Eating Crypto Crow

I’m reminiscing on a post I wrote in the fall of 2017 savoring the gains I made buying my Bitcoin at $3,900. In hindsight it seems arrogant, so I feel compelled to disclose that in the winter of 2018 I bought another Bitcoin but at closer to $12,000.

If you follow crypto prices, you’ll sympathize how I saw that $12,000 as a huge “dip” from the December 2017 high of almost $20,000. You’ll also recognize that this wasn’t a dip at all, but a downward slide that hasn’t yet recovered. In spring 2018, prices fell to a little under $6,000 – HALF of what I paid. Currently, Bitcoin is around $9,000, which puts my second purchase at a significant loss.

Do I regret buying that second Bitcoin? I do wish I waited to see how far it would drop before I committed. I still would have spent $12,000 but I would have gotten 2 instead of just 1. In my defense, during the pre-Christmas valuation climb, prices increased so rapidly I was conditioned to believe if you wait, you lose out. I have since un-conditioned myself from that belief.

Some credible financial analysts predict Bitcoin’s value will drop to zero (“MIT“, and “Former PayPal CEO Bill Harris“). Other equally credible financial analysts predict Bitcoin is on the precipice of skyrocketing – doubling or tripling the value of my second bitcoin (“Hedge Fund Manager John Pfeffer” and “Comcast VC Bullish on BTC”).

Obviously I hope the optimists are right. Only time will tell if the crow I’m eating today the last meal before my profit dreams die, or but a garnish on a delicious platter of future profits. Whichever direction it goes, I’ll post about it.

 

Struggling With the Ledger Nano S Hardware Wallet

Now that I’ve broadened my crypto portfolio, I need to get serious about storing them safely off the Internet. Over a month ago I bought a Ledger Nano S hardware wallet but I didn’t get around to setting it up until now.

The device seems simple enough to figure out. I plugged one end of its USB cord into the device and the other end into my computer. Its LCD screen illuminated, giving directions on how to use its interface of two button and LCD screen: Push the Left button to scroll left, push the Right button to scroll right, push BOTH buttons to select something. Then it prompted me to enter a PIN. I wish it gave me the option to set up the PIN later, but it didn’t so I had to come up with something that would be too hard to guess, but not too hard to remember. I have no idea if there’s a way to re-set the PIN so I hope what I devised is adequate. It then prompted me to enter the PIN again, and I was relieved I remembered it properly since I made it up spontaneously.

It then instructed me to “write down the recovery phrase”. To me, a “phrase” is a SHORT SENTENCE. So I grabbed a pen and tiny post-it note.  What commenced was neither short nor a phrase. It gave me 24 random words to write down in sequential order. I realized it was giving me words to write in the “Recovery Sheet” that came with the Nano S device. Why didn’t it say “write down these 24 recovery words”?! So I stopped writing on the tiny note pad and found the recovery card with 24 numbered blank lines and recorded the words in their proper place.

After scrolling through the words, the interface did not give me a prompt to continue. I pushed the Right button, but nothing happened. So I pushed the Left button, and it scrolled through the words in reverse order. When I got to the first word again, I pushed the Left button one more time, and it quizzed me on the words I just saw: What was word #13? Then it prompted me to scroll through a bunch of random words until I saw the word I wrote in space 13. When I saw the word, I pushed both buttons. Then it asked me to identify word #22. I scrolled through the options until I saw the word I wrote in space #22. I pushed both buttons to select it. Then it told me the device has been configured and is ready to use.

BUT IT DOESN’T TELL ME HOW TO USE IT. It would be nice if either the tiny LCD screen gave me some direction. I double-checked the sparse instructions that came with the device and it did say to “get started at start.ledgerwallet.com” and follow the instructions. When I set up my Trezor hardware wallet, it clearly requested the Chrome browser. So I went to start.ledgerwallet.com on Chrome.

The Ledger Nano S was still plugged into my computer, so I was surprised when the Website couldn’t recognize the device I had and asked me to identify it from the other devices Ledger offers. It asks if I want to configure the device (nope, already did it without assistance), watch video tutorials (no thanks, I’m the weirdo who prefers reading than watching a video), or install a Bitcoin Wallet, an Ethereum Wallet, or a Ripple Wallet.

