Why I Don’t Care About Bitcoin Hitting $11,000

The man who started it all!
James Marshall was born in New Jersey on October 8th, 1810. The eldest of four, Marshall would soon leave New Jersey – heading west like so many young men looking for a better life.

He would settle in Missouri, farming on the Missouri River, until he contracted malaria. That would prompt a move even farther west, to Oregon, where the air was better. His stay in Oregon would be brief, as he moved south to work at Sutter's Fort in California.

John Sutter hired Marshall, who was a carpenter, to help build the sawmill at Sutter's Fort.

On January 24th, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold in the American River and kicked off the California Gold Rush.

In 1849, 90,000 people moved to California.

By 1855, it's estimated that over 300,000 had moved to the golden state.

I love reading about the Gold Rush because it's a common story that repeats itself. There's a discovery of riches and then people flock to it.

It's oft said that the only people who make money in those situations are the ones selling the pickaxes and the shovels.

It's because we don't talk about the thousands of people who died on their way to the gold rush. We don't talk about the financial catastrophes – folks who sold all their possessions to make their way out west but had to turn back as paupers. We also don't talk about the impact on Native Americans. Those stories don't sell newspapers.

But when I see stories of Bitcoin, I'm reminded of the dark side of the Gold Rush. It's just the latest chapter in speculative investments, maybe minus potential death.

You may have read in the news recently about Bitcoin's value reaching $11,000. I periodically get reader emails reminding me that it touched $11,000. And how they told me to get in when it was an eye-popping $3,000!

I'll tell you why I watch from the sidelines in fascination but will never join in.

I Don't Want Another Job

Bitcoin just hit $11,000 intraday and people are losing their minds. Here's why I don't care about Bitcoin and why it's just another speculative fad.Trading Bitcoin is like day trading stocks. It's another job.

Did you want another job? If you want to make money, you have to do more than read mainstream news articles and open an account on Coinbase. You have to read industry publications, get in the trenches with folks who are intimately involved, and you have to study a lot.

Do you have the time for that? If yes, get after it. If not, do you really want to dabble? Because it's still the Wild West in there.

Do I Have An Edge?

Day trading anything is gambling. You are relying on whatever edge you can develop in your process to win out over time. Day traders and card counters have systems they believe have a positive expected value.

My friend Colin runs Blackjack Apprenticeship, a Blackjack card counting course, and the key to success is understanding the system and lots and lots of practice. He used to be on a card counting team, which is where you get the edge. There's a reason casinos will let you count cards but they will not let you play on a team – casinos aren't there to day trade.

Professionals have a level of sophistication that novices can't imagine. That's who you are up against.

People Steal Bitcoins

Your money is pretty safe. It's rare that someone breaks into your bank or brokerage account and steals your money (and you have no recourse).

Bitcoin has no owner. Bitcoins get stolen all the time.

In several years, after all these thefts, it will become secure. Right now, theft is far more common than traditional financial institutions.

Bitcoin Makes a Weak Store of Value

Gold is meant to be a store of value. If everything goes into the crapper, you could bring that gold, in theory, to another country with a stable government and get fiat currency to spend. This theory works well except you forget we live in the most powerful country in the world.

I can't see a world where the United States Government is gone but there's another stable government that will let me and my gold in. Or will care about gold.

Say hello to my little friend
That said – even if that transpires, I can't imagine a world where there's stable electricity and my Bitcoin can be spent. It's hard to run a blockchain if we don't have power.

Bullets are a better store of value than Bitcoin.

Don't Chase the Dragon

“Don't chase the dragon” is a phrase first used by addicts to talk about chasing the high. When I use it, I mean chasing the money. This is not a long-term strategy and so it's not sustainable. That's fine for a little bit of fun – but you will not build long-term wealth this way.

You will continually have to find the next hot commodity and hope you get it right more than you get it wrong.

What's better? Find the boring turtle (I'm talking about passive income investments!) that'll get you rich slowly.

I like time-tested, working, low effort wealth building

Slow and steady wins the race. Bitcoin is sexy, it's hot, and if you made a few bucks in it – fantastic!

But I want slow and steady. I want to contribute to my funds at Vanguard on a regular basis, rebalance every six months or so, and then move on. The stock market isn't infallible but it's also been around for many many years and it's very mature.

What Is Worth Studying About Bitcoin

Bitcoin is great! I'm so glad it's here for several reasons.

Study the fervor around Bitcoin because this happens all the time. Mainstream media craves news and the hottest financial news is Bitcoin and other blockchain technologies. This happened with the dot com boom, housing market, and so many other bubbles. Is Bitcoin a bubble? No idea, I don't care, but the news is covering it like it is.

Companies having their own initial coin offering (ICO) is fascinating. This is when a company offers their own cryptocurrency (coins), leveraging similar technologies, to raise money.

Blockchain and smart contracts is a great technological innovation. The best way to learn about it is this Tim Ferriss podcast with Nick Szabo. It's meaty but if you really want to understand it, it's explained quite well in that podcast interview.

Finally, watch how your friends and family react. I'm not saying sitting on the sidelines is the right way to react. I'm not saying selling everything you own and throwing it into a cryptocurrency is the wrong way to react. But studying how the people around you react will give you a sense of their temperament… and that's always useful. 🙂

What do you think about Bitcoin?

