How to Determine if You are an Accredited Investor

self directed ira

by Guest Contributor Kathy Fettke

How do you become accredited?

Today’s crowdfunding platforms offer many new opportunities that investors may not have discovered in the past. However only accredited investors can participate.

There is no formal certification issued from an agency or institution that confirms you are accredited. In fact, private placements have allowed investors to “self- accredit” by answering a questionnaire and then checking the “I am an accredited investor” box on the subscription agreement. No back back up documentation or proof was required.

A private placement is a way for small companies and private funds to skip the expensive and exhaustive process of registering securities if they raise capital from accredited investors “with whom they already have an pre-existing relationship.”  A small number of non-accredited investors are also allowed in these private placements – which are usually filed as “exempt” with the Securities Exchange Commission through a Regulation D Rule 506 (b) offering.

That all changed during the Great Recession in an attempt to jumpstart an ailing economy. The Obama Administration passed the JOBS Act of 2012, which for the first time in history allowed small companies and funds to solicit capital from the general public.

That’s when crowdfunding was born. Savvy internet marketers popped up out of nowhere, advertising various investments.

The main difference between a private placement and a crowdfunded investment is that you must now prove you are an accredited investor in order to participate in an offering that has been advertised to the public.

Rule 501 of Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933 allows investors to use two different criteria for determine if they are accredited. The investor only needs to comply to one of the following methods, according to the S.E.C.:

  1. “A natural person with income exceeding $200,000 in each of the two most recent years, or joint income with a spouse exceeding $300,000 and a reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year.”

OR

  1. “A natural person who has individual net worth or joint net worth with the person’s spouse that exceeds $1 million at the time of the purchase, excluding the value of the primary residence of such person.”

Using your income as proof that you are accredited is easy – you simply provide a W-2 or tax return to the issuer of the investment in order to verify how much you’ve earned for the past two years.

Proving your net worth can be a bit more complicated. It requires a balance sheet, subtracting liabilities against assets. For example, a bank statement showing one million dollars in cash is not enough evidence to prove that you have a million dollar net worth.

Instead, you need to provide a balance sheet detailing all assets (cash, bank accounts, 401Ks, IRA’s, other investments, and cars) and then deduct all liabilities (student loans, car loans, and equity lines of credit).

You cannot include your home equity as an asset, but you also don’t have to include your mortgage as a liability – unless you took out a home equity line of credit or did a cash out refinance within the past 2 months. In that case, you’d have to calculate the additional debt as a liability. Additionally, if your mortgage is higher than your home’s value. you would need to include the amount that the loan is “upside down” as a liability.

How to Boost Your NetWorth

If you own a business, talk to your CPA about using the value of that company as an asset. This could significantly increase your net worth.

If you have a lot of home equity, you may want to consider refinancing your home and taking some “cash out.”. As long as you wait 2 months. you can then count the cash you took out of your home as an asset.

This can be a solid investment strategy anyway, given today’s low interest rates. For example, if you took cash out of your home with 30 year fixed rate debt at 4% and then reinvested those funds into a note earning 8%, you would then be earning 4% on funds that otherwise would have been sitting as “dead equity.” The note you invest in should be secured to property, ideally at a low LTV, offering low risk to you as the noteholder. Be sure you understand the ins and outs of private lending before doing so!

There are a few more reasons I prefer having debt on your primary residence.

  1. Mortgages on primary residences tend to be the lowest cost debt you can get
  2. If you are highly leveraged, the bank will help you negotiate with your insurance company in the case of a natural disaster, as they have more at stake than you do
  3. Being leveraged offers a bit of asset protection as it is easy to search your home’s value vs how much you owe on it.This is one of the first things an attorney researches before considering a lawsuit against you.

 

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