Since I specifically bought Trezor Nano S because it’s the only hardware wallet that stores Ripple, I click “Install Ripple Wallet”. This page promotes the wallet’s benefits of being simple, free, fast, secure, and open source “so anyone can access the full source code to authenticate code paths and contribute to the development”. This statement makes me laugh. Do these techies REALLY believe that ANYONE “can access and authenticate” source code? I – and I dare say MOST HUMANS ON EARTH – can neither access nor authenticate ANY kind of code – “source” or otherwise. But I guess “open source” sounds like a plus so I’m “happy” it’s a “feature” of my wallet.

There’s a button to “download the Ripple App”. I’m not sure where I’m downloading it to – I guess it’s to the Nano S device. I really don’t trust my computer because I know where on the Internet it’s been…

I click to download the Ripple App. It prompts me to save it somewhere but my Nano S wallet is not a destination option. I noticed the device looks like it went dormant, so I unplug it from my computer and plug it back in. It livens up and prompts me to enter the PIN and to my amazement I input it correctly.

The device’s little LCD screen is showing icon’s I hadn’t previously seen on it: A Bitcoin symbol, an Ethereum symbol, and two I don’t recognize. I use the buttons to scroll to them and it says “Fido U2F” and “settings”. I keep scrolling and it circles back to Bitcoin. Ripple is not there.

On my computer I click to download the Ripple App, hoping it will load onto my wallet and not only my (old and abused) laptop. It asks me where I want to save the app and again my Nano S wallet is not an option. So I guess I am storing this wallet onto my sketchy computer. I recall one of the benefits of the Ledger Nano S is that it is safe to use even on a computer with malware. I would not be surprised at all if I have malware, so as much as I don’t like it, start downloading the wallet to my hard drive.

While I’m waiting for the app to download, I explore the “Settings” option of my Nano S. Under “Settings” it offers “Display”, “Security”, “Device”, “Assistance”, and “Quit App”.  I chose “Quit App” and it brought me back to where I saw the Bitcoin and Ethereum symbols. So I guess “Settings” is an “App”? I went back into “Settings” and chose “Display” – this lets you adjust the LCD’s brightness, rotate the screen, or invert the colors. I didn’t want to do any, so I scrolled to “Back” and pressed both buttons to return to the previous menu. Now I selected “Security” which offers “Auto-lock”, “Change PIN” (oh good! I get a second chance if I think up a better one), “Shuffle PIN” (I have no idea what this means or how it would work), and “Passphrase” (which we now know means the sequence of 24 words that make the recovery key for this device). I don’t want to mess with any of these, so I scroll to “Back” and press both buttons. The next option is “Device” which offers “Firmware” (ugh, I don’t want to tinker with that) and “Reset all” (scary, no thanks). I choose “Back” and try the last option which is “Assistance”. I can’t image how much “assistance” a 3/8” by 1” screen can offer. I pushed both buttons and it displayed the following: “To get assistance, contact Ledger support.” Um, why even bother?? No phone number, no Web site. Seems like a waste of firmware (am I using that word right?). I pushed a button to scroll to the “Back” option but there wasn’t one! So I pushed both buttons and then it displayed help.ledgerwallet.com so I guess that’s the “more information” information. But I still don’t know how to leave this screen. I push both buttons again and now an email appears: help@ledgerwallet.com. I push both buttons again and it brings me back to the previous menu. It’s weird that that one screen doesn’t follow the same rhythm as the others. I scroll to “Quit App” and push both buttons.

After my tour of the LCD offerings, I noticed my Ripple App failed to download completely. It would have been nice if it warned me the file is 49MB. It would be a miracle if my dodgy internet could handle that. I’ll have to go to a WeWork to download it.

I went to WeWork and it downloaded in about 2 seconds. I downloaded the Ripple Wallet, the Bitcoin Wallet and the Ether Wallet. I think the Bitcoin Wallet and Ether Wallet are already installed on the Nano S device, but I didn’t want to have to go back to WeWork in case it wasn’t, so I downloaded them since I was in the presence of excellent Internet connectivity. They weren’t programs, they were “Chrome Extensions”. I’m not sure what the difference is, but they didn’t download a file to my desktop that I had to launch.