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Jim Wang

About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a thirty-something father of three who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools,, everything I use) is Personal Capital, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

He is also diversifying his investment portfolio by adding a little bit of real estate. But not rental homes, because he doesn't want a second job, it's diversified small investments in a few commercial properties and a farm in Illinois via AcreTrader.

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  1. Lazy Man and Money says

    I care about Bitcoin, but not in the recent media hype. Back in June of 2011, I wrote an article asking if it was the future of money. (Unfortunately I didn’t buy any Bitcoins.)

    I thought it had potential because everything sounded great in theory. With more than 6 years of maturing, the general concept hasn’t changed. So I still think it could be the future of money.

    I don’t think it makes much sense to speculate on it or gamble on it going up and down like a daytrader. However, if there’s some safe way to buy $50 worth of bitcoins (you can own fractions) a month then I don’t see the harm in it. The idea would be to buy and hold over the long haul…. years. It’s risky as it could have very little value in the future. However, at least by dollar cost averaging in slowly you aren’t buying in at $11,000 and watching a lot of money disappear if it goes to $6,000 next week when the media moves onto the next thing.

    It’s interesting to read the comments from 2011 as many predictions have been very, very accurate – https://www.lazymanandmoney.com/bitcoins-the-future-of-money-or-end-of-the-world/.

    • Jim Wang says

      The technology hasn’t changed a significant amount but I think its application as matured, like companies using ICOs for fundraising. The tech supporting it (where to hold it, wallets, etc.) has gotten easier for the layperson (like me) to get involved too. Still not for me. 🙂

  2. Fred says

    I have a small investment in bitcoin (and some bitcoin stocks) because I wanted to learn more about cryptocurrency and the whole purchasing process (it is complicated and a major hassle, and it’s expensive, no matter what anyone may claim.) I’ve limited my ownership to way less than one percent of my portfolio.
    I believe that the company that figures out how to invest in and/or use cryptocurrencies in a simple seamless manner with very minimal cost with be the stock to invest in.

  3. Matt says

    Jim – I don’t care about bitcoin either. I’m perplexed by the fact that people think it’s an investment that will make them rich. Why do they think this? There’s no cashflow or earnings behind it that would warrant value. I don’t get it but maybe I’m not cool 🙂

    The WSJ had a pretty neat chart on the 12/1 edition that had different bubbles throughout history. The bitcoin bubble is by far the biggest one. Talk about parabolic! Now, I don’t think that it’s going to end bad for the overall economy. I just think that it’s a crazy fad that will crash and make a lot of people who bought bitcoin look bad.

    • Jim Wang says

      I think they get caught up in the hype. It’s easy to get excited. It’s fun to get excited. You get that rush and people start talking about it … so you feel like it’s inevitable. but it’s usually not. 🙂

      Bitcoin’s rise and volatility is tremendous. The fact that there’s no underlying asset to change hands makes the changes so fast too I think. There’s no anchor to anything tangible.

  4. Panda says

    Bitcoin vs the stock market, what does it tell us about a lot of Americans?

    It tells us that a shockingly large percentage of Americans possess no meaningful financial competence. I see endless comments about how the stock market is in a bubble, and that it will collapse at any second. At the same time, too many Americans are throwing their money away on Bitcoin, which has no inherent value.

    This country desperately needs to add financial literacy education to the school system. Being financially successful is not that hard in this country. (I started my adult life with first and last month’s rent, and food money to last a week, until I got my first paycheck. That kind of opportunity is still there, for the people who want it.)

    While being financially successful is not that hard in this country, it does require some basic knowledge, patience, and common sense. A lot of comments I see on this site appear to be from people who lack all three of those characteristics. It is no wonder that they are struggling to prosper.

    When Bitcoin collapses (and it will), you can be sure there will be an ocean of comments from people who lost money, blaming everyone but themselves. The world isn’t “rigged”. People simply do ridiculous things, and refuse to accept responsibility when doing the ridiculous fails.

  5. Aaron says

    You have raised a lot of good points here. Bitcoin’s inability to store value like gold is important for people to remember. I wish it was said more often. But while I’ve had some success with day trading, you are right in calling it “another job.” That is all it is at the end of the day. Nothing less.

  6. Steve-Oh says

    And here we are….three years later…..and Bitcoin is almost at 60k. All of you who have been talking about “intrinsic value” are missing the point. There’s also no “intrinsic value” in a dollar bill, an ounce of gold, or a share of stock ownership in a company. Dollars are just green paper, gold is just a soft metal with almost no practical use, and for retail investors, stock doesn’t actually buy you a part of a company. The aforementioned things only have value because we collectively believe that they do. We buy them with a specific fiat currency in the belief that they can be sold for a greater quantity of fiat currency in the future. In this sense, there is no difference between those assets and BTC.

    The easy-money printing press was running even when the economy was strong, and all but the most unsophisticated lay investor can see that the stock market is being buoyed by Fed accomodation as bond yields are decimated and fixed income investors are being forced further to the forefront of the risk frontier to chase yield. All things considered, Bitcoin seems to actually be far more sane than anything happening with the bonds, equities, or fiat currencies. When this mess unwinds, you’re going to want to have exposure to commodities and crypto in your portfolio.

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