Investors were skeptical when cryptocurrency first appeared on the market, as an open-source software in 2009. Many are still skeptical. However, the impact of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin can’t be overlooked. The original cryptocurrency and perhaps biggest success story, Bitcoin has seen a meteoric rise in value over the last few years — and anyone who invested early and held onto their Bitcoins is surely pleased with their decision today.
But are Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies smart investment moves, or is this a bubble that’s about to burst? It depends who you ask.
What is cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency that can be traded for goods and services, but is decentralized — meaning it doesn’t have to pass through a bank. Instead, a public ledger keeps track of all purchases bitcoins are used for. But despite the ledger, users’ data is encrypted, making it almost completely anonymous. Cryptocurrency also offers security, as it can’t be counterfeited and transactions can’t be reversed.
Bitcoin is the original cryptocurrency and the most commonly traded to date, but there are others. Newer cryptocurrencies to invest in include Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin. All are valued in the billions of dollars, with Bitcoin at the highest around $45 billion dollars and Litecoin on the low end at $2 billion dollars as of July 2017.
What is the appeal of investing in cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency investment stands to make you a lot of money. In 2017 alone, the value of Bitcoin rose from $1000 (for a single Bitcoin) to about $5000. Betting on the right new cryptocurrency can be incredibly lucrative.
Investors around the world have started including Bitcoin in their portfolios as a safe haven investment — that is, an investment expected to maintain its value or even increase in value even during times of market turbulence. Including safe havens in your portfolio will create a buffer that limits the impact of losses during market downturns. Because Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies aren’t tied to any one country’s currency, their values aren’t directly affected by any nation’s economic successes or struggles.
However, cryptocurrency is still so new that its place in global finance is not yet well understood, and it’s difficult to make a prediction for the future. Cryptocurrencies could steadily increase in value and use, or we could be witnessing the expansion of a bubble that’s about to burst spectacularly — certainly not ideal for a safe haven alternative investment.
Bitcoin has already proven itself not to be invulnerable to decline. In September, Jamie Dimon, the chairman, CEO and president of JPMorgan Chase famously trashed Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and anyone who invests in them, calling the concept idiotic and promising to fire any trader working for him who did invest in cryptocurrency. Bitcoin values promptly plummeted, losing up to 14% of its worth in a few days.
However, a few weeks later, by the end of the month, they were right back up to the point before Dimon’s remarks were made — indicating that, at least for now, cryptocurrency is resilient and here to stay.