In my haste to get to WeWork, I forgot to bring my Nano S device with, so I have to go back home to finish setting it up.

Back home, I plugged in my Nano S device, then launched the Ripple Wallet program. I wasn’t happy to see the warning about the publisher not being verified and asking if I really want to open it. I clicked YES and ran the download. When it finished downloading, it asked me to click a FINISH button, then launched the Ledger Wallet Ripple program. It showed up as a separate program window in my application tray beside my Web browsers, but the screen was empty. My Nano S went to sleep, so I had to click the buttons and enter the PIN to wake it up.

On the Nano S’s tiny screen, it told me to “Use Wallet to View Accounts”. I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I clicked both buttons. That didn’t do anything. So I just clicked the Right button and scrolled through until I saw “Quit App”. I didn’t know I was in an App, so I selected it. Then I could scroll through the options of Bitcoin, Ethereum, Fido U2F, and Settings. There was no Ripple option which really bummed me out. I checked the Ripple program screen and it was still blank. When in doubt, I close programs and re-launch them. I also unplugged the Nano S and plugged it back in again. It prompted me to unlock the device and enter its PIN. I launched the Ripple program on my computer and its window said to launch the Ripple App on my device. It appears the Ripple App is not loaded on my device. I thought downloading the wallet to my desktop would also put it on my Nano S device since it was plugged in, but apparently not.

It appears I need to download the “Ledger Manager Program” to my computer which will enables the Ripple App to be loaded onto the Nano S device.

I thought this meant I had to go back to WeWork to download this program but I checked and it’s a Chrome Extension, which is only about 2 MB – a size my (terrible) home Internet can handle. I downloaded the extension and it showed up in my Chrome browser on the page chrome://apps/

I woke up my Nano S, then double-clicked on the Ledger Manager icon on chrome://apps/ and a new program window opened, listing all of the crypto currency wallets Ledger offers for the Nano S: Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, Dogecoin, Ethereum, Fido U2F, Komodo, LiteCoin, Stratus, Zcash, Hello, Ripple, PoSW, Ark, Ubiq, Expanse, PIVX, Stealthcoin, Vertcoin, Viacoin, Neo, Bitcoin Gold, Stellar, Digibite, Hcash, and Qtum.

I clicked on the down arrow beside Ripple. My Nano S screen asked me to confirm allowing the Ledger Manager to access it. I clicked the button with the checkmark. The little LCD said it’s processing for about 2 seconds and then went back to the regular menu showing the Bitcoin symbol. I used the button to scroll and saw it now has a Ripple icon. I guess it installed in about 2 seconds. So now I have a Ripple Wallet on my Nano S. I now have to launch its desktop wallet to transfer my Ripple off of Kraken and into the Nano S.

But first, I want to install the Stellar wallet since that’s a baby coin I want to buy (read about my Baby Coin Fever here). I went back to the Leger Manager window and clicked the down arrow beside Stellar. This time the Nano S didn’t prompt me to allow the Ledger Manager to access it. It didn’t even say it was downloading the wallet. I scrolled past the Ripple wallet, and the Stellar wallet was magically on the tiny LCD screen.

Now I’m ready to load Ripple and baby coins onto the safety of my Ledger Nano S hardware wallet. But first, here is a clean and clear set of instructions I made on how to set up the Ledger Nano S hardware wallet so you can do it without the frustration.

Baby Coin Fever

Now that the major coins are priced in the hundreds, thousands, and teen-thousands, there’s a lot of excitement about the “baby coins” – cryptocurrencies that are under $10 and often under $1. Currently there are almost 2000 baby coins, and that number is growing exponentially. I’ve been following four specific baby coins: Stellar (XLM), Tronix (TRX), Cardano (ADA), and Po.et (POE).

Since these coins are so cheap, it’s thrilling to be able to buy a lot of them, and anticipate they appreciate by factors of thousands. The challenge is that few of these baby coins are traded on the main exchanges (Coinbase or Kraken) or if they are on a main exchange, you can’t buy them for USD, only for Bitcoin. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know I’m not interested in using my Bitcoin because I believe it will continue to appreciate – some forecast to $40,000, $60,000, $100,000 or even $1 million. Last spring people laughed when Bitcoin was forecast to reach $5,000 by December 2017, and it surpassed $5K by October.

