So you heard about bitcoin on the news once. It sounded like the next fad all the Gen Z kids are onto these days just like fidget spinners and silly bands. Now years later, bitcoin's still kicking around and people are buying Lamborghinis. Maybe there's something to it...
Bitcoin isn't a scam, a pyramid scheme, or a multi level marketing company. It has utility and at its core is transparency and honesty. It's about allowing people to make transactions with each other without needing to trust each others good will. Bitcoin is primarily about money that can govern and regulate itself. I know that sounds a tad confusing, but don't worry, it usually is at first. Think of it this way, if a more efficient singular system could replace all our banking systems and the Federal Reserve, would we? That's precisely the technology that Bitcoin uses: blockchain. And the best part is that it absolutely works! So, the blockchain is the structural technology on which cryptocurrencies work and exist. It's a system where people can make instant transactions and exchanges without a regulating financial system like a bank. A cryptocurrency's blockchain automatically keeps records of transactions that are made between users, and this is part of the self-regulating function. The records are immutable and stand as proof of what was exchanged or transacted. Some pretty complicated codes go into maintaining these records, which we will not get in to right now. All we have to remember is that the technology secures itself because you cannot alter or change the records after the transactions have taken place.
If it's such a great market, why is Bitcoin so volatile?
Bitcoin is a new currency, and like all new things, it's still developing, so it isn't always stable. Bitcoin was only started around 2009, and even after, people's interest in them has only emerged in recent years. Recent investments in the bitcoin market have made it a growing and high-return market. Given that it's a new industry, bitcoin are subject to:
- The actions of its collective users/owners (As well as their fears, uncertainties, and doubts).
- Technical development of the technology (Forks and other code changes).
- Trading behavior.
- The volume of exchanges.
- World politics and economic behavior.
- Overall trends in a cryptocurrency's community.
What makes a currency valuable, is not a consistent thing. Most modern currencies are not backed by gold bullions anymore. This includes the U.S. dollar. A lot of what makes any currency valuable is dependent on the faith that people have in the regulating body. Bitcoin and blockchain is sound technology, and users have confidence that they can store and spend their coins safely and securely. Just like real currency, this faith is what gives it value at a very basic level.
Bitcoin is definitely unstable as seen by the 2017 drop, but it's not the only one. In some countries, the monetary system is so bad that the currency is almost worthless. While it might not seem like much of an accomplishment, bitcoin is a better store of value than the worst store of value there is. When crisis causes the inflation rate of a currency to spin out of control bitcoin can be an option. It's accessible by anyone with an internet connection and can be a safe haven for people. The thing to remember about bitcoin and the cryptocurrency industry is there is a lot of growth and development. Until it matures, it's better to think of it as an investment for your average american. A lot of variables go into the cryptocurrency market, which makes it unique and yes, volatile too! But this unpredictable nature also means that the coins you can earn have higher potential than any other physical currency.
The primary reason why you're here.
Is There Still Money to be Made in Bitcoin? Is There Still Money to be Made in Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency has a long way to go, and there's still a lot of money to be had. This means it's a burgeoning market and the dough is there! A little over 8% of our population have invested or are dabbling in cryptocurrencies. Beginners in cryptocurrency usually start with a small amount. They then keep increasing their coin investments in marginal amounts as the price drops and their returns increase when the price rebounds. Traditional investment sources may give you 5% after a year of careful investment and a lot of luck by your side. With cryptocurrencies, if you invest at the right time, you stand to double or triple that percentage at least. This year, bitcoin is up by 24 %, which is next to impossible in any other investment market. There's no guarantee that you'll get returns like that next year, but bitcoin has seen steady growth over the years. This shows that people are willing to bank on long-term investments in cryptocurrencies. This does not happen in temporary markets that are on the verge of ending. And since bitcoin is community-driven and market-oriented, this very belief and trust can sustain the market and even push it to grow way beyond other coins or currencies.
How do I make money with Bitcoin?
