When it comes to technology, I’m not exactly what you would call an “early-adopter.”
I used a flip phone until 2015.
My mom bought me a Kindle a few years ago, and I basically used it as a wishlist for the books I would eventually buy physical copies of until, inevitably, I lost it (sorry, mom).
This past year, I finally transitioned from using a pen-and-paper planner to keeping track of my days with Google Calendar. I still hate it, though I am much more frequently on-time.
As cryptocurrency — basically, a digital currency made up of data instead of dollars where the value is determined by the supply and demand within its network rather than a government entity — emerged on the financial scene about a decade ago, to say I was disinterested would be an understatement. I was terrified. I didn’t even get a credit card until I was 26, for goodness sake.
Now these invisible units of code with meme-related names are worth thousands of dollars and can be exchanged like cold, hard cash? My luddite heart could never.
I may not have a choice, though. Michael Seymour, exchange desk adviser at Luxolo Financial in Portland, said that cryptocurrency is all but inevitable in modern society.
“As more of commerce and society is driven by digital technology, simply participating will require owning and spending cryptocurrencies,” Seymour said. “Even though there are still some dramatic price fluctuations ahead in the short term, the long-term value for bitcoin continues to appreciate. Nations and corporations around the world are investing in bitcoin. It is redefining global commerce.”
Seymour may be biased given that he works in the field, but cryptocurrency has its clear advantages. It is separate from monetary policy, so it is hedged against inflation or political instability (but a bad investment or a nasty hack could lead you to lose everything, with no bank to back you up). Cryptocurrency is also not controlled by any government or financial institution, so it cannot be impounded, confiscated or restricted from its owners.
There are risks, though. Cryptocurrency fluctuates in value thousands of percent over a short period of time for seemingly no reason at all. Over time, though, Seymour said we will see that volatility even out — as we have with financial assets throughout history.
“Cryptocurrencies are quite a lot more volatile than other assets but that’s a perspective of time,” Seymour said. “When stocks were first being issued, there was that same kind of extreme volatility.”
Not all types of cryptocurrency are created equal, either. While meme-able cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin and Shiba Inu can be risky, longer-standing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been some of the best performing investments over the last decade.
“There is so much more value invested in Bitcoin, it’s already starting to stabilize,” Seymour said. “In general, now that Bitcoin has in excess of a $1 [trillion] valuation and ever increasing adoption by individuals, institutions and governments alike, the global bitcoin marketplace is signaling long term strength, stability and longevity.”
Plus, with that risk comes the possibility of reward.
“There’s no other asset class where you can see 100,000 percent gain over the course of the year,” Seymour said. “That happens regularly with crypto.”
OK, fine, I’ll bite. How does a girl get her hands on some Bitcoin?
Seymour said the first step is to get a cryptocurrency “wallet,” a web-based or smartphone app secured by a username, password and two-factor authorization. Apps like Atomic Wallet and Exodus Wallet are easy to use for beginners.
Then, buy cryptocurrency. There are a number of different types to choose from. Bitcoin is the most popular, but Seymour said that he also deals with Ethereum, and there are many others to choose from if you’re feeling experimental — high risk could yield even higher reward, after all.
You can buy cryptocurrency by going to a Bitcoin ATM. Maine Bitcoin LLC has kiosks around the state where you only need to show up with cash and your digital wallet. You can also buy from companies online like Swan Bitcoin and Coinbase, though such platforms often come with their own fees and set-up instructions.
Don’t be intimidated by the big price tags, either. You can buy a fraction of a unit of cryptocurrencies, up to eight decimal places.
Seymour said that a “practical” starting investment in cryptocurrency would be “about $500” if you want to see some real returns, but first-time investors in cryptocurrency should only put in what they can afford to lose.
“For some people that’s going to be $10 and honestly that’s enough,” Seymour said. “$10 gets you an account set up with some kind of exchange or some app on your phone and you start to see how things work and you can pay closer attention to market activity that gives you enough confidence to try a little more”
Once you have cryptocurrency, you can use it to pay for goods or services, as an increasing number of small merchants and large businesses are accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency payments. You can also hook up with a service like Luxolo to help you invest your ‘coin further.
Or, if you’re like me and you’re just getting your toes wet, you can just keep a little Bitcoin in a wallet on your phone and see how the investment grows over time.
If I can figure out Google Calendar, I can certainly figure out this.