I almost hesitate to publish the name out of sheer exhaustion at its ubiquity-but, deep breath, here it is: cryptocurrency. Are you currently as tired of hearing about it as I was just a couple weeks ago, when explanations of it usually centered around Bitcoin-in addition to breathless narratives of its life-changing, bank-account-invigorating wonderments, sprouted everywhere turned in my news reading, my Twitter-feed scrolls, and my newspaper lifestyle trend pieces? When certainly one of my close friends started ranting and raving about the entire “blockchain revolution” and his recent decision to toss some cash into more on this (which had, yes, gone from $900-something at the start of last year to around $20,000 toward the end of the year, since this writing, it hovers around $11,000), I vented my rage in the entire puffed-up concept by demanding he explain to me what sort of hectic nonsense this whole scheme amounted to.
Guess what? It’s not too complicated. But yes, right about now seems an apt time for an all-important notice to my dear readers: You’re about to read financial advice from somebody who until a couple of weeks ago had, inside the entirety of his life-aside from some fairly rote 401(k) behavior-dedicated to the stock market exactly once. Once I was 13, a business-savvy family friend mentioned something about Chrysler staking their financial well being over a new sort of car; if it worked, he stated, the company’s stock might skyrocket; if this failed, obviously, the organization was finished. Somehow, I was able to buy a number of shares from the stock at around $3-which I then sold around the time the stock peaked a few months later somewhere around $16 or $18, netting myself a handy hundred bucks or so combined with the right to pat myself on my greenhorn greed-is-good back. But having once ridden the white lightning with your blistering success, I was thinking, Why not quit as i was ahead?
Understanding crypto, though, is simple-with some assistance from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s perpetually useful willing suspension of disbelief. You don’t need to read the myriad stories and posts and think pieces concerning how to understand crypto, or Bitcoin, or even the coming transformation of our own entire means of doing everything: They’re generally overly complicated and, perhaps most importantly, just not much fun. Can One explain to you exactly how blockchain technology-the DNA of crypto, in the event you will-works? Of course not. I can tell you that it works something similar to this: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies basically record every transaction and distribute the records of those transactions equally for all parties involved. Every now and again a “block” of those transactions is verified and essentially sealed up and stacked along with the very last block, developing a chain.
In the cryptocurrency world, these “transactions” are users selling and buying different cryptocurrencies, usually in the form of virtual “coins.” (A number of the more well known ones: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin.) Whenever people talk about the “blockchain revolution,” they’re generally noting the blockchain can be used for secure transactions of just about any type: storing and moving birth certificates, votes, insurance claims, whatever. The revolution I’m worried about most presently, though, is definitely the one about to occur within my banking accounts.
Here’s where the skeptics come in: “But these ‘currencies’ are based on nothing!” they wail, gnashing their teeth and furrowing their brow. That I summon all of the high-minded derision that this one-time philosophy major (I jettisoned that idea faster than my Chrysler stock) can summon in responding: “Since Nixon took us off of the gold standard in 1971, our entire monetary product is based solely on shared assumptions, man.” The dollar bill is, at root, some paper which includes value only since it relies on the “full faith and credit” of the us. Well, crypto is just like that, with one exception: It relies on the “full faith and credit” of . . . of . . . of whoever decided to write the white paper that declared the particular cryptocurrency in question to be a thing of worth. (In Bitcoin’s case, that person, or population group, operates within a pseudonym-see above in re: willing suspension of disbelief.)
So, yeah, it’s sketchy. (Riddle me this, though: How many concepts that you know of this start with “crypto-” aren’t?) Let’s put an optimistic spin into it, though, and call it untested. And then let’s test it. Honestly, it’s the simplest way to figure it all out. Here’s what you do (or don’t do, if you’re a person who has qualms about putting your hard earned money axtisi hazy concepts that could collapse at a moment’s notice but that may also be the magical money-spawning harbingers of our collective future): Take the sort of walking-around money that you’d blow on a couple of shoes that seemed essential for about 5 minutes, or the same in principle as an enjoyable-but-forgettable evening out on the town. Start a Coinbase account. Coinbase is definitely an exchange for that biggest cryptocurrency players-consider it as the New York Stock Exchange for crypto. It’s where you buy then sell coins, or fractions of them. (Just believe me about this one: Coinbase is every casual player’s entrée; it is actually to crypto what AOL ended up being to getting online in early ’90s.) You link credit cards for your Coinbase account and get Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin. (Bitcoin, while a bit Captain Obvious, is definitely the crypto that’s most easily transformed into other kinds of coins; it’s even the one that’s most generally accepted as payment for actual products or services, from OkCupid to Etsy with an alpaca farm in rural Massachusetts.)
So, yeah, it’s easy. You will find, it can be addictive. Instead of reflexively checking Twitter or Instagram while awaiting the train, I’m now watching the sine curve of my crypto account using one of countless apps. My Twitter feed features a new, almost psychotically geeky component: Crypto Twitter. My spouse came home another night from a evening out to discover me watching neither tennis nor politics but, rather, a YouTube video of a teenage boy who I likely wouldn’t trust simply to walk my dog dutifully explaining the best way to convert Litecoins on Coinbase to Ripple coins on that aforementioned China-based exchange, Binance, making use of the GDAX exchange as an intermediary host in order to avoid trading fees. (Reader, it worked!)
So, how am I doing? Having a whole fourteen days under my belt, my main anxiety over my “investments”-it still feels somewhat grand to utilize the term, considering that the midnight-sweats part of my psyche continues to be convinced that the Trading Bitcoins is surely an invention of Chinese intelligence to raid our pocketbooks after their Russian neighbors raided our democracy-is that they are, well, maddeningly stable. The $400 worth of Litecoin I began out with (I purchased in a dip available in the market) is maybe $20 down; the $400 in Ripple that I jumped over a week later during a few things i thought was actually a preposterous low is up a mere $20 or so; as well as the $200 in Bitcoin which i dutifully purchased a couple of days after that is essentially the identical. (There already is, though, The One Which Got Away: Reading the proverbial “hot tip” from what sounded like a credible source on Twitter, I yearned to get the XLM coin from Stellar, which, the origin said, was poised to “take off.” Yee-haw! Of course, this is the sort of thing I told myself I wouldn’t do-a minimum of until I learned more details on how all of this works-therefore i didn’t. Also obviously: The coin, that is up almost 30,000 percent over the past year, gained another twenty percent inside the day roughly since i have passed it up.) I’ve even got a new “digital wallet”-you can store your cash on the exchange you get it on, though, so far, only Coinbase guarantees it, so it’s recommended you keep funds on these tiny bits of hardware-but, due to the insane demand, it’s on backorder until March, so until then, well, Bitcoin better have my money.