Menu Close

What is an Accredited Investor and Why Should it Matter to You?

By Natalie Morehead, May 22, 2024

In the dynamic realm of investments, certain doors swing open only for a select group of individuals known as accredited investors. These investors are allowed to buy investments traditionally unavailable to the general public such as private equity, hedge funds, and early stage pre-IPO companies. These types of investments have a unique profile that can potentially offer higher returns, reduce risk, and diversify your portfolio in ways that go beyond traditional stock markets.

The accredited investor designation is not just a label; it’s a safeguard. It helps ensure that those diving into complex investments have the necessary resources and knowledge to manage them effectively. Take the time to explore this designation—it could be your gateway to smarter, more diversified investing.

Key Takeaways

  • Accredited investor status is defined by the SEC as an individual or entity with the financial stability and sophistication to invest in unregistered securities investments, and can be obtained by meeting income, net worth or professional criteria.

  • Accredited investors gain access to investments such as private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, and other opportunities not available to the general public, which can lead to higher returns, more diversified portfolios and the ability to buy early stage Pre IPO companies.

Decoding Accredited Investor Status

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defines an accredited investor as an individual or entity able to participate in investments not registered with the SEC, typically reserved for high-net-worth individuals or entities. This term, coined under Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933, is designed so that only experienced investors with adequate resources invest in these offerings. The intention is to protect investors, within the U.S., by limiting participation to those who can bear the financial risk.

So, how do you become an accredited investor? To be considered, specific financial or professional criteria must be met. But what are these criteria, and how can you qualify? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Pathways to Accredited Investor Eligibility

Becoming an accredited investor is not just about having a high income or large amount of wealth. It’s about demonstrating financial sophistication, proving you have the resources and knowledge to engage in higher-risk, non-public investment opportunities, such as venture capital, private equity, and hedge funds.

Financial Thresholds Unpacked

To qualify, you must satisfy at least one of the following: 

  • Have earned income exceeding $200,000 (or $300,000 jointly with spouse) in each of the prior two years, with expectation of earning the same or higher in the current year. 

  • Have a net worth exceeding $1 million, either individually or jointly with a spouse, excluding value of a primary residence. 

You can determine if you qualify by creating a personal balance sheet. Subtract your total liabilities from your total assets. If the number meets the above thresholds, you’re considered an accredited investor.

Entities like banks, partnerships, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and trusts can also qualify as accredited investors, given they meet asset thresholds or all equity owners are accredited investors themselves. 

Interestingly enough, according to the SEC, as of 2022 approximately 18.5% of US households qualified as accredited investors under the current net worth or income thresholds. This is in comparison to only 1.8% of households qualifying under these same thresholds when the rule was debuted in 1982.

Certifications and Professional Experience

In addition to finances, certain professional certifications can qualify an individual as an accredited investor. The SEC expanded the accredited investor definition in 2020 to include those holding Series 7, Series 65, or Series 82 licenses in good standing, which means that most financial advisors and registered employees of RIAs or Broker/Dealers will qualify.

Knowledgeable employees of a private fund who are involved in the fund’s investment activities also qualify. There have been suggestions to add an experience requirement to these financial credentials, indicating the evolving nature of the accredited investor rules. Additionally, an individual who holds a position like a general partnership, executive officer, or director in the issuing company qualifies as an accredited investor, further expanding the definition.

The Advantages of Being an Accredited Investor

Becoming an accredited investor opens the door to unique and exclusive investment opportunities not available to everyone. These include private equity, hedge funds, and venture capital to name a few, which can yield higher returns and allow for more rapid wealth accumulation.

Accredited investors can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Ability to participate in early-stage investments, capturing more potential upside

  • A more diversified investment portfolio

  • Access to a broader spectrum of investment opportunities

  • Ability to spread investments across a wider range of non-correlated asset classes, which has been shown to reduce risk and enhance returns

Investment Avenues Open to Accredited Investors

A world of diverse investment opportunities awaits accredited investors. They can access:

  • Private placements

  • Hedge funds

  • Venture capital, venture capital firms, and venture capital investments

  • Equity crowdfunding

  • Private equity

  • Pre-IPO private securities

These investments can provide high returns and a chance for increased diversification beyond standard market options. They often allow the opportunity to invest early, participating in more potential future performance, as well as the ability to invest in assets that have lower correlation to the stock market which helps to balance volatility within a portfolio.

