Ten years ago, most people would have laughed if you said you hold part of your investment portfolio in cryptocurrency — a type of virtual currency that is secured through various cryptographic and computer-generated means. But these days, you might be seen as behind on the times if you don’t currently invest, or if you have never traded a single Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin in your life.
Like it or not, cryptocurrency is practically everywhere these days and no longer just for day traders and nerds. In fact, many traditional businesses are integrating cryptocurrency into their platforms in some form, or using it as a means to launch other types of products.
Cryptocurrency Continues Gaining Steam
Case in point: In October of 2020, PayPal launched a new service that made it possible for their account holders to buy, sell, or hold cryptocurrency, or to use it to buy stuff at 26 million different merchants.
According to the payment platform, mainstream use of cryptocurrencies has largely been “hindered by their limited utility as an instrument of exchange due to volatility, cost and speed to transact.”
However, they believe their platform could provide a means to make cryptocurrency more useful as a payment method.
“The shift to digital forms of currencies is inevitable, bringing with it clear advantages in terms of financial inclusion and access; efficiency, speed and resilience of the payments system; and the ability for governments to disburse funds to citizens quickly,” said Dan Schulman, president and CEO of PayPal in a press release.
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“This decision directly addresses three of the most common objections that cryptocurrency has faced in the last 10 years, including practicality for day-to-day purchases, a clearly defined and easy to use marketplace, and legitimacy,” he says.
McCormack also points to the payment platform Square SQ , which reportedly invested $50 million into Bitcoin in October of last year.
At the moment, you can choose from a nice selection of cryptocurrency savings accounts. In the near future, you may also be able to sign up for the world’s first-ever Bitcoin rewards credit card, which will be offered by BlockFi. The BlockFi Bitcoin Rewards Credit Card will work like traditional rewards credit cards, except that you’ll earn 1.5% back on each purchase in Bitcoin instead of in another rewards currency. Currently, this card is on a waitlist.
What does all of this mean? As more and more businesses and platforms find ways to utilize cryptocurrency — or let their customers use it — it will become even more mainstream than it already is. But, should you invest in cryptocurrency?
The answer depends on who you ask.
Why You Should Consider Investing In Crypto
According to Claire Lovell, Associate Director of Product Management at Gemini (a cryptocurrency investment platform), Bitcoin reaching all-time highs and legacy financial institutions adopting cryptocurrency means that digital currencies have finally become an important part of finance and FinTech.
In terms of advantages, Lovell says cryptocurrency gives consumers greater choice, independence, and opportunity in their finances. Further, cryptocurrency’s decentralized, open-source nature helps “eliminate the weak points of the modern banking system by bringing access directly to consumers,” she says. This makes it easier to buy, sell, store, and trade the best performing assets of the last decade.
Not only that, but Drew Hamilton, CEO of Rubix.io (a cryptocurrency platform) says cryptocurrency is in its infancy. This means that, if you invest now, you could be getting in on the ground floor “even though the prices seem high.”
After all, some experts have suggested that Bitcoin could be worth as much as $100,000 one day. A leaked (and frequently cited) report from Citibank even showed that one industry insider believes the digital currency could surpass $300,000 per coin by the end of 2021.
Attorney Len Garza, Esq. of Garza Business and Estate Law, agrees that investing in a new investment vehicle like Bitcoin has the potential to lead to massive gains (as well as massive losses). Further, cryptocurrency is easily one of the most liquid investment assets since trading platforms have been established across the globe.
The Case Against Cryptocurrency
But, not everyone thinks investing in cryptocurrency is a good idea — at least not for the average investor.
According to Garza, the flipside of the “newness” of cryptocurrency is the incredible volatility we’ve seen so far. Simply put, investing in cryptocurrency isn’t for the faint of heart.
For example, one Litecoin would have set you back more than $300 at the end of 2017 ($306.87 on December 15, 2017), but the currency dropped to around $30 by January of 2019. At the time of this writing, one Litcoin is worth $140.96.
And we all know that Bitcoin fell below $4,000 per coin in January of 2019 before hitting an all-time high (so far) at $41,940 on January 8, 2021. While it’s always fun to win, that’s a wild ride many people would never want to be on.
Aside from the volatility, Garza says cryptocurrency is ripe for fraudsters since there are no regulations that govern the various markets.
“Buyer beware,” he says.
Finally, hacking is a big threat if you’re a crypto investor. Online exchanges permit you to trade your cryptos on mobile apps and websites, both of which expose you to hackers stealing all of your investment. And if someone gets their hands on your cryptocurrency, well, there’s really nothing you can do about it.
Ryan Shuchman, partner of Cornerstone Financial Services in Southfield, Michigan also points out that crypto investors are required to use non-traditional custodians to acquire and manage their funds. Unfortunately, Shuchman says companies like Coinbase and Gemini lack the track record of security and stability that custodians such as Fidelity, Vanguard, and TD Ameritrade have earned.
For these reasons and others, Robert R. Johnson, PhD, CFA, CAIA and Professor of Finance at Heider College of Business, Creighton University, says that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “the purview of speculators.” No one should consider buying Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency as an investment, he says.
Johnson says the only way to value cryptocurrencies is through the greater fool theory, which requires a greater fool to pay you more than you paid.
But, he says you don’t have to listen to him. Instead, Johnson says to listen to Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B Vice Chairman Charlie Munger who is famous for sharing his thoughts on investing in cryptocurrency:
“It’s like somebody else is trading turds and you decide you can’t be left out.”