If an approval of a spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) in the US is going to happen, it’s going to happen soon.

ETF research analysts are expecting any potential approval orders to come between Jan. 8 and Jan. 10 next year but as Bitcoin’s price surges — rising above $40,000 for the first time since April 2022— retail investors who are looking to hodl for the first time are in a tough spot — buy now or wait a month to see if they will get access to a spot ETF?

“I would want to know the personal reasons for waiting for an ETF,” said Brian Spinelli, co-chief investment officer at wealth advisory firm Halbert Hargrove, which oversees around $2.7 billion in assets, in an email. “If the answer is it makes it accessible and easier for them to do it then I understand the waiting.”

Currently, the most common way to buy Bitcoin in the US is through crypto exchanges where investors have the option either to let the exchange custody their purchased Bitcoin, which is viewed as less secure, or choosing to self-custody via a crypto wallet, which is more secure but requires a higher level of crypto knowledge.

An ETF sits somewhere in between those two options as it’s an investment vehicle that allows investors to gain direct exposure to Bitcoin through trusted investment firms without the hassle of dealing with a crypto wallet. ETFs, more broadly, are popular investment vehicles due to their low fees and accessibility since they can be held in brokerage accounts and traded intraday on the stock market. 

Read more: Bitcoin Surges Past $40,000 for First Time Since April 2022

“These are tried and true firms that many people trust for their brokerage accounts and other financial needs,” said James Seyffart, a Bloomberg ETF analyst, via email. “This is going to bring Bitcoin onto the traditional financial rails in the most efficient way possible in our view, which arguably goes against some of the ethos for Bitcoin.”

The Price of Crypto Convenience

For some investors, the lack of self-custody via an ETF will make the question a nonstarter, said Scott Melker, a crypto investor and host of the Wolf Of All Streets podcast.

“People who truly understand the power of Bitcoin and the importance of self-custody and being your own bank, people who understand it will just buy bitcoin on an exchange then move it off of an exchange into cold storage,” Melker said.

Read more: What Does Non-Custodial Mean in Crypto—and Is It Important? 

But if Bitcoin is only being considered for investment purposes, then the convenience of an ETF, which can be held within brokerage accounts, might outweigh the desire for self-custody.

“Everybody’s familiar with ETFs,” said financial advisor guru Ric Edelman in a recent interview with Unchained. “It’s the most popular investment vehicle in the country. They are low-cost, they’re highly liquid, they’re completely transparent.”

Around 15% of financial advisors reported allocating crypto to client accounts this year, according to a survey of 491 financial advisors from Bitwise and VettaFi published in January. The ETF is expected to make it much easier for financial advisors to offer Bitcoin to clients.

Edelman told Unchained that 77% of advisors were waiting for a spot Bitcoin ETF to become available to provide exposure to clients based on a survey completed by the Digital Assets Council of Financial Professionals.

With the ETF expected to usher in a new era of adoption by financial institutions and advisors, deciding between waiting for an ETF or buying now is going to be a question of risk tolerance for most investors, said Matt Hougan, chief investment officer at crypto investment firm Bitwise, a firm which currently has a spot Bitcoin ETF application filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in an email.

“There is more risk in buying Bitcoin before an ETF exists than waiting until after one is approved,” Hougan said. “The flip side is: Sometimes as an investor you are rewarded for taking risks.”

An Abundance of Choice

Bloomberg’s Seyffart predicts that if the SEC were to approve a bitcoin ETF then the approval would happen en masse, since the regulator doesn’t want to leave “somebody else sitting in the back when they open those gates.” Bloomberg analysts believe there is a 90% chance of approval by Jan. 10.

Around 13 applications from investment firms such as BlackRock and Fidelity are seeking approval. The en masse approach means investors and advisors will have a range of ETFs to choose from, if approved, though they may not list immediately and advisors will likely take time to do due diligence and weigh the options. Due to the number of ETFs, they are likely going to try to compete and differentiate themselves on factors such as fees, brand reputation and potentially even yield offerings and custodians, according to a recent Unchained podcast with Seyffart.

“It’s possible they’d list within a couple days but also it’s possible there could be a gap between approval and listing,” Seyffart said.

Read more: Signs Increasingly Point to January Approval of Spot Bitcoin ETF Applications

Once an ETF is approved, the prospectus needs to be deemed effective by the SEC, and then it will typically be available the next day in brokerage accounts, said Bitwise’s Hougan, who emphasizes there is still no guarantee on an ETF approval or the timing of that approval.

“Anything could happen,” he said.

The Opportunity Cost

While Bitcoin’s price is surging — up 160% year-to-date — investors shouldn’t feel the need to rush into any decisions.

“It really has not caught the zeitgeist of the mainstream,” said Melker, comparing the current Bitcoin cycle to previous ones. Demand from clients has so far been muted, said Halbert Hargrove’s Spinelli, but he anticipates renewed interest, especially if bitcoin prices continue to rise.

“People aren’t talking about it,” said JC Parets, founder and chief strategist at technical analysis firm All Star Charts. “It’s not what it was before. That speaks to the fact we’re probably in the earlier stages of the cycle versus the latter stages. There’s a long way to go.”

Read more: Market Forecaster Raoul Pal Says There’s a Good Chance Bitcoin Will Hit $100K-$200K in 2024

Investors waiting for an ETF could be at a disadvantage as they miss a run-up in price, but it also doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach, Spinelli said.

“An investor can start now with some of the money and hold some back while they wait for the ETF,” he added.

Though if investors are holding back purely to try and time the market, then Spinelli wishes them luck. “Predicting the prices of how anything will react to a news event is very difficult,” Melker said.

Regardless of the approach, one of the biggest questions for first time investors will be how much to allocate due to the volatility of the asset, Hougan said. The vast majority of advisors allocate a weighting of 5% or less to crypto in the cases they are recommending the asset class, according to the Bitwise survey.

“I do think people have a long time here, and nobody needs to rush into anything,” Melker said.  “That’s why I really do think that dollar cost averaging is the right move because you don’t need to guess about the price, you just start buying.”

Dollar cost averaging is a strategy where investors put a set amount of money toward an asset at regular intervals.

“If you buy at $42,000, $38,000 or $45,000 and it goes into the hundreds, people aren’t going to care too deeply about exactly what price they bought it at,” he added.