People often ask me why they should invest in Bitcoin. My answer is that you should “save” in bitcoin instead of “invest.”
Although Bitcoin behaves like an investment for those who like to ogle over financial charts, Bitcoin has no underlying cash flows and is fundamentally different than any “investment” out there. The goal for many when investing in traditional asset classes is to collect cash flows over time from that asset and/or resell the asset for a higher monetary price in the future. The goal for many, including myself, who have saved in Bitcoin for a while, earn Bitcoin, and accumulate more over time is to never have to “cash out” because Bitcoin itself becomes a global monetary network that people, businesses, and institutions all over the world use and accept for goods, services, and other assets.
Understanding Bitcoin requires a proper frame of reference.
Many get bogged down defining Bitcoin and argue whether it's a money, currency, commodity, property, etc. Truthfully, Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies are alien financial entities that transcend traditional classifications that have grown out of a world dominated by fiat (government money monopolies). I will let others hash out those definitional arguments, which actually serve to constrain one’s understanding and will instead focus on why millennials should save in Bitcoin instead of in the legacy financial system.
Financial repression via low and negative interest rates:
Many have hardly noticed, but the emergency financial measures put into place since the 2008 financial crisis are still very much in place, and central banks all over the world have embarked on the greatest monetary experiments of all time just to keep the financial system afloat. If you have a savings account or a CD at a bank, you can see it’s basically worthless given its paltry interest rates.
Central banks deliberately try to depress interest rates and inflate the value of your savings to push you into risky assets, like stocks, to prop up financial market indexes, tease you into taking on more debt, and incentivize you to spend more and save less to “stimulate” the economy. You are guaranteed to lose purchasing power over any meaningful amount of time if you save in government-issued money, at a government-insured bank, and are incentivized to make bad decisions. Losing purchasing power over time is literally the opposite intention of those saving for the future, yet this is used as a deliberate policy tool by central banks all over the world to meet their goals.
Overpriced fiat assets:
As a result of this financial repression, generations before us have been herded out of inflating monetary assets and low-risk assets to riskier assets in order to chase higher returns on their capital. This means traditional asset classes like stocks, bonds, and real estate have been bid up to historic levels, pricing out millennials trying to get any decent returns on their hard-earned savings.
Traditional blue-chip dividend stocks are now doling out punitive 2 to 3 percent yields. Many sovereign bonds have negative or close to negative yields (insanity). Real estate is basically a non-starter for most millennials who have been completely priced out of the market and are forced to rent.
There is an extremely limited upside to any investment in the traditional arena, and severe downside given the financial system hasn’t changed in any meaningful way since 2008 and instead has doubled down on centralization, leverage (debt), and low interest rates. To add insult to injury, the geopolitical situation has become increasingly fragile — something the fiat assets depend on being stable. A fragile financial system dependent on a fragile geopolitical situation with lower potential returns is not a great risk/return profile.
Monetary exposure to an exponential technology:
One of the most helpful ways to infer the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is by viewing them as communication networks or social networks. According to Metcalfe’s Law, the value of a telecommunications network is equivalent to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). Like the Internet or the telephone, Bitcoin’s value moves exponentially with every new user that enters the network. Treating it like a stock in the S&P 500 is to miss the point entirely.
The bottom line is Bitcoin is a technology that works. Its creation solved some long-standing computer science problems and facilitated a Cambrian explosion of decentralized technological experiments. In a hyper-connected world facilitated by the Internet and compounded by social media, the price movements of borderless exponential technologies like cryptocurrencies can be mind-boggling.
Having some exposure to cryptocurrency is a much more favorable risk/return profile than the traditional assets your parents and grandparents have all mindlessly piled into. In fact, your parents and grandparents don’t know what they’re doing any more than you do. At the end of the day, we’re all clueless — some just less so than others.
Bitcoin is a scarce and programmable digital (whatever you want to call it) that can be sent globally over an uncensorable communication network. Bitcoin has a hardcoded capped supply and a predetermined production schedule that producers have to work for and expend resources to earn the new supply.
Out of all of the 180 fiat currencies, none are programmable. The payment networks they are transmitted through are extremely censorable, their supply has no cap, they are geographically limited, and no one knows what their production schedule is over any meaningful amount of time. They cost virtually nothing to produce.
Some people may prefer a nation-state issued currency, but I’ve personally bet my entire future and reputation on cryptocurrency. I believe that many all over the world will join networks that are being built by the same type of people and principles that built the Internet. If you can operate a smartphone and have an Internet connection, you are a potential user. A couple billion people on the planet fit that profile, and that number grows every day.
The learning experience will increase your level of awareness:
The most important reason you should start saving in Bitcoin, or at least consider it, is it forces you to ask questions you may have never asked yourself before about trust, truth, money, and power, as well as allowing you to go as far and deep as you want to go in subjects like computer science, economics, finance, and history. Saving in Bitcoin will force you to confront thoughts and concepts you may have never heard before. It will make your brain entertain possibilities you may have never thought of. The discomfort you voluntarily take on by introducing yourself to new concepts, new technology, and a little chaos in your mind will simultaneously humble you and make you a more aware human being.
If you’re a millennial, like myself, the only investing advantage you have over your parents and grandparents is the most scarce and valuable resource of all: time. Be patient. Don’t “invest” in Bitcoin looking to “cash out.” Save in Bitcoin looking to leapfrog the over-priced, outdated, and exploitative legacy fiat-banking system. The most valuable social network of all time is being built right before your very eyes and it’s called Bitcoin.
This is just the beginning and eventually the engineers, rebels, investors, and entrepreneurs will make this emerging system so ubiquitous you’ll never have to “cash out.” It’s only a matter of time. And to repeat again, as a millennial, time is on your side. Use it to your advantage. Save in Bitcoin.
Brett Musser is a self described shameless shill for decentralization. He works for Edge, a cryptocurrency wallet and blockchain security start-up based in San Diego, CA.