There are several ways to profit off of the cryptocurrency boom. Here are what most people think about when trying money from bitcoin directly:
- Bitcoin Mining: Cryptocurrency miners, use their computers processing power to mine bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Years ago this could have been done on any computer. These days people have whole setups dedicated to it called 'Cryptocurrency mining rigs' . For the average person, this is not a viable option anymore. Cryptocurrency mining doesn't give miners the kind of returns that they used to. This means a lot of time, energy, and resources go into mining, but you don't get enough profits. You would need a large investment in hardware, as well as very cheap electricity to be competitive enough to make any money (That said, it's a cool hobby).
- Cryptocurrency Trading: Again, this is not viable for the average person. Professionals can purchase cryptocurrency on a cryptocurrency exchange, and using technical analysis of the market, they can find profitable trading opportunities. This works similar to how you would trade in the stock market. Investing in the right cryptocurrency at the right time may give you huge returns. However, just like with the stock market, it's hard to beat the cryptocurrency market. In fact, these virtual currencies are a lot worse in some ways.
- HODL (Buy and Hold): It's simple. You buy it, and you hold on to it. Most people who dabble in Bitcoins choose to accumulate more when the price drops. Then hang on to it till the value goes up. The easiest and most popular way is to buy the cryptocurrency and hold to it until the value increases enough for you to make a profit. This is the tactic that most people tend to take. It doesn't make you responsible for trying to beat the market by trading. It gives you the profits of more significant returns if you sell them at the right time. There's no need to be an expert on blockchain technology to dabble in this. All you need to do is be careful, stay updated, and don't panic at the volatility.
- Cryptocurrency Arbitrage: is probably the most active way to increase your earnings. In cryptocurrency arbitrage, traders will sign themselves up for a variety of cryptocurrency exchanges. Then these traders will buy bitcoins or altcoins from an exchange that offers lower prices, and then re-sell it at an exchange that offers better prices. Cryptocurrency arbitrage is a relatively basic concept. You just buy the coins where it's cheaper, and sell them wherever you can get a better price for them. The difficult part is doing the math to make sure you actually are profiting. Between the fees and spread of the different exchanges, whatever profits you make will be slim.
Bitcoin Prices are Dropping. Should I Start Selling? What's Going On?
There's no easy answer to this, actually. Just like any other market, the cryptocurrency market runs in cycles. Cryptocurrency and bitcoin markets have bigger swings and more volatile than most (Remember, no single authority regulates it). It's pretty common to see Bitcoins gaining or losing over 20% in a single day! That's a massive margin of for any investment to be dropping or rising to. It requires sellers to be really aware of what direction the market is growing towards. A lot of risk comes the potential for a lot of reward. You'll also find that whenever Bitcoins come down, the value of altcoins typically follow suit. Altcoins are basically cryptocurrencies which are alternatives to Bitcoins (hence, the name). Since bitcoin is the first cryptocurrency and the most well known, whenever bitcoin's value comes down altcoins tend to suffer as well. All of this sounds stressful, and it is to some degree. You can't have weak hands when your working with an investment as volatile as bitcoin. Try and remember that Bitcoins have experienced positive growth for consecutive years. They've been increasing in worth and significance over the years. Bitcoin markets are just beginning to bloom in the U.S. with a mere 8% of Americans who actually own cryptocurrency. That means there's still a lot of space for bitcoin to grow and there's a lot more investments going into the space. Intelligent investors do not get swayed by the short term changes and immediate fluctuations. They go for the big picture, and usually get the big fish! Cryptocurrency is not a temporary fad. It's real, its markets are alive, and its effects are visible and tangible. Naysayers can stand in the sidelines, but those who are investing in it know that cryptocurrency is here to stay.
What is the next bitcoin? Why are there so many cryptocurrencies?