I (stupidly) bought a quarter Bitcoin (at its peak price – read all about my lapse in good judgement here) to make whole my beloved Bitcoin that reduced to 0.995 when I moved it from Kraken into a hardware wallet.

To purchase baby coins, you need to use an exchange that trades more obscure coins. Some of those exchanges have bad reputations – they let you deposit but won’t let you withdraw, essentially holding your funds and/or coins captive. Not to stereotype, but this complaint is common for many Russian exchanges. One exchange that seems to have a decent reputation is Binance.

Signing up for Binance was simple – provide an email address and password. They email a confirmation message to you, you confirm through the email, and you’re in. Binance has a fun CAPCHA method – you use a slider to fit a puzzle piece into its empty space. Once in Binance, the user interface isn’t as friendly as Kraken (and I found Kraken confusing at first).

Binance does not support fiat currency (i.e. won’t let you link a bank account to deposit fiat currency). You need to already have cryptocurrency from another exchange (like Kraken) to trade crypto-to-crypto. I don’t want to further fracture my beloved Bitcoin, but I am willing to sacrifice one Ethereum for a baby-coin buying spree.

Having transferred coins from Kraken to my hardware wallet, I had some comfort level of sending a coin from Kraken to Binance. I logged into Kraken, clicked the FUNDING tab, clicked the WITHDRAW tab, the clicked ETHER where it asked me to set up a destination wallet. I toggled over to Binance to find the Ethereum wallet address for my Binance account. You scroll through the LONG list of coins until you see ETH. Then you click on the DEPOSIT button on the far right of the coin’s row. This brings ETH Deposit Address field WHICH WAS BLANK.  I googled “how to send ETH to Binance” and it basically told me to do what I already did. After a few more tries, an address code appeared in the field. I still have no idea what I did to make it appear. When I figure it out, I will write an entry about how to do it because I can’t be the only person perplexed by this process.

I copied the address from Binance into Kraken and saved. Kraken sent me a confirmation email to ensure I did indeed set up an Ethereum wallet to send coins to. I confirmed it, and was able to send 1 whole Ether (which actually ends up being 0.995 ETH because Kraken takes a 0.05 commission).

The blogs and YouTubers all claim that Ether is pretty fast to transfer into Binance. I beg to differ. FOURTY MINUTES passed before my transfer was even ACKNOWLEDGED by Binance. Note I said “acknowledged” not “confirmed”. It took 57 minutes for Kraken to recognize the transfer a success, but Binance still had not confirmed the transfer. I kept checking Binance’s “Deposit History” page and eventually noticed a weird number changing. Forty minutes into waiting for the transfer to confirm, I the message noticed “32/30 Confirming”.  Fifteen minutes later the message was “83/30 Confirming”. Five minutes later it was “95/30 Confirming”. I really hoped it only goes up to 100/30. Two minutes later it showed “Deposit Completed”. An HOUR AND FIFTEEN MINUTES lapsed to successfully transfer the Ether.

At first I clicked the EXCHANGE button on Ethereum’s row next the “DEPOSIT” and “WITHRAWAL” buttons, but that only gave the option of trading ETH for BTC or USD, not trade ETH for a baby coin. So I clicked on the “Exchange” link at the top left of the screen. This gave me the option to choose BASIC or ADVANCED. When given the option, I always default to BASIC.

The BASIC screen looks not very basic to me. It’s a lively screen of graphs, charts, tables and other colorful informatics. The far left of the screen lets you choose BTC, ETH, BNB, USDT and lists a ton of what look like baby coins. I clicked on ETH and the baby coins display their trade ration to ETH. Mercifully it provides a “search” field so you don’t have to scroll through the multitudes of coin offerings.

My first search was XLM which is trading for 0.00097550 ETH. Then I found TRX trades for 0.000115 ETH. ADA trades at 0.00131 ETH. And POE trades at 0.000125 ETH.

