I've been fascinated by the sordid saga of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the FTX crypto exchange and an associated hedge fund. The trial will determine whether he committed fraud by directing billions of customer funds into everything from risky trades to philanthropic giving or if he was an entrepreneur who lost control of his business.
I'm convinced the evidence points toward calculated schemes to siphon off customer money to fund his enthusiasms, but the jury will decide his culpability.
What I want to focus on is how the FTX collapse should put a stake in the idea that crypto currencies have any place in retirement savings. They don't and they never did, despite attempts to turn speculative digital currencies into a mainstream financial product.
Even if you can invest crypto in a retirement plan, you shouldn't. There's no real value to crypto and the market is the Wild West of finance.
"Crypto is not just a zero-sum game, in which one person only gains if another person loses; its many moral deficiencies make it a negative-sum game," writes Jemima Kelly, columnist at the Financial Times.
Rob Williams is more measured in his tone, but the managing director of financial planning, retirement income and wealth management at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, strongly cautions against mixing crypto and retirement savings.
"Cryptocurrencies are still relatively new, largely unregulated, and very volatile, which isn't a great mix for a traditional long-term portfolio," he writes. "Think of your retirement savings as the foundation of your financial house. You want to build your foundation out of strong, trusted materials."
Those trusted materials include traditional asset classes like stocks and bonds, he adds.
In the decades I've covered finance (yes, it has been decades) there have always been pitches for putting retirement money into risky corners of the market. The pitch usually runs along these lines: Investing retirement money in mutual funds and the like is for losers; the government or Wall Street or the Establishment will take away your money; to protect yourself and earn outlandish profits put retirement savings in penny stocks, gold, silver, crypto, or some other fringe investment.
The advice is always terrible. Boring is a virtue with retirement savings.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, "Marketplace"; commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.