Recently I received a question from Christopher asking, “Should I invest in cryptocurrency and what is Bitcoin all about in laymen's terms?”
Since I'm new to the cryptocurrency scene (like a lot of us), I figured I'd dive into Christopher's question and see if I can help him out.
The Cryptocurrency boom has seemingly taken over the financial news as of late and it’s hard to ignore. Here are some fun facts about Bitcoin:
- Bitcoin has been around for over 10 years
- It's valued at around $44,000 per coin (check today's price here)
- There will only ever be 21 million bitcoins and they come into existence through “mining”
- According to Investopedia, “Bitcoin Mining is the process by which new bitcoins are entered into circulation, but it is also a critical component of the maintenance and development of the blockchain ledger.”
What is Blockchain?
According to 99 Bitcoins, they describe blockchain as a way to combat the problem of centralization. Essentially, this is eliminating decisions and information being controlled by a few parties and allowing it to be determined by everyone instead.
When the information is open and available to all, transparency and accuracy abound.
Nate Martin, from 99 Bitcoins, used the example of Encyclopedia Brittanica vs. Wikipedia. Encyclopedia Brittanica had 100 editors on staff during its heyday before it closed up in 2010. Just imagine the power those 100 editors had in determining what was worth mentioning, condemning, condoning or completely ignoring with regard to our history and the information we used to determine the truth.
This information and the encyclopedias themselves were very “centralized” because only 100 people determined the final outcome of the information shared with everyone.
Now, think of Wikipedia. This has over 135,000 editors. When something is tweaked, altered or changed, there are so many more eyes on it. This allows for more accuracy, truth and transparency.
This is “decentralized”. And that is where cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum shine. Rather than someone centralized authority keeping an eye on the currency, everyone keeps an eye on it. THAT is why it intrigues me about cryptocurrency.
We’re living in a time where trust is the ultimate currency. And if there is a technology and a currency that can support that trust, it sounds like something to look into.
Is Cryptocurrency a viable investment?
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m a crypto newbie.
In the past, I’ve sort of dismissed it as a distraction toward more simplified investing strategies like buy-and-hold index fund investing.
But I’m interested in it. I don’t find it to be a traditional “investment” I can trust to sustain my financial future, but it’s interesting.
What I like to do when I don’t know how to proceed with an important financial decision is ask for other people’s opinions. In this case, I asked for 13 different opinions from friends, past guests and folks within our personal finance community.
I hope these opinions help you AND me with our decision on if it’s worth buying into cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
1. Mindy Jensen (From BiggerPockets Money)
“I do not buy crypto right now and I do have a lot of thoughts on it.
First, I don't understand how it works and I firmly believe that if you don't understand something, you shouldn't be investing in it. So, for that reason alone, I would not invest in cryptocurrency until I had more time to do the research. And I don't have time right now.
Second, I don't consider it an investment. I consider it a pure gamble. And I don't gamble. I prefer traditional Investments like stocks and real estate. And until I see evidence that this is actually going to change the world (which I do not see at this point), I'm not going to be putting any money into it.
I do think that anybody who is considering putting money into a cryptocurrency, should only put as much money in as they can afford to lose completely.
One last point is that the government will come calling for their tax money. So if you do make money in a cryptocurrency, you should definitely make sure that you have saved enough to pay Uncle Sam because he absolutely will knock on your door with his hand out.”
2. Jonathan Texeira (from WalletWin)
“Cryptocurrency is crazy. I had heard about Bitcoin years ago since I'm in the tech stuff. I just thought it was nerd money. I never thought of it as an investment – if only I would have!
I have a little bit of Bitcoin. It's just for fun and hard to know if it's going to be worth anything.
All the interest that there is in Bitcoin, it seems like there's going to be a market for this thing. I never think about, ‘Should I buy Euros? Should I buy Yen or anything like that?' Because it's not quite a currency, it's a whole other thing.
It's also one of those things you kick yourself for not being in it 15 years ago. So maybe you want just a little bit so you don't kick yourself for not being in it 15 years from now!”
3. Joe Saul-Sehy (from Stacking Benjamins)
“I like crypto. I think crypto is definitely the future when it comes to the way that we're going to pay for things.
Look what the big banks are doing. Companies like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs don't get involved in things unless there's a future. You can definitely see them moving some money in that direction.