The Verification Process: Proving Accredited Investor Status

To participate, you must prove your accredited investor status. The company offering the investment sets up verification processes to check the financial situation or experience of potential investors.

To prove your status, you’re typically required to provide financial documents such as:

  • Tax returns

  • W-2 forms

  • Pay stubs

  • Third party verification letter from your investment manager, CPA or attorney

  • Credit reports (potentially)

You may also need to complete questionnaires. The accredited investor status is typically valid for one year or until the next tax day if verified via income. Note there is no federal verification process, so it’s up to the investment provider to carry out individual verifications of income and net worth.

Being an accredited investor comes with legal obligations and implications. Most financial companies are obligated to verify whether an individual or entity meets the accredited investor requirements before allowing them to participate. The SEC requires investment vehicles to take necessary steps, including providing a questionnaire or financial statements, to confirm accredited status. Misrepresenting oneself as an accredited investor can lead to legal liabilities and violations of SEC rules.

Risks and Considerations for Potential Accredited Investors

While becoming an accredited investor offers numerous benefits, it’s not without risks. Investments meant for accredited investors typically involve a higher degree of risk.

Investments targeted at accredited investors are often less liquid, with capital potentially locked up for extended periods.

A large investment in a single security can pose risk if the issuing company fails, and these investments can be more susceptible to market volatility. This is why diversification can play a crucial role in an individual’s risk profile, meaning it’s smart to not put all of your eggs in one basket.

Exclusive Access to Tomorrow’s Market Leaders

Accredited vs. Non-Accredited Investors: A Comparative Look

The world of investing differs significantly for accredited and non-accredited investors.

Accredited investors, also known as equity owners, enjoy access to private investment opportunities, such as business development companies, early growth-stage investment companies, and private funds, offering potentially higher returns.

Non-accredited investors, on the other hand, can invest in SEC-regulated products such as:

  • Publicly traded stocks

  • ETFs

  • REITs

  • Bonds

  • Futures

  • Derivatives

  • Cryptocurrencies on registered exchanges

However, there are exceptions where both accredited and non-accredited investors are allowed to participate, which demonstrates the quickly evolving landscape of private investments.

Summary: What is an Accredited Investor

Becoming an accredited investor can open up a world of promising investment opportunities, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires fulfilling specific financial thresholds or demonstrating financial sophistication. While it offers the potential for higher returns and more diverse investments, it can carry higher risks. It’s essential to weigh factors carefully, as everyone’s personal financial situation and needs are different. 


Who qualifies as an accredited investor?

An accredited investor is generally a high-net-worth individual or entity with substantial income and net worth, as outlined in Rule 501 of Regulation D. Additionally, professionals with specific certifications or roles in investment firms may also qualify.

What are the benefits of being an accredited investor?

As an accredited investor, you have access to exclusive investment opportunities that can potentially lead to higher returns and faster wealth accumulation. This can provide you with a significant advantage in the investment market.

What is the verification process for an accredited investor?

To verify as an accredited investor, you’ll need to submit financial documentation like tax returns, W-2 forms, pay stubs, and potentially credit reports, and possibly complete questionnaires.

What are the legal implications of being an accredited investor?

Misrepresenting yourself as an accredited investor can lead to legal liabilities and violations of SEC rules, as financial companies are legally obligated to verify investor status.

How often are the accredited investor rules updated?

The accredited investor rules have been updated four times since 1982, with the latest changes made in December 2020.


Natalie Morehead

Natalie Morehead

Natalie is Linqto's Head of Integrated Marketing, overseeing integration of brand content and strategy across various channels including social media, PR, and SEO. With 16+ years in Financial Services, she contributes a wide range of experience with a background in marketing, advisory, and regulatory compliance, previously holding Series 7 & 65 licenses. Directly prior to Linqto, Natalie played a key role in scaling a B2C Fintech from Series B to acquisition and launching a new consumer brand. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder and an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University.