Invest in only what you know

The letter on initial coin offerings raised many valid points (Do more to warn public of risks of initial coin offerings, by Ms Camilia Ng; May 21).

Even as investment laymen, we should do our own research and, where possible, help ourselves and those around us, including the vulnerable and those who are not financially savvy.

In the words of famed Berkshire Hathaway chief executive Warren Buffet, we should invest in only what we know and avoid those we don't.

Esoteric investments such as those related to cryptocurrency and blockchain are good examples of this; they are so exotic and so little is known about them that even experts have expressed reservations.

A healthy dose of judgment is also always helpful. Investments that promise fast and stratospheric returns with little or no risk, in order to appeal to our sense of greed, should immediately raise red flags.

There is investment research, for instance, that suggests no asset class has managed to generate a long-term average return of even 20 per cent per annum.

Much work clearly remains to be done where investment education for Singaporeans is concerned.

All stakeholders in Singapore's investment ecosystem need to continuously reach out and engage the community about investment risks - for instance, through community clubs and residents' committee events.

Indeed, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Where investment schemes are concerned, "caveat emptor" should always be every investor's constant refrain.

Woon Wee Min

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2018, with the headline 'Invest in only what you know'. Print Edition | Subscribe