It's more problematic going to look at it as an investment because is crypto really an investment? Or is it what we're going to buy sandwiches in the future? And how does something that we're going to buy sandwiches go up as much as Bitcoin has or Dogecoin, right?
So as an investment I really don't know. I don't own any. I'm thinking about maybe buying a little. When I say a little, a real real real little but that's more just as an experiment to get my feet wet in it. Because if it's a future, heck why not start with a little bit today!”
Related Podcast: Can Money Buy Happiness? (w/ Joe Saul-Sehy)
4. Rob Phelan (from ChooseFI Foundation)
“I currently do own some cryptocurrency. But when I get asked, if I invest in cryptocurrency, I typically tell people, I don't invest in it. I speculate in it.
I have no idea if it's going to grow in value or if it's going to be worth anything in 5 or 10 years. But I am able to take part of my portfolio and put it into speculative Investments, like cryptocurrency because I've taken care of “future me” already.
90% of my portfolio is invested in broad-based index funds. And the other 10%, I'm allowed to speculate in individual stocks or alternative investments like cryptocurrency.”
5. Paula Pant (from Afford Anything)
“I'm very much learning this field. I am not an expert on crypto. I am still very much a student in the world of cryptocurrencies.
First, the underlying technology blockchain technology is already revolutionary in our society and will continue to be. So, I'm highly bullish on blockchain technology. I strongly believe that it will be a growing force in our lives in the coming decades.
As for the cryptocurrencies themselves, it remains to be seen which currency or currencies will gain mass adoption. Bitcoin, of course, is the largest right now. And so there are people who speculate that it has a first-mover advantage. There's certainly an argument for that.
Of course, that is a speculative argument.
The distinction between Bitcoin and Ethereum is Bitcoin is a digital currency and Ethereum is a digital banking system. So Ethereum has technologically a lot more potential when it comes to being used as a banking system by entities like MasterCard.
I'm personally invested in Bitcoin, Ethereum and Voyager token but I am still learning quite a bit about this.”
Related Podcast: Why Index Funds Are a Good Investment (w/ Paula Pant)
6. Bonnie Truax (from 43 Blue Doors)
“My primary thought on cryptocurrency right now is ‘I don't know what I don't know'.
So to learn what I don't know, I've recently purchased some cryptocurrency. I've only invested what I would expect to pay at a good amusement park.
My purchase is less about investing and more to learn about what this is all about and how it acts.
The reason I want to learn more is that I believe there is a viable future for mining coins. Maybe it will be Internet 2.0 in the future. Will our data reside in mine bits across the world instead of being controlled by mega companies? That could be a really good thing or not. But I'm always curious.”
7. Amanda (from Millionaire by Next Year)
“I actually started investing in cryptocurrency about a month ago. And the reason why I jumped on to the train is because I've realized there's an actual use case for cryptocurrency.
When Bitcoin first came onto the scene, like a decade ago, there really wasn't any use case for Bitcoin. You can't take a Bitcoin and go buy something. NFTs have changed that.
Now you can use Ethereum, which is what I personally invest in, and you can buy NFTs. I think the NFT Market grows the demand for crypto is also going to increase. That's why I'm investing in it.”
8. Chris Hutchins (from All the Hacks)
“When it comes to cryptocurrency it has three purposes:
First, I keep a part of my long-term Investment Portfolio, in an 80/20 mix of Bitcoin and Ethereum. I think these are the best bet on a long-term store of value in crypto. And I think Ethereum is the bet on blockchain technology driving the future.
Second, there are stable coins that are backed 1-to-1 by US Dollars. Right now, I keep a portion of my cash at Blockfi to earn an 8.6% return on cash.
Finally, there's a long tail of random coins to speculate on. Things like Dogecoin. You should probably treat these like gambling and I don't personally hold them myself. If you want to, I'd keep the amount invested in them very low. They could easily lose their entire value overnight.”
9. Nancy Piccione (from Your Money Mom)
“I first learned about (cryptocurrency) back in 2011 when the economics podcast, Planet Money, did an episode on this new thing called Bitcoin.
I remember listening at the time and thinking this sounds like a shady way for bad people to do bad things on the dark web and I want no part of it. That may have been true in the beginning, but in recent years with the proliferation of different types of cryptocurrency, as well as things like Coinbase, the company that went public last month, there are safe and legitimate ways for people to acquire cryptocurrency, use it to purchase things, and services, and sell it.
