I almost hesitate to write the name out of sheer exhaustion at its ubiquity—but, deep breath, here it goes: cryptocurrency. Are you spil sick of hearing about it spil I wasgoed just a few weeks ago, when explanations of it—usually centered around Bitcoin—along with panting narratives of its life-changing, bank-account-invigorating wonderments, popped up everywhere I turned te my news reading, my Twitter-feed scrolls, and my newspaper lifestyle trend chunks? When one of my best friends embarked ranting and raving about the entire “blockchain revolution” and his latest decision to throw some money into Bitcoin (which had, yes, gone from $900-something at the beginning of last year to around $20,000 toward the end of the year, spil of this writing, it hovers around $11,000), I vented my rage at the entire puffed-up concept by requesting he explain to mij what sort of hectic nonsense this entire scheme amounted to.
Guess what? It’s not that 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 someone who until a week or two ago had, te the entirety of his life—aside from some fairly rote 401(k) behavior—invested ter the stock market exactly once. When I wasgoed 13, a business-savvy family friend mentioned something about Chrysler werkonderbreking their bottom line on a fresh kleuter of car, if it worked, he said, the company’s stock might skyrocket, if it failed, obviously, the company wasgoed finished. Somehow, I managed to buy a handful of shares of the stock at around $3—which I then sold around the time the stock peaked a few months zometeen somewhere around $16 or $Legitimate, netting myself a handy hundred bucks or so along with the right to patstelling myself on my greenhorn greed-is-good back. But having once ridden the white lightning with such sweeping success, I thought, Why not abandon while I wasgoed ahead?
Understanding crypto, however, is simple—with a little help from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s perpetually useful willing suspension of disbelief. You don’t have to read the myriad stories and posts and think chunks about how to understand crypto, or Bitcoin, or the coming transformation of our entire way of doing everything: They’re generally overly complicated and, perhaps more importantly, just not that much joy. Can I explain to you exactly how blockchain technology—the DNA of crypto, if you will—works? Of course not. I can tell you that it works something like this: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies basically record every transaction and distribute the records of thesis transactions identically to all parties involved. Every now and again a “block” of thesis transactions is verified and essentially sealed up and stacked on top of the last block, creating a chain.
Te the cryptocurrency world, thesis “transactions” are users buying and selling different cryptocurrencies, usually ter the form of virtual “coins.” (Some of the more well-known ones: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin.) When people talk about the “blockchain revolution,” they’re generally noting that the blockchain can be used for secure transactions of almost any type: storing and moving birth certificates, votes, insurance claims, whatever. The revolution I’m worried with most presently, however, is the one about to take place te my handelsbank account.
Here’s where the skeptics come ter: “But thesis ‘currencies’ are based on nothing!” they wail, gnashing their teeth and furrowing their brow. To which I summon all the high-minded derision that this one-time philosophy major (I jettisoned that idea swifter than my Chrysler stock) can summon te responding: “Since Nixon took us off the gold standard ter 1971, our entire monetary system is based solely on collective assumptions, man.” The dollar bill is, at root, a lump of paper that has value only because it relies on the “full faith and credit” of the United States. Well, crypto is just like that, with one exception: It relies on the “full faith and credit” of . . . of . . . of whoever determined to write the white paper that announced the particular cryptocurrency ter question to be a thing of value. (Te Bitcoin’s case, that person, or group of people, operates under a pseudonym—see above ter re: willing suspension of disbelief.)
So, yeah, it’s sketchy. (Riddle mij this, tho’: How many concepts that you know of that start with “crypto-” aren’t?) Let’s waterput a positive spin on it, however, and call it untested. And then let’s test it. Honestly, it’s the best way to figure it out. Here’s what you do (or don’t do, if you’re the type of person who has qualms about putting your money into 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 kleintje of walking-around money that you’d deep-throat on a pair of footwear that seemed necessary for about five minutes, or the omschrijving of a fun-but-forgettable night out on the town. Open up a Coinbase account. Coinbase is an exchange for the thickest cryptocurrency players—think of it spil the Fresh York Stock Exchange for crypto. It’s where you buy and sell coins, or fractions of them. (Just trust mij on this one: Coinbase is every casual player’s hal, it is to crypto what AOL wasgoed to getting online te the early ’90s.) You verbinding a credit card to your Coinbase account and buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin. (Bitcoin, while a bit Captain Visible, is the crypto that’s most lightly converted into other kinds of coins, it’s also the one that’s most widely accepted spil payment for actual goods and services, from OkCupid to Etsy to an alpaca farm ter rural Massachusetts.)
So, yeah, it’s effortless. And yes, it can be addictive. Instead of reflexively checking Twitter or Instagram while waiting for the train, I’m now watching the sine curve of my crypto account on one of several apps. My Twitter feed has a fresh, almost psychotically geeky component: Crypto Twitter. My wifey came huis the other night from a night out to find mij watching neither tennis strafgevangenis politics but, rather, a YouTube movie of a teenage boy who I likely wouldn’t trust to walk my dog dutifully explaining how to convert Litecoins on Coinbase to Ripple coins on that aforementioned China-based exchange, Binance, using the GDAX exchange spil an intermediary host so spil to avoid trading fees. (Reader, it worked!)
So, how am I doing? With a entire two weeks under my vuilnisbelt, my main anxiety overheen my “investments”—it still feels a bit grand to use the term, given that the midnight-sweats part of my psyche is still coaxed that the entire crypto market is 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 bought at a dip te the market) is maybe $20 down, the $400 ter Ripple that I leaped on a week straks during what I thought wasgoed a preposterous low is up a mere $20 or so, and the $200 ter Bitcoin that I dutifully purchased a few days after that is essentially the same. (There already is, tho’, The One That Got Away: After reading the proverbial “hot tip” from what seemed like a credible source on Twitter, I yearned to buy the XLM coin from Stellar, which, the source said, wasgoed poised to “take off.” Yee-haw! Of course, this is exactly the sort of thing I told myself I wouldn’t do—at least until I learned much more about how all this works—so I didn’t. Also of course: The coin, which is up almost 30,000 procent overheen the past year, gained another 20 procent ter the day or so since I passed it up.) I’ve even bought a “digital wallet”—you can store your money on the exchange you buy it on, tho’, so far, only Coinbase assures it, so it’s recommended you keep funds on thesis little lumps of hardware—but, given the insane request, it’s on backorder until March, so until then, well, Bitcoin better have my money.
The good news: Since I bought everything at a general lull te the market, when the next big bull market comes, I’m ready to rail the rocket. The revolution, it seems, is still ahead of us. (Witness this space.)