Binance has a cool feature that lets you trade 25%, 50%, 75%, or 100% of whatever you’re funded with. In my case, it was the 0.995 ETH. I believed that saved me the ass-ache of calculating 0.995 ETH into quarters. Since I wanted to buy 4 baby coins, I chose to use 25% for each. The graphs showed the prices rising rapidly for all 4 of them, so I just clicked BUY one after the other. I didn’t know if any of my buy requests succeeded, I kept clicking the coins I wanted a pushing the BUY button. Then I clicked the ORDERS link at the top of the page to see which transactions completed successfully.

I clicked ORDERS then TRADE HISTORY and saw that my requests were “processed”, but I couldn’t tell if that meant the purchases were successful. I clicked on ORDERS then OPEN ORDERS and saw I had no open orders which I took as a good sign. Then I clicked on ORDERS > ORDER HISTORY and that showed all of my orders had a status of “Filled” which was comforting. I really like the idea of having no leftover funds to deal with.

I clicked back onto the FUNDS link at the top right of the screen to see if my balances appear for XLM, TRX, ADA, and POE. It shows I have over 2,104.893 TRX; 795.204 POE; 185.814 XLM; 107.892 ADA. But it also shows I have 0. 31547862 ETH! I thought I spent all of my ETH buying 25% of these 4 baby coins. It appears I don’t actually understand Binance’s trading platform.

It took about an hour of thinking before I realized the “25%” option didn’t spit my 0.995 ETH into quarters. Only my first trade was 25% of 0.995 ETH. My next trade was 25% of the remaining 75% of my 0.995 ETH and the trade after that was 25% of the remainder of the previous trade, etc. So each trade was for less ETH than the last. So I guess I really do have to do the math myself and decide how much Ether to spend on the remaining 3 coins. I don’t have the mathematical fortitude to calculate the differences to make an even distribution. I divided my remaining 0.31547862 ETH into thirds to allocate to POE, XLM, and ADA. That means 0.10515954 of an Ether for each.

In the trading interface there is no way to input the amount of ETH you want to spend, you can only input the amount of a coin you want to buy. So I typed in some random numbers and watched the amount of ETH it would cost until it got close to 0.10515954. When I used the rest of my ETH to buy the balance of my baby coins, I clicked back over to FUNDS >DEPOSITS WITHDRAWALS to see my balances. As I suspected, the amount of TRX didn’t change because I already bought 25% of my ETH. The balance of XLM was up, and ADA was up, but it still showed I had 0.10718 of Ether left! I clicked on ORDERS > OPEN ORDERS and saw that my POE purchase is still pending. I clicked back to FUNDS > DEPOSITS WITHDRAWALS and confirmed that my amount of POE did not increase by 813. I’m wondering if I should cancel it and try again or just leave it. What I find curious is Binance has warnings about XLM and ADA trading being heavy and possibly delayed, but those transactions cleared immediately. My poor POE is stuck in purgatory. I check the trading platform again and notice that POE is trading at 0.0014 now, and my purchase was for 0.0013. I tried to cancel the order at least a dozen times so I could raise the buy price, but every attempt to cancel the transaction failed. Then Binance went offline for “system upgrades”. Part of me believes I broke Binance with my constant refreshing. I need to step away from the screen. I hope the price dips so the purchase can clear.

It’s exciting to imagine getting in on the ground floor of what could be the next big coin. While I wait for my POE transaction to complete, I need to finally set up my Ledger Nano S hardware wallet to store these Baby Coins safely off the Internet.

A Bitter Story About A Quarter Bitcoin

I’m embarrassed to admit how much my fractured Bitcoin impacted my psyche – especially as Bitcoin approached $20,000 in early December. When my Bitcoin was whole, I knew how much I had: whatever its valuation was, that’s what I was holding. Now I had to calculate the current price by 0.995 and it disturbed me beyond reason. A well-adjusted person would just round-up and live their life. I’m just not calibrated like that.

As soon as I received a Christmas bonus, I wired it to my Kraken account. At almost $20K, I couldn’t buy a whole Bitcoin, but I could buy a fraction to make it whole once more.