There are literally thousands of cryptocurrencies. It's crazy! But the reality is that most of these currencies just won't take off, are terrible ideas, and or scams. It's incredibly easy to make a cryptocurrency these days. With less than a hundred dollars, you could purchase the code to make your own. The hard part is making it useful and popular. Predicting the next Bitcoin would be next to impossible, given how volatile the markets are and how frequently they fluctuate. There are too many out there to do adequate research on each one. For the most part, there's no reason to purchase any coin not in the top 100 cryptocurrencies. You may make a profit on some, while others just fade away. There are a lot of ICO (initial coin offering) scams out there. But don't let the scammers get you down, there's a ton of exciting new projects that are emerging in this field. Just be careful, and don't dive into anything that doesn't seem legit!
Can we keep minting currencies perpetually?
Nope. Cryptocurrencies are not infinite. There's a cap on how much can be created and supplied. For example, there can only be 21 million Bitcoins ever in existence. So that puts a limit on the total quantity that can ever exist. For other coins, this number may be less or may even shoot up to trillions. The limited nature of Bitcoins is also what gives it the coveted value that most other currencies lack. The knowledge that Bitcoins are finite drives up its value. This is pretty much the logic behind why precious stones are considered 'precious'. They're rare and limited. In contrast, traditional currencies are printed and removed as the government sees fit. Inflation decreases how much buying power a single dollar has. This can be a huge problem at some point where it's no longer feasible to use your countries currency.
So if the coins' quantity is limited, how does the supply affect the price?
Some Altcoins will not be worth much, ever. This is because of the difference in the maximum market cap across cryptocurrencies. The available supply and the price of cryptocurrencies have a fascinating dynamic. The market cap of all cryptocurrencies at the moment is approximately 275 billion dollars. An altcoin may have a trillions in supply. It doesn't make sense for this altcoin to be valued at one thousand dollars, there's simply not enough cash in the world to validate that kind of valuation. However, it's not like you can't take advantage of this situation either. If I spend $100 for 10,000 coins of a currency, it amounts to a penny for each coin. Let's say the price of this currency goes up by one dollar; I just turned a hundred bucks into $10,000. That's a pretty good deal if you ask me! In general, limited supply attaches an scarcity to the currency. Increasing the supply rarely does any good to the cryptocurrencies' value. Think of it this way, if the Federal Reserve kept on minting and printing money endlessly, the Dollar's value would naturally decrease. This will happen because there would be too many dollar bills in circulation, and its purchasing power would diminish. An altcoins' supply can greatly affect the price. Especially in situations where the creators add in the ability to create and burn coins.
I hear once upon a time, some college kid rigged up a cryptocurrency mining scheme in his dorm room. Now he's worth like a million dollars or something. How's that work?
Is Cryptocurrency Mining Easy Money?
Cryptocurrency mining or Bitcoin mining is not a really profitable practice. At least, not anymore. With the development of ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits), you really can't mine anything worthwhile with regular equipment. For example, machines like your laptop, gaming PC., smartphones, etc. cannot really accumulate any of the coins worth mining. You have to remember this whenever you come across marketing strategies that try to convince you that you can mine easily. For any kind of cryptocurrency mining to be worthwhile, you have to invest a lot of money in machines designed for this purpose. These cryptocurrency rigs or bitcoin mining rigs are hardware that's specially designed for mining coins. Buying these machines is also a considerable risk because the returns from mining are gradually decreasing. In addition to that, they consume a lot of power and generate a lot of heat. They aren't something that looks nice in your living room for sure. You likely need somewhere to store the machines, and you would have to be proficient in hardware technology just to keep them up and running. You need to factor in your costs such as electricity and continually monitor the difficulty rate of the coins you're mining. The profitability of the coin your mining also changes quickly, which means you might be better off mining something else. All in all, it's a cool hobby if that's what you're into. Anyone looking to turn it into a business, should be very careful.
How Do I Make Money with Cloud Mining?
