Is the Bitcoin Bonanza a banker?
If you invested in Bitcoin in the early days, you are likely to be a millionaire by now.
In just over a decade, the figurehead of the digital currency has had a spectacular success story and has risen in value from just over a few cents per coin to almost 70,000 euros.
Its value has increased tenfold since the beginning of the pandemic. Cryptocurrency has broken through niche interest to have much broader appeal. Celebrities are advocating it, Premier League clubs are getting involved, and it’s being advertised on the sides of Dublin buses and on railway bridges across the country.
There are tens of thousands of cryptocurrencies with myriad different uses available to potential investors, but how many of them can really make a solid investment?
How To Be Good With Money’s financial planner and moderator, Eoin McGee, is in doubt. Everyone wants to get rich quick, he said at prime time. “My way of investing money is long, it’s boring, it’s slow. And it works.”
Eoin believes that all the successes people have had so far are largely down to luck. In order for cryptocurrencies to have a long lifespan, they not only have to be generally accepted, but also have to be accepted by practically everyone in the world.
He said, “The reality is when it comes to cryptocurrencies, if you have a small number of people in the world and accept that this is a real asset and it is right, it will never create a situation in which it is for will always last.
“Because it’s not about a small number of people accepting it. It’s about everyone accepting that this is something we can share with one another.
“Until they get this mass market, it will never really pass as something that is mainstream.”
Mainstream may not be a million miles away. Half a million Irish already own cryptocurrency. Unsurprisingly, the most likely age group to buy it is between 25 and 34. It’s a statistic that Eoin hears for the first time.
He said, “My immediate gut reaction is that you’re thinking of the 25-34 year olds, they’ve got a really tough deal.”
Eoin believes they have been hit hard financially and that crypto could be an opportunity for them to get a down payment on a house and that they may be driven by a fear of missing out.
Eoin McGee (left) tells Conor Wilson that he is not convinced that cryptocurrencies are the future
Eoin is very active on Instagram and says nothing generates the kind of comments that are discussed about cryptocurrencies. He makes a short video and the comments flow in.
There is an active online community of crypto enthusiasts who firmly believe that cryptocurrencies and the underlying blockchain technology will change our lives and free us from central bank tyranny and inflation. It is an important pillar of Web 3.0, where everything is decentralized, including our money.
We spoke to a number of Eoins Instagram followers and eventually met up with Michael Moran in Co Kildare. Michael’s background is in tech, but he’s been investing in crypto for several years and usually selling too early, he admits. “I’m an emotional investor,” he jokes.
At the beginning of the year he sold his classic BMW and put the money directly into crypto. This will be a long-term investment that he plans to hold onto for several years. He’s also planning a much more significant long-term investment.
“I’m considering cutting my pension and withdrawing some of that money and putting it in cryptocurrency and maybe a small spread on some of the big coins,” he said.
“The prospect of enormous returns makes crypto investments a tempting offer”
Michael said he has always made good choices in life, with money and possessions, and while this will account for up to 30% of his retirement age, he is confident he can take that risk.
He said, “It’s a risk at the end of the day, but the rewards are at risk. So sometimes you have to take that risk.”
Michael is not alone. More and more people see cryptocurrency as an emerging asset class, a potential long-term store of wealth.
Early adopter James Nagle founded the crypto brokerage company Bitcove with his brother Peter in 2014. You now have a chain of Bitcoin ATMs in convenience stores across Ireland. James has seen an influx of investors since the beginning of the pandemic, which he attributes to people being fed up with negative interest rates on bank savings. Crypto is something they see as a better return.
But not all cryptocurrencies are created equal. While Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin do well, there are tens of thousands of others. Some are used in video games, others started out as a joke and then popped up. Others exist only as vehicles to make money for their creators.
A common scheme is “pump and dump”, in which the founders hold the majority of the mined coins. A social media campaign then artificially inflates the price of the remaining coins before a planned and sudden crash. Innocent investors are burned while the creators get away with the proceeds. For those who invest, the point is to separate the good from the bad.
“We review every single currency we have on our platform,” said James Prime Time. “We make sure that the founders check whether they do not have mass-produced tokens. Crypto is new, it is exciting, but you have to fulfill your duty of care.”
The prospect of huge returns makes crypto investing a tempting proposition, but it has also set new boundaries for scammers to trick people into making quick buck. It is currently the boom for investment fraud in Ireland – € 8 million was stolen in the first seven months of 2021, double the same period last year, which was twice the previous year.
Even the scammers are playing the long game when it comes to cryptocurrencies
At the National Cyber Crime Bureau in Harcourt Square, Dublin, Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan tells Prime Time that 99% of these scams involve crypto.
Would-be investors are attracted by pop-ups that lead to cloned websites. Some take financial advice from people they match up with through dating apps. Ultimately, this will result in them buying what they believe is cryptocurrency, but in reality, their money is being stolen.
Some scammers even play the long game by regularly sending out charts and graphs to let people know of their non-existent investments and encourage them to invest more money.
There is also a risk with legitimate investments. Crypto is no different. In the weeks that we looked at it, Bitcoin has dropped from around € 58,000 per coin to € 40,000 per coin.
The hardcore crypto investors will say this is the time to buy, while the Bank of England warned last week that Bitcoin speculators could still lose every penny.
Eoin McGee is concerned about this volatility. Crypto is supposed to be a currency, but conventional currencies don’t rise and fall as dramatically.
Eoin said, “Nobody can really say what will happen to cryptocurrencies. And that’s why it’s an exciting time to have her.
“But because no one knows what’s going to happen, make sure your exposure isn’t any different from the exposure you would have if you went to the races or the dogs.”