I am looking at finding an investment that would be FDIC insured but still pay a reasonable investment-3-5%. I would consider something more aggressive if it still felt safe. Must be a lot of people in my age group with this problem. Any suggestions? Anne, Minneapolis, MN

Answer: Here’s my basic problem. You’ve done a good job saving. You’re conservative with your money. Why put some of your savings into one of the riskiest bets in the global capital markets, the BRICs? That’s shorthand for the world’s largest developing nations–Brazil, Russia, India, and China. There are powerful, compelling arguments that the future is bright for the BRICs over the long-haul. But they remain volatile markets and fragile economies. Investing in the BRICs isn’t for the faint of heart. Investing in foreign currencies is “rank speculation,” to quote from Jack Bogle, the legendary founder of Vanguard.

I know that your principal is safe with this kind of market-linked CD, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. The way you’ve described what you are looking for in an investment tells me that sticking with shorter term Treasuries and CDs–and accepting the lower yield–is probably your best bet.

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