by Sandra

I almost hesitate to publish the name out of sheer exhaustion at its ubiquity-but, deep breath, here it is: cryptocurrency. Have you been as tired of hearing regarding it because 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 best friends started ranting and raving regarding the entire “blockchain revolution” along with his recent decision to toss some cash into Crypto Prices (that have, yes, gone from $900-something at the outset of last year to around $20,000 toward the end of the year, at the time of this writing, it hovers around $11,000), I vented my rage at the entire puffed-up concept by demanding he illustrate to me what type of hectic nonsense this whole scheme amounted to.

Do you know what? It’s not that complicated. But yes, right about now seems an apt time to have an all-important notice to my dear readers: You’re planning to read financial advice from someone who until a couple of weeks ago had, inside the entirety of his life-apart from some fairly rote 401(k) behavior-committed to stock market trading exactly once. Once I was 13, a company-savvy family friend mentioned something about Chrysler staking their financial well being over a new kind of car; if it worked, he explained, the company’s stock might skyrocket; if it failed, obviously, the business was finished. Somehow, I were able to buy a number of shares of the stock at around $3-that i then sold around the time the stock peaked a couple of months later somewhere around $16 or $18, netting myself a handy hundred bucks approximately together with the right to pat myself in my greenhorn greed-is-good back. But having once ridden the white lightning with such blistering success, I thought, Why not quit as i was ahead?

Understanding crypto, though, is straightforward-with a little the help of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s perpetually useful willing suspension of disbelief. You don’t have to browse the myriad stories and posts and think pieces concerning how to understand crypto, or Bitcoin, or perhaps the coming transformation of our entire means of doing everything: They’re generally overly complicated and, perhaps most importantly, just not so much fun. May I teach you exactly how blockchain technology-the DNA of crypto, should you will-works? Absolutely not. I will tell you it works something such as this: Bitcoin along with 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 final block, making a chain.

Inside the cryptocurrency world, these “transactions” are users buying and selling different cryptocurrencies, usually as virtual “coins.” (A few of the more well known ones: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin.) Whenever people discuss the “blockchain revolution,” they’re generally noting that the blockchain can be used as secure transactions of almost any type: storing and moving birth certificates, votes, insurance claims, whatever. The revolution I’m concerned with most presently, though, will be the one about to take place within my bank account.

Here’s where skeptics come in: “But these ‘currencies’ derive from nothing!” they wail, gnashing their teeth and furrowing their brow. Which I summon each 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 method is based solely on shared assumptions, man.” The dollar bill is, at root, a piece of paper which has value only as it relies on the “full faith and credit” of the United States. Well, crypto is the same as that, with one exception: It relies on the “full faith and credit” of . . . of . . . of whoever chose to write the white paper that declared the specific cryptocurrency involved to become a thing of worth. (In Bitcoin’s case, that person, or group of people, operates within pseudonym-see above in re: willing suspension of disbelief.)

So, yeah, it’s sketchy. (Riddle me this, though: The amount of concepts you know of this start with “crypto-” aren’t?) Let’s put a good spin into it, though, and call it untested. Then let’s test it. Honestly, it’s the simplest way to figure it. Here’s whatever you do (or don’t do, if you’re the kind of person who may have qualms about putting your hard earned money axtisi hazy concepts that may collapse at a moment’s notice but that may also be the magical money-spawning harbingers in our collective future): Take the kind of walking-around money that you’d blow on a couple of shoes that seemed required for about five minutes, or perhaps the same as an enjoyable-but-forgettable evening out on the town. Open up a Coinbase account. Coinbase is definitely an exchange for that biggest cryptocurrency players-consider it the New York Stock Exchange for crypto. It’s that you buy and sell coins, or fractions of them. (Just trust me on this one: Coinbase is every casual player’s entrée; it is to crypto what AOL ended up being to getting online in the early ’90s.) You link credit cards in your Coinbase account and get Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin. (Bitcoin, while somewhat Captain Obvious, will be the crypto that’s most easily converted into other kinds of coins; it’s even the one that’s most generally accepted as payment for actual goods and services, from OkCupid to Etsy to an alpaca farm in rural Massachusetts.)

So, yeah, it’s easy. You will find, it could be addictive. Rather than reflexively checking Twitter or Instagram while waiting around for the train, I’m now watching the sine curve of my crypto account on a single of several apps. My Twitter feed has a new, almost psychotically geeky component: Crypto Twitter. My partner came home one other night coming from a night out to locate me watching neither tennis nor politics but, rather, a YouTube video of any teenage boy who I likely wouldn’t trust 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 to be able to avoid trading fees. (Reader, it worked!)

So, how am I doing? Having a whole two weeks under my belt, my main anxiety over my “investments”-still it feels a little grand to utilize the word, given that the midnight-sweats part of my psyche remains convinced that the Buying Bitcoins is surely an invention of Chinese intelligence to raid our pocketbooks after their Russian neighbors raided our democracy-is because they are, well, maddeningly stable. The $400 amount of Litecoin I started by helping cover their (I bought with a dip on the market) is maybe $20 down; the $400 in Ripple which i jumped over a week later during what I thought was a preposterous low is up merely a $20 or so; and the $200 in Bitcoin which i dutifully purchased a couple of days next is basically exactly the same. (There already is, though, One That Got Away: After reading the proverbial “hot tip” from what appeared like a credible source on Twitter, I yearned to purchase the XLM coin from Stellar, which, the origin said, was poised to “take off.” Yee-haw! Needless to say, this is the type 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 obviously: The coin, which can be up almost 30,000 percent in the last year, gained another 20 percent inside the day approximately since i have passed it up.) I’ve even bought a “digital wallet”-you are able to store your money on the exchange you buy it on, though, to date, only Coinbase guarantees it, so it’s recommended you keep funds on these tiny bits of hardware-but, given the insane demand, it’s on backorder until March, so until then, well, Bitcoin better have my money.

About Sandra