With the growing dynamics of traditional mining these days, cloud mining aims to make it easier. Regardless, it usually isn't a good idea. Cloud mining is essentially paying someone else to do the mining for you. Here, you don't have to incur huge electricity bills, endure loud humming machinery, or try to buy and re-sell mining machinery. They take care of the hardware, a lot of the unforseen costs, and provide you with a given hash rate at a set price.This may seem like an advantage because you don't deal with cryptocurrency rigs and the risks and issues that accompany them. But you'll find that it's the same or more expensive than directly buying the cryptocurrencies on your own. Also, you stand the risk of dealing with mining frauds who cleverly disguise their operations. You have much less control because all the decisions are made by the cloud mining company. Think of it this way: If the cloud mining company can make money mining, what do they need you for? They would just mine for themselves. There are only a few context where cloud mining proves useful. One is for owners of mining pools or for a new ICOs (Initial Currency Offerings). In these situations, the purpose is simply to secure the network of the new currency or to generate hashing power to entice other miners to join your pool. Whatever coins are mined in these cases is just secondary profit. The other case is to acquire coins that you can not purchase elsewhere. If a new coin is not on any other exchanges for sale, mining it might be the only way to get it. But this naturally comes with the risk of whether the coin you want is worthwhile in the first place. If it truly isn't listed on any reputable exchanges yet, is it stable enough to be a good purchase?Other than that, cloud mining isn't such a lucrative option for average users.
Security And Privacy
Lost half of my coins in an exchange hack 🙃
What are the risks associated with new cryptocurrencies?
Altcoins are the newer currencies, and unfortunately, a lot of them have glaring security issues. In Proof of Work (PoW) cryptocurrencies, nodes typically are set up to recognize the blockchain with the most blocks and therefore the most hashing power. The stability of a cryptocurrency depends a lot on what we call 'mining.' Let's break this concept down into its core elements, so that its' easier to take in.
- If one individual or entity owns more than half (51%) of the mining capabilities, that individual holds control of that currency. What this means is that there's literally no one stopping them from cheating you or other holders of your shares and currencies. This is a pretty dangerous situation to put yourself in.
- Mining capabilities can be bought and sold. An individual can absorb 51% of a new Altcoin's hashing power by spending a few thousand bucks.
- The problem with most of the new Altcoins is that they don't have a big enough circle/following to solve this issue. Bitcoin's community is not just wider and larger; it's also better equipped and much more qualified.
- A lot of Altcoins out there aren't secure because an individual/organization controls most of the hashing power. This is usually the founders of the currency in the beginning who are hopefully trustworthy enough. When it's an unknown 3rd party, everyone can only hope that this person doesn't cheat them of their coins.
- You can approximate how much money it costs to execute a 51% attack on a given currency here: https://crypto51.app. For some, it's only a few hundred dollars.
What About Storage? Should I Store My Bitcoin on Coinbase?
A personal cryptocurrency wallet is the best option here. Remember, any currency that is not stored in your wallet is actually not yours to control. The crucial thing here is to have the private key to your cryptocurrency wallet. Also, there's a general practice of safetly storing your private keys and seed phrases. For small amounts of money, you should write it down and store it somewhere secure. By keeping this sensitive information in physical form only, you are protecting yourself from hackers. When your investment grows larger it might be worth investing in a hardware wallet.
- Custodial wallets, as they are called, is not where you want your coins long term.
- If you do not have the private key in your possession, the next step is to request the wallet owner to send you your currency. This will let you store it in a more reliable source, or at least avoid the vulnerable areas.
- A cryptocurrency exchange may offer you a wallet for your coins. Don't leave your coins in these wallets. It's important to have a private key that only you know. Without it, your coins are as good as belonging to someone else! Also, these cryptocurrency exchanges are a favorite targets for hackers.
- This is the same reason why you should not go for storage in certain cryptocurrency apps or online wallet provisions. It may seem like a convenient option, but unless you get the private key, your coins virtually belong to someone else. Do not sacrifice the security of your currency for convenience of storage.
- The best option is to get the official cryptocurrency wallet of your coin. Then, create/generate a new wallet for yourself. Once you get your private key, the most secure way is to go old school! Jot it down somewhere and store it in a secure and safe location. That little piece of paper holds the ownership power of all your currency.
Are Cryptocurrency Exchanges Safe?