The rational part of my brain said “Use this $5K to buy Ripple – it’s almost a dollar and seems to be increasing a dime a day”. Another part of my brain said “Didn’t you read Ethereum is under-valued? It’s still around $500 – you could buy 10 of them! And if it does go up, you’ll enjoy 10X the profits”.

But the lizard part of my brain said “MAKE MY BITCOIN WHOLE AGAIN”. So I spent $ $4,688.40 USD on 0.25 BTC, which I figured should be enough to preserve its wholeness even if I transfer it a few more times.

Then I felt guilty and used the remaining $298.60 to buy 391 Ripple for $0.76 each.

Not 2 weeks later, Bitcoin fell to $14K, and Ripple doubled to $1.25.

Why oh why will I never learn. It was that same voice that insisted I buy Bitcoin in December 2016 when it was $700 (which I regrettably ignored) that said to buy Ripple instead of Bitcoin with my Christmas bonus. If I listened the first time, that $700 would have grown 20X IN ONE YEAR. And if I listened to that voice regarding my Christmas bonus, and invested the $5K in Ripple, it would have doubled WITHIN A FORTNIGHT. But I followed my emotions and ignored my senses.

When Ripple reached $3, it was small comfort knowing my $298 was now worth almost $1,000, because the masochist in me also calculated the $5,000 I didn’t invest in Ripple could have bought me another whole Bitcoin. Did I mention Ethereum ended up doubling in value too? So that $5000 could have been $10,000 by now.

I need to teach that sensible voice in my head to punch me when I ignore it.

Does anyone else have a bitter Bitcoin story they’d like to share?

The Price of Impulsiveness

It took me 4 years to finally buy into Bitcoin. During this time, I learned about alt coins. Alt coins were hundreds of dollars at the most – much more palatable for my budget than the almost $4,000 Bitcoin I finally bought.  The day I bought my 1 Bitcoin, I bought a bunch of alt coins. I didn’t want to procrastinate and get priced out of them the way I almost got priced out of buying Bitcoin. (Read my Bitcoin-buying procrastination sob story here.) I learned the hard way that “panic buying” is not a good strategy. Some of my alt coins appreciated, some held at their purchase price, but some nosedived.

I really thought I did my homework. I wanted to diversify my crypto-portfoio to reap as many gains as possible. I used the money that wasn’t sufficient to buy a second Bitcoin to buy the alt coins Bitcoin Cash, Monero, Dash, Ethereum, Litecoin, ZCash, and Ripple.

Bitcoin Cash was created on August 1, 2017 as an offshoot of Bitcoin to make transactions faster. Anyone with Bitcoin on August 1, 2017 suddenly also owned Bitcoin AND Bitcoin Cash. (You can read why I did not own Bitcoin on August 1 here.)  I assumed the swift climb of Bitcoin’s valuation would happen to its twin Bitcoin Cash. Within 2 weeks its price bounced erratically between $200 and $400. In late August it shot up to almost $800. The first 2 weeks of September it was in the $500’s. I bought in mid-September, believing it would continue to climb. What a mistake. Within a week, Bitcoin Cash declined dramatically. It turns out I bought at the top and it may never reach that price again. For all of October it was worth about 60% what I paid for it. The lesson here is to not buy something that’s only a few months old. There’s not enough data to make an informed decision. And don’t buy something that everyone else got for free. Fortunately I only bought 1. Now that it’s November, Bitcoin Cash is valued $50 MORE than what I paid for it. So I have to amend my “lesson learned” to “hold your nose and hope for the best”.

Monero seemed like the next big thing: quick transaction processing and true anonymity (Bitcoin only provides pseudoanonymity).  In 2016, Monero saw incredible gains. I wanted to ride the swift and steep rise I missed with Bitcoin. Monero’s price peaked in early September at almost $150. I bought it a week or so later on the downswing at just under $100. In my enthusiasm, I bought a bunch of Monero. Now it’s holding at around $88, still less than what I paid. I wish I only bought 1, or waited until its price flattened.

Dash seemed promising too. It is another truly anonymous alt coin. I followed its climb to $387 in August and figured it looked like Bitcoin-like opportunity to ride the upswing to double-digit gains. It turns out that August price was the peak. I bought at less than its peak price, but its valuation has since declined. I’m losing about $30 a piece on Dash. If I looked at its performance curve before buying, I would have followed its inclination a little more before committing.

