I often get questions from friends and colleagues about investments in cryptocurrencies, mainly BitCoin. Given the daily amount of news and reports about the BitCoin craze, it’s understandable. It’s almost impossible to not hear about BitCoin these days.
To give it right away: I am not invested in BitCoin, or any other cryptocurrency for that matter. I also don’t speculate with any other currencies on the FOREX market.
The blockchain technology is a very interesting development that will find, and in some instances already found its way in some form into business and into our society. BitCoin is only one of the first products to put that technology to use. But very few people who invest in BitCoin actually really understand what it’s about. Most investors today are simply following the upward trend, and speculate that it will continue to grow for some more time to come.
Looking at the chart, it’s hard to deny that investing in BitCoin so far has been a great way to multiply your money. The big question for investors is of course whether this trend will continue, or not.
Investing in BitCoin is easy. Now.
One reason why BitCoin has moved up significantly in just such a short amount of time is the recently developed ease of access to it. It’s easy to look at the chart and to say: Why didn’t I invest in BitCoin much earlier? Well, it’s really simple. Investing in BitCoin was previously not an easy thing to do.
I was looking into investing in BitCoin some 5 years ago. My journey to invest in BitCoin started like this:
First I needed to find a trustworthy digital wallet. Then I needed to transfer money to that digital wallet. In the final step, I needed to purchase BitCoin through that digital wallet.
The challenges that came with it were however pretty significant: I needed to make sure to safely store (and not to loose) the wallet number, which was a complicated compilation of numbers, letters, and individual characters. That digital wallet number was not retrievable in case of loss.
I also needed to make sure to have a bullet-proof password to it, AND that I don’t forget or loose that password either, because it would also be not retrievable in case of loss.
I needed to somehow try to verify that the digital wallet I decided to use was actually a trustworthy, real offering. That was pretty hard, because there were a lot of scam companies out there and no serious verification system that one could have relied upon.
So there was a real risk to BitCoin before the actual buying process, and even beyond after the purchase, due to the limitations on the quality and trust into the digital wallet. I remember that I did open an account with a digital wallet provider, but the amount of disinformation and misleading data on the internet, the lack of reviews and guarantees, it just made it really hard to believe that my money would be in any way protected if I transfer it to any of the accounts out there. This reason alone was the main reason for me to not invest in BitCoin at that time.
This hurdles have been overcome by now. Access and purchasing have been simplified, there is more trust in the process. But that was not the case 5 years ago.
We can’t really do any analysis on the fundamentals, because there are none. It’s not a company, there is no product or management team behind it. It’s simply a scarce resource that is currently of interest.
Similar with other currencies, its value hinges on people believing in it. And to be fair, there are plenty of people believing in BitCoin. Right now. The easier access allowed more people to get invested. The media is pushing it. And many even prominent skeptics have changed their opinion in recent years, as cryptocurrencies gained more and more drive and appeal among investors.
An argument that I heard very often is that all the millionaires and billionaires in the world are invested in BitCoin, so it must be a reasonable place to park your cash.
To the “rich people” argument, let me say that most of those millionaires and billionaires didn’t get rich with BitCoin. Most of them got rich with their own companies, or with stock investments. They invested in BitCoin after they were already rich, and had therefore much less worries whether their investment would go well or not. They were willing to accept a high risk factor, because they didn’t care that much to loose a couple of thousand Dollars or Euros. Most small investors cannot afford such a high risk-reward ratio.
The risks of an investment in crypto-currencies are still very real. Here just a few arguments to make:
- The value of the currency depends on people believing in it. This believe might be weakened or even disappear when another, better and/or smarter cryptocurrency enters the market.
- The most rigorous believers in BitCoin assume that it will at some point become a viable world-currency, free of government regulation and in tight control due to its scarcity. There is however valid reason to believe that most governments will regulate BitCoin at some point and introduce their own versions of digital currencies. No government in the world can afford to loose the power to monitor and control their cash flow and supply.
- BitCoin prides itself in its anonymity, but the blockchain ledger is in fact an open-source controlled system, and not anonymous at all. Admittedly, it would require a significant amount of time to track BitCoin owners through the ledger, but it’s certainly possible, and with our ever-expanding computing power, it’s just a matter of time for systems to be developed that will be able to track owners throughout the chain.
- The ever-rising price is not positively contributing for BitCoin to become a real alternative payment method. Why would anyone use BitCoin to buy any product, if the value of the BitCoin keeps increasing day by day?
- BitCoin is an electronic system, and those can be cracked or infiltrated. We might need to get into quantum computing to get the computing power necessary to pull this off, but we are almost there. Slipping in a virus or a bug into the system could crack its security, expose owners, or allow BitCoin to get stolen. Of course, every bug or virus can also be corrected or eliminated, but a major event similar with a “bank robbery” could quickly undermine the trust in the entire BitCoin system and put pressure on it.
There is a great list of arguments and counter-arguments to be found here:
I would encourage everyone interested in BitCoin to go through the comments and to form your own opinion on whether you believe in the upside or downside of it.
Should you invest in BitCoin?
If you follow the link above you will find plenty of smart arguments from both side of the aisle, that can help you making an informed decision.
Personally I don’t intend to invest in BitCoin because it doesn’t fit into my investing strategy. I buy great companies at a fair price, and enjoy benefitting from real-life products and real-life profits in the form of dividends that I receive. BitCoin doesn’t produce anything and doesn’t offer any service that I would consider useful (for now) to see it as a viable investment. This may change over time of course, but for now this is where I stand.
What I would however explore instead (and I will) is to dive deeper into the blockchain technology, and to invest in an ETF that would focus on companies that utilize blockchain for their products and services. This is because I am not as much interested in BitCoin, as I am interested in the technology behind it.
The blockchain technology has certainly more aspects to it, and in the long-run investing in companies that can utilize this technology will offer a better risk-reward ratio, than a hyped digital-currency.