Cryptocurrency Overview

Cryptocurrencies are a community of digital currency that have no central issuing authority such as a government or bank. Instead, they use a decentralized system to record holdings and transactions. You can trade, invest or make secure digital payments. All of this takes place outside the control of conventional financial institutions.

In the world of cryptocurrencies, there are many more coins other than Bitcoin. In fact there are thousands. If this fact isn’t daunting enough, you may ask, “what is mining?” or “what is staking?” Don’t worry about those things. First of all, mining can be left to very technical people who want to get into the nuts and bolts. And staking? Well, that will be a good thing down the road a bit. But don’t worry about it just yet. Let’s stick with the basics.

Before we go any further, let me issue a disclaimer. This post is NOT financial advice.

What is Cryptocurrency?

Currencies such as Bitcoin, Etherium, or Cardano are like regular currencies in many ways, but are entirely digital. A crypto coin like Bitcoin (which at time of writing costs $47,000 for one coin), can be divided into smaller pieces. So you can purchase a small fraction of the coin for, say, $20, $100, or $10,000 and receive the corresponding percentage of that coin. For example my first purchase was just 0.001 of the coin.

Where to Purchase Crypto

You can purchase a number of ways. Two easy ways are either through an exchange or at a crypto ATM machine. Some popular exchanges are Binance, Kraken, and KuCoin. Two popular ATM networks are CoinFlip and Unbank. You can also buy crypto within some wallets, such as Atomic. This is an easy by-pass of an exchange. More here.

Home page of Kraken exchange
Home page of CoinFlip ATM network

Investing in crypto is similar to investing in the stock market. Beware, both types of investing can be very volatile. Careful people say, “only invest what you’re willing to lose.” Remember, this is NOT financial advice.

Wallets

A crypto currency’s wallet address is like a bank account. Let’s say you have Bitcoin and Cardano in your wallet. Each of these two coins will have an entry in your wallet and a corresponding “receive” and “send” number. That’s the coin’s address in your specific wallet. It’s just a number that corresponds to a specific currency in your crypto wallet. The wallet and its contents can be completely anonymous. Your holdings are held by you, not by a bank as with conventional money. One advantage that should already be apparent is that no-one can shut down your wallet or block your transactions, because you have total control over that account. Just be sure to write down your recovery phrase when you set up the wallet and store it in a VERY safe place, otherwise you will lose your holdings. Examples of wallets that are tried and true are … SMARTPHONE BASED: Atomic, Coinomi or Monarch. Nunchuck is a privacy focused Bitcoin-only wallet that has received praise. HARDWARE WALLET: Ledger is regarded as the very best. There are many other options to suit your specific needs.

Atomic Wallet
Atomic Wallet home screen on a Mac

How Cryptocurrency Holdings and Transactions are Handled

There is a cryptocurrency network that stores all the holdings and transactions around the world. The network of computers that keep track of cryptocurrencies are widely spread out. No one entity controls them all, so you’re never at risk of security breaches or other compromise. This is called decentralization. This is the complete opposite of how governments and banks control traditional currency. Theirs is a centralized system. Note, governments and banks are starting to get into digital currencies. These are NOT cryptocurrencies. They’re creating yet another system in which they have the custody and control. As freedom lovers have come to appreciate, this is NOT a good thing. Stick with the community of cryptocurrencies as listed at CoinGecko or CoinMarketCap.

AVAILABLE CRYPTOCURRENCIES

The choices are are far more than Bitcoin. There are thousands of coins and tokens. Be aware, not all are for transactions. There are other reasons for their existence, such as the improvements they may make for blockchain infrastructure, functionality, and of course the lovable NFTs. A big part of the crypto side of life is about the investment they represent, especially in the long term. Two types of currency exist. Coins and tokens. Coins belong to cryptocurrency networks that were built from scratch. They are “tier one.” With coins, lots of resources went into building a safe and reliable crypto network. There are only a few dozen crypto coins. The rest are of the currencies are tokens. They are easy to make. Some are scams. Wise investors work with well known tokens only …

The following chart from CoinGecko shows the top coins. Tokens are farther down. Those who are new to crypto are often advised to stay within the top 100 in this list.

Coins

A list of coins at CoinGecko. Notice the top six.

A Few Advantages of Cryptocurrency

  • A way to pay that is NOT with fiat currency like Dollars or Euros.
  • You can invest in the coins and tokens, similar to stocks or bonds. Huge gains (or losses) can be had. Generally, the most popular coins have given excellent returns long term.
  • A different form of wealth. It is not held by banks; you hold it and you have the control over it. Consider it in some ways like gold, but digital.

IS CRYPTO SAFE?

Not all coins or tokens subscribe to the same rigorous design commitments or best practices. So prudent research and wise choices must be made. It can also be said, most cryptos that have been around for years are battle tested over time and have a secure basis across the gamut of what can go wrong. And many traditional stock investors have a gradually growing trust in the value and sustainability of crypto. Conservative billionaire investors have recently conceded that they have increased their crypto percentage of overall holdings from around 5% to 20% and more.

HOW DOES CRYPTO HAVE VALUE?

Well, what gives the money in your pocket or bank any value? Major currencies used to be backed by gold. Not anymore. The only value is the trust in the government that issues their currency. Trust is eroding today, and now trust in any type of currency, fiat or crypto, becomes a free-for-all. But please keep in mind, governments are printing money without any backing. We’re now seeing record levels of inflation. These damaging government policies have become far worse in the past two years.

In contrast to dollars and other fiat money, cryptocurrencies are valuable because of what they do. It does depend on the coin, but many cryptos have important and powerful functionality. Bitcoin has tremendous value because there is a limited supply (there are a finite pieces of the “pie”), and only a small amount of it is created each day. And that amount is cut in half every four years. Demand for Bitcoin (BTC) has clearly increased over time. Prices rise due to demand. Bitcoin and other top cryptocurrencies have earned it. And!!! Top crypto coins are a great place to park your money. Although potentially volatile in the short term, their long term solidity earn them consideration as a good place to park at least some of your wealth.

CONCLUSION

Crypto is an interesting market/community/opportunity. It can be fun. And it is unique. Prices of crypto fluctuate so much because nobody knows what they are actually worth. This is still being settled or understood. In contrast, dollars and pounds have such a long history. In the long term, it’s easy to see that crypto is growing. The following growth chart tracks Bitcoin’s market capitalization over the years. Other currencies have tracked similarly to Bitcoin’s rise.

CHART: Bitcoin Market Cap 2013 to present

Your investment time line and risk tolerance should guide you on which coins or tokens to buy. Buy and hold to start. Don’t trade. Wise market advisors have suggested starting your crypto journey, “within the top 10 coins.” They are considered low risk.

Disclaimer: This content is NOT financial advice. This content is for entertainment purposes only. All readers are advised to do their own research and act upon their own personal and independent conclusions.

NEXT STEP: HOW TO GET INTO CRYPTO IN 15 MINUTES.