Ethereum enjoyed the most news coverage of all alt coins. Its blockchain is the foundation of “smart contracts” which promises to revolutionize government issued ID, legal contracts, and supply chain tracking. In 2016 Ethereum traded for around $10. In the summer of 2017, it skyrocketed to $371, then fell to $150 in mid-July, then climbed again to $386 September 1, then dipped to $250 in mid-September. I bought on the upswing at just under $300. It’s been bouncing around the low $300’s. I’m glad I didn’t buy at a spike, but I wished I would have waited to buy in at a dip. I’m not losing but my impatience did miss on some great potential gains.

Litecoin was developed by the eggheads at MIT, so I figured they knew how to build a robust, revolutionary digital currency. Litecoin wasn’t expensive and I splurged on a handful of them. To date, the price hasn’t changed much. I’m glad it’s not losing value, but I’m disappointed it’s not appreciating either. I didn’t have to enter the market when I did, and I could have used my funds to buy something that was appreciating, like ZCash.

ZCash offers privacy and selective transparency in some transactions. It claims to provide extra security compared to other digital cash. All I know is it’s the only Alt Coin that was a good buy at the time. In the spring it was under $100 but I bought in the fall for under $200. To date ZCash gained about $30 each.  I wish I bought twice as many as I did.

Ripple has been a fun experiment. Ripple’s stated goal is to see “big companies lose their control over the flow of other people’s money just as they’ve lost control over the flow of information.” I personally would enjoy witnessing the demise of big banks that constantly rip me off with countless fees. Ironically, Ripple is backed by Google, a big company itself. At 18-cents each, I bought a shit load of Ripple and felt like a kingpin. When its price soared 10 cents, I reveled in my genius. It has since fallen back to my original purchase price. I’ve stopped reveling.

Enthusiasm and FOMO drove my alt coin purchases. I should have exercised restraint and bought based on fact and reason instead of emotion. I expect over time most or all of these currencies will appreciate, but I could have made my money work harder. Next time I have funds to play the crypto market, I’ll be smarter and hopefully see stronger returns.

What alt coins have you invested or dabbled in? Share what you would have done differently with the clarity of hindsight.

The Price of Procrastination (But Alas…)

Procrastination hurt me in my Bitcoin purchase. I wanted to buy in at $44. I meant to buy in at $500, then at $700. I tried to buy in at $2,000, and I ended up buying in at $3,909.

The first time I heard about Bitcoin it was $44. Research indicates that must have been January/February of 2013. I probably read about it in a waiting room’s Wired magazine. I remember thinking “I should buy 10 Bitcoins”. But at that time, $440 was a lot (my spouse and I had 2 babies and were recovering from the Great Recession). I don’t know why I came up with “10” and not “1” or “5” which would have been more economically reasonable at the time.

Also, back then I wasn’t sure WHAT I would be purchasing if I bought Bitcoin. I assumed I would get a physical object like a casino chip. I also wasn’t clear on WHERE or HOW to buy. I think I googled it and saw there were informal peer-to-peer networks but I wasn’t thrilled about meeting a stranger and handing over hard earned dollars for something I couldn’t validate to be legitimate. There’s something unsettling about spending money on a coded series of numbers that you can’t hold in your hand. So I did nothing. And Bitcoin became more valuable. And I hated that I didn’t buy any.

In 2014, the biggest Bitcoin exchange was Mt. Gox, and it got hacked. All Bitcoins at that exchange were lost.  I felt an odd sense of relief at this news. I was sure that if I had bought Bitcoin, I would have bought them through the biggest exchange. By NOT buying Bitcoin, I prevented myself from losing my $440 worth of Bitcoin. I was smart to procrastinate – or so I thought at the time. Here’s a fun fact: I finally bought in at $3,909.  So even if I did lose all 10 coins in 2014, and purchased them again at the 2014 price, I still would have been far better off. But alas…

