High Risk, High Reward?

I did not figure that I’d feel compelled to write about cryptocurrency but seeing as how many of my friends and fellow investors are buying cryptocurrencies, and ones in particular I feel are bad investments – I felt a little personal responsibility to state my opinion about the whole mess on a public forum.

                But before I begin, I should state a few things. I’ve been fairly involved in the cryptocurrency space until recently. My interest started in early 2017 before the large bull run started and I was buying Ethereum at $150 and XMR at $30-45. I got so involved I was running miners on my computer for XMR and running nodes for XMR as well. I continued buying crypto with what spare money I had and was rewarded fairly well for a newbie investor who was still in college. However, the one failure I made was simply not taking profits. I watched an investment of $1,000 turn into about $10,000 and then slowly bleed out until middle of 2020. I then sold a large chunk of it for another experimental idea and I was left behind in this last bull run, so to speak. However, notwithstanding the potential for bitterness, this will be as objective as I can reasonably make it. I even ran a website on cryptocurrency until last year which attempted to educate folks about it and I reviewed a wide range of cryptocurrencies. So it’s safe to say I’m fairly educated on the cryptocurrency space and I’ve been through a lot of the craziness – anyone remember Bitconnect? Lol.

Scams and Ponzi Schemes

                Well, I guess I’ll begin with the most obvious and the last thing I left off with – Blatant Ponzi schemes. Bitconnect was the most blatant and biggest Ponzi scheme I’ve come across. In fact, according to the wiki page, Charles Ponzi scammed 15 million dollars in 1920, that’s an inflation adjusted 198 million in today’s dollars. However, Bitconnect scammed an estimated 2.5 Billion – even bigger than the namesake – Charles Ponzi would be proud.

                Anyways, Ponzi schemes and ICO scams (where people take your money and run) are huge in cryptocurrency and, like any unregulated market, there are deep issues with the cryptocurrency space. And unlike a lot of people on investment forums, I think that these scams can hit even the most knowledgeable and well researched investors. However, a good rule of thumb still applies – if something is offering you a fixed interest rate indifferently with no risk of loss (other than say a hack) it’s very likely a Ponzi scheme and you should avoid it.

                However, I also think that cryptocurrencies themselves are not Ponzi schemes. They may generally rely upon the “Greater fool theory” but most of the solid cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Monero, etc all serve a purpose, even though it’s a niche purpose, they still serve one. Some cryptocurrencies are trying to be the most private crypto, others are trying to be the fastest, or the backbone of the internet, and others are trying to provide liquidity to existing coins. Pretty much any possible problem you could think of, there’s a cryptocurrency for that.

                Although, I will admit, there is a sense you get from cryptocurrency investors that they think it maybe a Ponzi scheme, they seem very very adamant that you have to buy into cryptocurrency or else you’re completely insane and you’ll be missing out on the next biggest thing. If you write anything negative about their coins, they’ll attack you. It’s almost like they don’t actually believe in its long-term value either and purely want to dump it on someone else.

It’s not a currency

                Despite being involved in cryptocurrency for years, I’ve literally never exchanged anything for ACTUAL cryptocurrency. The reference price is always in dollars/euros and the crypto price is adjusted to those values, not the other way around. Likewise, every crypto credit card in use today never exchanges actual crypto for actual crypto. ALL of them at the point of sale, convert your cryptocurrency to dollars/euros and then purchases the item for you in the fiat currency, they are simply being your exchange for you.

                Further, monetary policy simply isn’t possible with cryptocurrency – at least not a limited supply cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. If Bitcoin or another like crypto was the basis of the global economy, we’d likely either be in a depression or we’d be in a third world war. Debt and deficit spending is a good thing for the economy and individuals. No-one would take a loan in crypto because you’d risk having that loan APPRECIATE against you by 1,000% by the time your four years are up in college or you’d have to pay back pennies on the dollar – this leads to my completely sane conclusion that if you do take a loan in cryptocurrency you’re a masochistic, but hey, who am I to condemn kinks.

                Finally, assuming Bitcoin or cryptocurrency becomes the actual standard, you’d need to have huge amounts of collateral to get any kind of loan. How does this work when you’re a student with no assets and no income but a desire to learn and grow? It just wouldn’t work and would shut down the economy as we know it.

The Fees

                You often hear in the cryptocurrency space how high credit cards, banking fees, and various other fees in the normal financial world are. However, what they often fail to mention is how insanely high the fees in cryptocurrency land are. For example, last month, I made about 60 transactions as of writing this the fees for Ethereum are 21.83 per transaction… I would have lost $1,309.80 on literally just transacting if I was using cryptocurrency. Even if I was doing this when things were cheap back in July of 2020 – I still would have lost $31.8 to transaction fees.

