There is a vast universe of alternative investments, including the following sectors:
Real estate: Investors can acquire real estate by directly buying commercial or residential properties. Alternatively, they can purchase shares in real estate investment trusts (REITs). REITs act like mutual funds wherein a group of investors pool their money together to purchase properties. They trade like stocks on the same exchange.
Hedge funds: Hedge funds may invest in a spectrum of assets designed to deliver beyond market returns, called “alpha.” However, performance is not guaranteed, and hedge funds can see incredible shifts in returns, sometimes underperforming the market by a significant margin.
Typically only available to accredited investors, these vehicles often require high initial investments of $1 million or more. They also tend to impose net worth requirements. Hedge fund investments may tie up an investor’s money for substantial time periods.
Private equity fund: Private equity funds are pooled investment vehicles similar to mutual and hedge funds. A private equity firm, known as the “adviser,” pools money invested in the fund by multiple investors and then makes investments on behalf of the fund. Private equity funds often take a controlling interest in an operating company and engage in active management of the company in an effort to bolster its value. Other private equity fund strategies include targeting fast-growing companies or startups. Like a hedge fund, private equity firms tend to focus on long-term investment opportunities of 10 years or more.
Commodities: Commodities refer to tangible resources such as gold, silver, and crude oil, as well as agricultural products.
There are multiple ways of accessing commodity investments. A commodity pool or “managed futures fund” is a private investment vehicle combining contributions from multiple investors to trade in the futures and commodities markets. A benefit of commodity pools is that an individual investor’s risk is limited to her financial contribution to the fund. Some specialized ETFs are also designed to focus on commodities.