In 2015 Bitcoin was $300 – $400, and I thought our family business should start accepting Bitcoin payments. I planned to write a press release about it. It was really a publicity stunt to differentiate us from competitors, but I figured before issuing this press release, we should actually have an account to accept Bitcoins in case someone wants to exercise that option. As you can guess, I never got around to creating an account to accept Bitcoin, so I never wrote that press release. I’m sure I would have bought some Bitcoins at $300 or $400 (probably 10 since that’s my preferred number) and they would have appreciated ten-fold. But alas…

Around 2015-2016, I started following Twitter accounts @CoinDesk, @Cointelegraph, and @WorldCoinIndex to study valuation fluctuation trends. I also became familiar with altcoins like Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero.

During the summer of 2016 amid the Hillary/Trump presidential campaigns, I felt a strong urge to invest in Bitcoin. I still wasn’t sure how to do it, but I saw there was a “Bitcoin Center” a few miles from me that offered information sessions and a “Bitcoin ATM”. I meant to attend an info session but didn’t. I liked the idea of an ATM but I wasn’t sure what it gave you. It would have taken little effort to travel the few miles to go check it out, but I did not. And the price of Bitcoin continued to climb.

After the surprising win of Donald Trump, the voice in my head screamed BUY BITCOIN NOW. The price was around $600 or $700. I was still fixated on buying 10 Bitcoins, and I had $7,000 available, but I was conflicted: I wasn’t broke like in 2013, but $7,000 is a lot of money if it turns out to be a bad investment. How would I tell my kids they can’t take gymnastics lessons anymore because I poorly invested our discretionary funds?  My spouse wasn’t following this market and maybe wouldn’t object to this investment, but I sure as hell would hear about it for the rest of my life if this lark of mine went wrong.

One morning about a week before Trump’s inauguration, I woke up determined to withdraw $7,000 cash and buy 10 Bitcoins from that Bitcoin ATM. But then I had to join a last minute conference call, and then I wanted lunch, and then it was cold out and  I had second thoughts about the 5% ATM fee because I’d have to take out MORE than $7,000 and that seemed excessive,  etc. etc. etc. So I didn’t do it.

After Trump’s inauguration, Bitcoin jumped from $800 to $1,000, then climbed to $1,200. Week after week I watched in horror as the valuation continued to rise. “When it gets back to $1,000 I’ll buy 10,” I said to myself. It never went back to $1,000. In May it reached $2,000. I couldn’t believe how quickly it rose. I hated that I didn’t buy at $700 or $800. I would have more than doubled my money in less than 6 months. Now I’m late to the party and need to spend more to get less.

In June I committed to buy at $2,000, bitter about not using the Bitcoin ATM to buy in at $700. The 5% fee on $7,000 would have been only $350, which is a rounding error on the gains I could have made. But that was the past and this was the present. I was ready to buy Bitcoin THAT DAY in early June. I chose Coinbase for this transaction. I made a user name and password and was ready to go to my bank and finally get this transaction over with. It was then I learned buying your first Bitcoin online takes more than one day. I wrote about this fruitless experience in the post My First Bitcoin. To make a long story short, I was not able to buy in June at $2,000. I wasted a lot of time on Coinbase until I finally moved to a different platform (click here to read this sad tale). I finally bought my Bitcoin at $3,909.

Let’s do some fun calculations. At $3,909 I could have purchased almost 89 Bitcoins when they were $44. I could have just about purchased my 10 Bitcoins when they were $400 each. I could have purchased almost 2 Bitcoins just a few weeks sooner when they were $2,000 each. But I procrastinated and ended up buying 1 Bitcoin for $3,909. If I could kick my own ass I totally would.

Since purchasing, my solitary Bitcoin has increased almost 85% in value. Some analysts predict Bitcoin could reach $100,000. Some analysts predict it’s a bubble ready to burst. Obviously I’m hoping for the former to be true. But if the latter happens, I know I’ve spent the same amount of money on less interesting things, and at least I experienced a part of financial history first hand. I also learned that procrastination is expensive, and I should listen to that voice in my head when it’s screaming to do something.

Let me know about your Bitcoin buying adventures in the comments section. Are you kicking yourself for procrastinating? Or were you able to get in at a good price and ride the upswing?