                And I took a look at Ethereum’s fees because, lets be honest, Bitcoin’s are going to be even worse. That’s unacceptable and Ethereum is even one of the better cryptocurrencies out there. Even with a fee of 5 cents that’s 3 dollars lost to fees, or with a 1 cent fee that’s 60 cents lost to fees.

                The even funnier thing is that my bank pays me to bank with them. I get interest on all my deposits even when the federal funds rate is dirt low. Despite being in the cryptocurrency space for some time, this line of thought has always seemed dumb to me.

                Cryptocurrency is far more expensive to use than traditional banks are. The ONE notable exception and a niche area I think cryptocurrencies are actually good for is remittances and as a peer-to-peer global payment network. For example, it’s a pretty big pain in the ass to pay someone in North Korea (I mean, maybe we should be asking why are you doing business with someone in North Korea) but with cryptocurrency its easy to send money back home – whether that be to North Korea or to your family in Mexico. It’s also, often, but not always, cheaper than a wire transfer and it will honestly just depend on the crypto you choose to use for it.

                But with fees in mind, Bitcoin’s pain is especially worrisome, since it’s doomed to grow with the price of crypto and it’s doomed to grow with future halving events (seriously, it’s like the creator wanted it to die a slow death).

Hacks and owning your own cryptocurrency

                You’ll be told time and time again, when you get involved in cryptocurrency, that “if you don’t have your private keys, you don’t own your coins” or “not your keys, not your coin.” But, there’s another very real risk that people who advocate for this don’t tell you – or down play. It’s the risk of straight up transferring it to a different wallet or due to some negligence on your end, you lose access to the wallet and all of your investments. With traditional stocks and bonds, you may lose access to your account and the broker maybe hacked, but you can get reimbursed for your losses due to a hack because the bank has private insurance. Whereas, with being your own bank, there’s little to no insurance on your cryptocurrency in case of a hack or you lose your login (keys) to your wallet. So if you say, lost your password in a boating accident, or a far more common mishap, simply forgot your stupidly long pass phrase, you’re screwed out of your investment.

                And then there’s the risk of leaving it on exchanges which boils down to hacks as well. However, at least with exchange hacks, there’s a possibility that you’ll be compensated but it could take years like in Mt.Gox case which happened in 2014 and they are just now starting to pay out compensation in 2021. Although, it’s still better than losing your passphrase or being a victim of a hack yourself – insuring total and unrecoverable losses.

                Then there’s other risks which fall within the same spectrum like – phishing and scamming, literally having your life threatened (and or actually being murdered), devices being stolen, and natural disasters etc.

Transactions per second, are what?

                Last but not least, is the transactions per second, if we look at cryptocurrency’s payments per second – Bitcoin’s are 7 transactions per second, XRP’s are 1500, and Ethereum’s are 20 transactions per second. Certain cryptocurrencies are definitely better or closer to what normal financial institutions can do per second, for example SWIFT, FEDWIRE, and various other semi-governmental ran payment networks can process around 300-1,000 transactions per second. But payment processers like VISA or Mastercard can process 24,000 and 38,000, respectively. In general, cryptocurrency’s payments per second still dwarf traditional finance’s ability to process transactions – fortunately, given that the market cap of cryptocurrency is about 1 trillion, it’s not that big of a deal if transactions are slow. But cryptocurrency has a long way to go before they are as efficient as most payment providers.

Summary:

 Overall, I do like cryptocurrencies, but they also come with very high risk that I do not believe that everyone should risk it to invest in them. I think that most people are better served by simply investing most of their money in the traditional stock and bond markets. The risks in cryptocurrency range from small minor ones – like a lack luster payment system – to much larger risks – like a hack or lost password for a total loss in your investment. For most people, the risk simply isn’t worth it. However, if you like high-risk investment opportunities, I’d recommend putting a small amount into cryptocurrency. I normally keep my allocation to cryptocurrency to around the normal market cap level compared to traditional markets, which as of writing, would mean you’d allocate about half of one percent towards cryptocurrency. I am allocating a tad more towards cryptocurrency, at one percent. Further allocation strategies I’ve seen range from .05%-10% with 10% being for much younger and more risky individuals. While, I just covered the risks in this post, I’ll be covering the upsides to it in a future post.

If you’d like to learn more about asset allocation, feel free to check out another post, here. However, if you’re trying to build wealth and want to invest, try using m1 finance (you’ll get an extra $30 dollars with the referral link) it’s a great platform for long term investing. And finally, if you’re looking for further ways to enhance returns check out our high risk and ultra-high risk newsletter.

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