So a few weeks ago, I purchased a small amount of cryptocurrency as a learning tool and I am glad that I did.
Now, as a mom, I feel compelled to give advice. For people who don't have their personal finances complete and in order, getting involved in cryptocurrency, especially trading, is not your best bet. I really encourage people to take the long game, whether it's purchasing stocks or stock funds and I think that's what pays off in the end.”
10. Ricardo Pina (from The Modest Wallet)
“Despite all the bad rep cryptocurrencies get, they have essentially disrupted how we exchange value over the internet. By cutting out the middleman, cryptos offer a fast, private and cheap way to send and receive money.
Personally, I only buy Bitcoin, as it offers unique features and advantages compared to other coins. Bitcoin is an excellent way to store value and is a great hedge against inflationary currencies like the dollar.
There will only be 21 million Bitcoin in existence whereas central governments can supply an unlimited amount of fiat currency basically diluting is purchasing power.
With all that said, I'm a big proponent of cryptocurrencies but I would recommend and encourage people to educate themselves before investing in crypto. Note the difference between the various coins, the advantages, and disadvantages of all of them.
And one more thing, I will not recommend anyone to invest more than 2-5% percent of their investment capital into crypto, as is highly volatile.”
11. Jacob Wade (from I Heart Budgets)
“Cryptocurrency is basically a new asset class that has been created and is obviously holding a lot of value now. There's over $2 trillion locked into that marketplace. So if you treat it like a different investment – you got stocks, bonds, real estate, commodities like gold – cryptocurrency is now a new asset class that is not going away.
That being said, it's extremely volatile. It's super brand new. There's no regulation around it and can downright lose people a lot of money.
If you treat it like an asset class and you invest appropriately, not going all in, but putting a percentage of your portfolio into it as a different asset, you can do well.
12. Kelan Kline (from The Savvy Couple)
“We invested in Bitcoin back in 2018. We doubled our money as a speculative investment for us at the time. We put $3,000 in and took $6,000 out.
I was super excited about that but I wasn't confident in cryptocurrency at the time. So we pulled all of our money back out.
In the last 6-12 months, we've continued to invest money into it. We started with about 1% of our portfolio and now we have about 10% of our overall portfolio in cryptocurrency.
Just this morning, we moved $5,000 over from our individual stocks in the more crypto to kind of just play the crypto wave that's going on right now.”
13. Melissa (from Traveling Wallet)
“It's intriguing. There's still a lot about cryptocurrency that a lot of us don't understand. And obviously how it's exploding is definitely something all of us want to see on our accounts.
So my husband and I have considered starting to put a couple of hundred dollars in there and see what happens.
My husband and I though are on our FIRE journey and we're more than halfway there. So we're in a financial position, where we feel comfortable, putting in some money in areas that we consider riskier.
The second feeling I have is concern when I see posts and people saying that they're 100% in cryptocurrency. That makes me so worried because what I've learned about personal finance is that you want to be diversified. You don't want all your risk in one place.
Yes, you can have massive gains, but you can also have massive losses.
While cryptocurrency is intriguing, and it's something that I feel like it's if you want to dabble in it, it's not something I would recommend to someone just starting out on their personal finance journey.”
Final Thoughts on Should I Invest in Cryptocurrency?
I absolutely love the variety of opinions here. Although there were some differences, I don’t think anyone in the group said “Cryptocurrency is a joke and it’s not worth looking into.
On the other end, no one said, “It’s the end all be all and throw away all of your US dollars because Bitcoin is taking over.”
So we land somewhere in the middle.
Here are top 3 takeaways based on that:
Take Care of More Pressing Financial Concerns First
If you don’t have months of actual dollars stashed away for an emergency, then pause on buying crypto.
Are you paying high interest credit card debt? Pause on crypto.
If you’re not taking advantage of free money matching programs like your workplace 401k, then pause on crypto.
Take care of the fundamentals before you spend your money on a speculative investment.
Decide Ahead of Time That You’re Okay with Losing This Money
The future of cryptocurrency is unknown. Depending on which cryptocurrency you’re investing in, it could have little to no value in the near future depending on how things shake out.
If you plan to buy crypto, don’t think of it as an investment. Think of it as a speculative bet.
And with any bet, know that you may lose your money.