To be honest, most cryptocurrency exchanges aren't too safe. Even big name exchanges have turned out to be scams, involved in scandals and been hacked. A cryptocurrency exchange that may look or seem to be completely legitimate may just as easily be a hive of criminal practices. Let me explain why:
- A cryptocurrency exchange is not difficult to create. That is why there's a ton of them out there. It's pretty easy for scam artists to steal your money from exchanges. It's really not a big deal for them because they can just as quickly get a new cryptocurrency exchange started and running in a few days.
- As you might already be aware now, Cryptocurrency involves some specific security measures because there's no central authority controlling it. Cryptocurrency exchanges are usually set up by people who have little to no idea about how these security measures work.
- From 2011 up to 2018 alone, over two billion dollars were lost from cryptocurrency exchanges. The majority of these losses were because of exchange hackers who took advantage of weak security structures. These hacks will only keep increasing as the value of currencies keeps rising.
Are Bitcoins anonymous?
No, Bitcoins are far from anonymous. There's a record made of every transaction you make, and these records are public information. For example, if you send 100 dollars to someone, that transaction is visible to everyone. Since these records are all stored and saved publicly, anyone can check out a Bitcoin address and see its transaction history, balance, etc. If the ownership of the Bitcoin address can be tied to your identity, every transaction you make can be traced back to you. A reliable cryptocurrency exchange will always require you to identify yourself. This means that there will be records of every penny you've spent and all the recipients/senders you ever dealt with. Bitcoin is hardly useful for hiding your transactions. The only hope is that the person you're hiding from isn't savvy enough or not interested enough in following the trail you plainly leave behind. There's no really anonymity when it comes to Bitcoins.
What about Anonymous Cryptocurrencies? Are there any?
Some anonymous currencies cater to privacy-oriented users. These type of coins conceal all your transactions and cryptocurrency trading. They are aptly called 'Privacy Coins'. This means there's virtually no way to find out what you've spent or how much currency you own. Some of the accessible privacy coins include Monero and Z-cash. Most of these 'Privacy' coins use technology such as ring signatures, transaction shields, stealth address, etc. There are many reasons why someone might not want people knowing what transactions they make. It's often simply the principle of the violation of privacy that draws people to privacy coins. It's also important to acknowledge that privacy barriers can possibly be used for shady and criminal practices. The future of these types of coins is often a hot issue. In the USA, the government seems fairly willing to accept bitcoins existence (unlike some contries that have banned all of them.) yet they also try very hard to remain in control of it by connecting addresses to people's identity. When privacy coins become more mainstream, it will be interesting to see the reaction to something that truly is anonymous.
Bought into a new token and now it's worth nothing 🙃
What's the point of ICOs? Are they scams?
ICOs are Initial Coin Offerings, and their whole point is to make money (Shocking right?). A lot of the time they are a legitimate way of funding a project, just like how your average company would do a IPO (Initial Public Offering). ICO's have been traditionally a lot more risky however, as there hasn't been nearly as much regulation. Making money is essentially the aim here with ICOs, and yes, a lot of ICOs are cryptocurrency scams. Here's how it works:
- Scammers will mine a significant portion of a 'new' 'Altcoin before they launch it with a lot of fanfare. This way, they already own a certain percentage of the currency before people have access to it.
- Then, they draw a lot of attention and publicity to it so that others will want to mine and invest their money in 'the next big thing.' Additional miners and investors will automatically increase the coin's value. This is when the creators will cash in and sell off their share of the stakes.
- This is somewhat acceptable as long as the creators use the money to support the currency and make it more stable and robust. It's a scam if all they merely cash in an leave you high and dry.
- The important thing about dealing with ICOs is to be extremely skeptical.
How Do I Spot Fake Cryptocurrency Exchanges?
