A beginner’s guide to the digital financial frontier.
I n the ever-evolving landscape of modern fi nance, cryptocurrency has captured the attention of individuals and investors alike.
“Bitcoin is a scarce digital asset that has new use cases for financial services,” says John Ruth, co-founder and CEO of Build Asset Management, who manages public and private investment funds based in Jefferson City. “It isn’t just about speculating on the price going up. We’re seeing growth areas such as Bitcoin-backed lending taking off .”
“Looking at America’s relationship with money, 2008 was the biggest recession of our lifetime,” adds MattDines, chief investment officer and co-founder of Build Asset Management. “It was the existing system of how money and credit worked showing that something needed to change. Since March 2020, we’ve seen that loss of purchasing power.
Cryptocurrency traces back to 2009 under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, which introduced Bitcoin, the first-ever cryptocurrency. Central to the concept of cryptocurrency, blockchain technology records transactions across a network of computers. Unlike traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies operate independently of any central authority, relying on cryptographic techniques to secure transactions and control the creation of new units.
“Money is the representation of prior labor,” John says.“We’ve come to a point where we say, ‘Wow, when did house prices get out of control? When did eggs, milk, and gas get so high?’ Some families thought they were doing okay with six-figure incomes, but that doesn’t go as far anymore. The concept of good money is being able to say ‘I can trust the labor that I put in today is safe and isn’t going to lose its purchasing power.
How it Works
Most cryptocurrencies employ blockchain technology, which is a distributed ledger that records transactions across a network of computers. These networks are typically peer-to-peer networks run by independent actors and use cryptography to secure transactions and control the creation of new units, which cuts out centralized authorities like governments and banks.
Users send and receive cryptocurrencies on these networks using public and private cryptographic keys. The public key or address lets people receive from any-one, but only the holder of the key can send from that address. To send, the key holder has to digitally sign a transaction, which is then broadcast out to the network and subsequently verified or denied based on the rules of that particular cryptocurrency. Validated transactions are added to a new block in the blockchain, which serves as a timestamp of transactions and prevents one person from spending the same coin twice.
Varieties of Cryptocurrencies
While Bitcoin is the most well-known and valuable cryptocurrency, the landscape of cryptocurrency has expanded to include thousands of alternatives. Some alternatives, often referred to as alt coins, seek to address limitations seen in Bitcoin. Ethereum, for instance, introduced the concept of smart contracts, self-executing contracts with terms directly written into code.
“Some say Bitcoin is a system of rules, not rulers,” John says. “Most people know a world of dollar dominance, but historically, money has taken many forms. We believe Bitcoin holds the advantage of being the preferred digital currency.”
“Most people know a world of dollar dominance, but historically, money has taken many forms.We believe Bitcoin holds the advantage of being the preferred digital currency.”—John Ruth, Build Asset Management
Getting Started with Cryptocurrency
Most people will purchase crypto from an exchange where people can buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies. Then, they set up a wallet. Wallets are essential for storing and managing digital assets, and there are various forms including software, hardware, and online options. Hot wallets are cryptocurrencies connected to the internet and actively used for transactions, trading, and quick access. In contrast, cold wallets are not directly connected to the internet in order to provide a higher level of security.
Once a wallet is set up, an exchange can be selected. Research different exchanges to find one that best aligns with specific needs. And of course, it’s important to protect investments by using strong, unique passwords and enabling two-factor authentication on the accounts.
Cryptocurrency may seem intimidating at first, but its journey from obscurity to global prominence is a testament to its potential to reshape the financial landscape.
Decentralization: No central authority reduces counterparty risk and reliance in the traditional banking systems.
Global accessibility: This enables users to engage in international transactions without the need for currency conversion.
Security: Transactions are highly secure, minimizing the risk of fraud and identity theft.
Potential for investment gains: Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have seen price appreciation over the years. While volatile, long-term holders have been rewarded.
Volatility: Markets can have extreme price fluctuations. Crypto investments should be treated as long-term and speculative. Don’t risk money needed in the short run.
Lack of Regulation: No centralized authority means investors can have fewer protections compared to traditional financial systems.
Bad Actors: Crypto has attracted bad actors who seek to defraud people. In-depth research is required.