Bitcoin over Dogecoin
This point may anger some Dogecoin fans out there, but according to our panel today, the general consensus seems to be Bitcoin and Ethereum over DogeCoin, ShibuCoin, or the next random joke coin.
That being said, who knows what tomorrow will bring in the land of Crypto!
Last week, Elon Musk tweeted that Tesla wouldn’t be accepting Bitcoin anymore and the price dropped by $10,000 in like a day!
This stuff if VOLATILE.
So be careful. Don’t treat it as an investment, and if you are going to drop some money into it, don’t make a sizeable portion of your portfolio.
For me, I decided to buy a super small amount of Bitcoin and Ethereum as an experiment through Coinbase. I took it from my “fun money” because that’s what I consider it right now … fun.
If it gives me heartache to think about it or if I’m paying too much attention to the ups and downs of it, I’ll sell it and not look back. I have more important things to focus on like my wife, my kids, and my small biz.
I’ll happily go back to my happy buy-and-hold index fund investing strategy that has helped our family achieve Coast FIRE and a sense of time freedom that we really enjoy.
Because even though it feels like the cryptocurrency market is on a tear lately, don’t forget the good old SP 500 Index that was up 16% last year and 8% so far this year.
The boring stuff still works my friends.
But if you’re looking for some entertainment (not a sure fire investment) look no further than crypto.
Will you be investing in Cryptocurrency? Which is your favorite?
Please let me know in the comments below.
Aside from the fact that none of the people commenting above are “personal finance experts” (just people trying to make a business out of it), let’s revisit Mr. Hill’s choice of Wikipedia and its editing methods as prime examples of the “decentralized, transparent” model that makes cryptocurrencies so wonderful:
(as shown in this statement right out of Wikipedia about Wikipedia, Wiki is anything but decentralized and transparent. Why doesn’t Mr. Hill know this? Perhaps because, as it appears, Mr. Hill doesn’t do his research.)
This is a quote directly from the Wikipedia site:
“The reliability of Wikipedia concerns the validity, verifiability, and veracity of Wikipedia and its user-generated editing model, particularly its English-language edition. It is written and edited by volunteer editors who generate online content with the editorial oversight of other volunteer editors via community-generated policies and guidelines. Wikipedia carries the general disclaimer that it can be “edited by anyone at any time” and maintains an inclusion threshold of “verifiability, not truth.” This editing model is highly concentrated, as 77% of all articles are written by 1% of its editors, a majority of whom are anonymous. The reliability of the project has been tested statistically, through comparative review, analysis of the historical patterns, and strengths and weaknesses inherent in its editing process. The online encyclopedia has been criticized for its factual reliability, principally regarding its content, presentation, and editorial processes. Studies and surveys attempting to gauge the reliability of Wikipedia have been mixed, with findings varied and inconsistent.”
There are so many false assumptions, false equivalencies, and what smacks of flim-flam patter in this article, it’s hard to know where to start in bunking it, but here are a few:
“… the problem of centralization, decisions and information being controlled by a few parties; allowing it to be determined by everyone instead. …When the information is open and available to all, transparency and accuracy abound.”
Rubbish – deception, dishonesty, misdirection, scamming, spamming, and many other forms of techno-fraud via social media and the Internet are clear proof of that this perspective is rubbish.
“Now, think of Wikipedia. This has over 135,000 editors. When something is tweaked, altered or changed, there are so many more eyes on it. This allows for more accuracy, truth and transparency.”
Rubbish, again – the writer is implying that these 135,000 editors are united and transparent in their approval of what gets published in Wiki. That’s crap. There is no approve-and-post system at Wiki by which the world’s leading experts on a topic review and approve the post (which was done by Encyclopaedia Britannica – since you use that analogy). Wiki posts are written by whoever can get the traction to get their post put up, with no standardized (you want to call it centralized, fine) criteria for approval. Here is Wikipedia’s own statement about this: ” This editing model is highly concentrated, as 77% of all articles are written by 1% of its editors, a majority of whom are anonymous.” Even Wikipedia disproves Mr. Hill’s assertions.
“…everyone keeps an eye on it. …”
Rubbish, again – I don’t keep an eye on it. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker don’t. Cryp-cur investors and speculators do, and people who make money of the cryp-cur industry do, but the fantasy that “everyone keeps an eye on it” is just that, a film-flam artist’s fantasy to be sold to the punters.