It's pretty easy for cryptocurrency exchanges to generate hype and popularity around itself. Cryptocurrency exchange listing websites like Coinmarketcap can assert an exchange as popular with a lot of volume and action. But this is no proof that it is safe and credible. Owners of these exchanges can easily create multiple fake accounts and orchestrate a lot of trade and movement between these accounts. This technique is sometimes called 'Wash Trading.' It's not difficult because they control all the accounts, and they pay nominal fees for making transactions. So, even though there are no real people involved, it appears as if there's a lot of volume and movement in the exchange. This fools a lot of peoples, so you've got to stay alert! Some fake exchanges also try to present fake numbers to try and lure your coins in. They do this by copying the records and trading figures of more successful and legitimate exchanges. Next, they present it in their exchange sand try to pass off the records as their own numbers. Be very careful when an exchange functions exactly like a more popular competitor.
How Can I Research a Cryptocurrency?
Doing your own research in cryptocurrencies is crucial, but it can prove to be a difficult task. The most insightful place to would be a coins' white paper. They breakdown the technical bits as well as the objectives of the currencies. These can be difficult to read at times, so as supplemental information, you should follow the developers' official posts and/or blog. These will be the most accurate sources of information out there. Joining the community around a cryptocurrency project can also be useful. However, a lot of information may be from people who are just out to market their own investments. Separating fact from hype will be an essential skill when you do your own research. With social media, it's pretty easy to keep track of cryptocurrency updates from the community. This is not to say that you rely entirely on social media for your investments. But it can add to your existing efforts towards understanding the currency system. Coins are usually created for a niche and purpose. The community of a project can have a huge impact on it's future direction. Being part of the community discussions on the particular coin can give you a lot of insights. Also, you'll find it easier to be in the loop on new cryptocurrency technology developments. It's important to get your information from a variety of sources. Don't listen to the same YouTube channels or spend too much time in the same subreddits. The community around a particular cryptocurrency can become a hive mind after a while. Everyone feeds off of each others hype which can blind people to the major flaws in a project. Seek out dissenting views and try and get a feel about what the general cryptocurrency community thinks about a coin before putting money into it. The best research is hands on cryptocurrency experience. Blogs and articles can only teach you so much about Blockchain technology. Being part of the community and managing your own resources will reveal more about the industry than generic news and discussions.
How Can I Cash Out My Cryptocurrency? Which Places Accept Bitcoin?
People usually think bitcoin as more of an investment than a currency. Prices can drop or go up by thousands of dollars in a short time (sometimes in a few hours). This makes it extremely difficult to know the exact worth of what amount you're paying. Having said that, there are tons of places out there who accept Bitcoin as currency. The most common way of cashing out Bitcoins is to use services like Coinbase, where you send your currency and get cash wired to your account. Bitpay and other similar services allow e-commerce companies to accept payments in Bitcoin and then get paid in cash. This allows the companies to avoid the risk of fluctuating values because they don't hold on to the Bitcoins. Besides online platforms, many physical stores are starting to let you pay by Bitcoin for goods and services. Another way to cash in on your Bitcoins is to trade it for Stablecoins (Dai, Tether, etc.). Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that try to maintain their value against the Dollar. This type of trading allows you to cash out your coins without risking the fluctuations of the Bitcoin.
Is It Possible for Bitcoin to be Fixed?
Almost everything about Bitcoin can be changed if it needs to be. We have seen more than forty forks in bitcoin blockchain since its inception, and this proves that the coin is community-oriented. The Bitcoin invented by Satoshi Nakamoto isn't the same Bitcoin that we use today. Since it is open-source, the community can add or modify the features according to what suits the currency best. The version that is used the most and most widely agreed upon is what we simply call 'Bitcoin'. The other versions that breakaway from this foundational code include Bitcoin S.V., Bitcoin cash, etc. The Bitcoin industry is still young, but it has already come a long way. There are pressing issues yet to be resolved, such as allowing millions of users to participate and make transactions efficiently. However, there are a ton of incredibly intelligent people who are constantly working on ways of making it more robust, and stable.
While it is definitely a legit industry, there's still a ton to learn about bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Don't be overwhelmed but try to keep your head on straight and be skeptical about everything. It's not too late. The cryptocurrency industry is in it's infancy. There's a lot of money to be made and there's a ton of new exciting projects to be a part of. Keep your coins in a wallet that you own and you alone know the private keys to. Period.
From The Author
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