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Investing in emerging markets

The U.S. economy is the biggest in the world, but it hasn’t been the fastest growing.

A group of flags in front of a building

Emerging markets can offer an investment opportunity for growth and diversity in your retirement portfolio. But, there are big risks. Here’s what you need to know.

What is an emerging market?

The phrase emerging markets was coined by economists in the early 1980s to define investing in developing countries. Although the term is widespread, there is no one agreed upon definition.

Here are some clarifications that may be helpful:

  • Most experts agree the term “emerging market investments” refers to countries or regions undergoing fast economic growth.
  • A formula using a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and per capita income is often used to determine if a country is an emerging market.
  • The BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — are examples of developing economies with explosive growth in the past decade.
  • Some emerging markets such as South Korea have a large number of consumers and a wealthy economy.
  • Others such as areas of Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa are still in the early stages of developing a strong economy and stable environment.

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Advantages of investing in emerging markets

You may be asking yourself, "Why invest in emerging markets?" Here are two potential advantages to consider:

  • Growth. The biggest advantage of emerging market investments is the potential for high growth.
  • Diversification. International investments can be a good diversifier for your investment portfolio because economic downturns in one country or region, including the U.S., can be offset by growth in another.

Risks of investing in emerging markets

Experts often categorize emerging market risk in three ways:

  • Political risk. Emerging markets may have unstable, even volatile, governments. Political unrest can cause serious consequences to the economy and investors.
  • Economic risk. These markets may often suffer from insufficient labor and raw materials, high inflation or deflation, unregulated markets and unsound monetary policies. All of these factors can present challenges to investors.
  • Currency risk. The value of emerging market currencies compared to the dollar can be extremely volatile. Any investment gains can be potentially lessened if a currency is devalued or drops significantly.

How to invest in emerging markets

To invest in emerging markets and mitigate its risks, you should consider diversifying your investment by using mutual funds or ETFs that focus on emerging markets, as they offer a blend of stocks from various sectors and countries. It's also beneficial to consult your Ameriprise financial advisor who has experience in international investments to tailor your strategy according to your risk tolerance and investment goals.

It’s crucial to also keep a long-term perspective, as emerging markets can be volatile in the short term but potentially rewarding in the long term. An Ameriprise financial advisor will help you stay informed about global economic trends and geopolitical events that might affect your investments, and adjust your strategy as needed.

The role of emerging markets in retirement planning

Your tolerance for risk and how your current investment portfolio is allocated can be important factors in deciding if emerging markets should be part of your retirement planning. Speak with your Ameriprise financial advisor for help determining if emerging market investments are right for you.

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Background and qualification information is available at FINRA's BrokerCheck website.

This information is being provided only as a general source of information and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any securities, accounts or strategies mentioned.  The information is not intended to be used as the sole basis for investment decisions, nor should it be construed as a recommendation or advice designed to meet the particular needs of an individual investor.  Please seek the advice of a financial advisor regarding your particular financial situation.


The Confident Retirement® approach is not a guarantee of future financial results.


Diversification does not assure a profit or protect against loss.


International investing involves increased risk and volatility due to potential political and economic instability, currency fluctuations, and differences in financial reporting and accounting standards and oversight. Risks are particularly significant in emerging markets.


Investment products are not insured by the FDIC, NCUA or any federal agency, are not deposits or obligations of, or guaranteed by any financial institution, and involve investment risks including possible loss of principal and fluctuation in value.


Securities offered by Ameriprise Financial Services, LLC. Member FINRA and SPIC.

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