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Generations in crypto: how Bitcoin and co. are becoming a family business


There was a time when teenagers would beg their parents to lend them a few hundred pounds to buy some weird internet thing called Bitcoin.

Nowadays, those former teenagers may either be sitting on a fortune or kicking themselves for the missed opportunity.

READ: What it means to be a young investor in 2021

Cryptocurrencies have now become more mainstream: a recent survey by comparison website Finder showed that 19% of UK residents owned some, compared to 3% in 2018.

The pandemic may have helped with that, as people stuck at home were looking for ways to improve their financial situation or embark on new projects.

Moreover, they can be traded from anywhere so they wouldn’t be hit by restrictions imposed by governments, making them more attractive.

“Investors fearing that a crisis will lead central banks or political actors to interfere in the market may prefer to switch their investments into the decentralised crypto market,” researchers at Columbia Law School noted.

“Because cryptocurrencies are not managed by a central entity but rather operate automatically, they can enable investors to hedge some of the political risk.”

Buoyed by interest from both retail investors and institutions, the value of Bitcoin and Ethereum has soared 566% and 84% respectively since May 2020, while Dogecoin has climbed nearly 10-fold in the past month alone after an unexpected surge in popularity.

Crypto is now eyed by people of all ages though it’s still favoured by the younger generations, as 85% of UK investors are aged below 44, according to a report by Gemini.

In fact, over half of UK-based millennial and Gen Z investors trade in cryptocurrencies, according to research from Charles Schwab, and the 18-37 demographic is 25% more likely to buy those rather than the good old equities.

Even so, it seems that it’s becoming a family business as traders report on their gains at the dinner table.

Proactive has spoken to crypto investors of different ages to understand how they have become trailblazers within their families.

From ‘no’ to ‘build me a mine’

George*, a 20-year-old student in Bristol, is one of these. He’s had a long story of asking his parents for some money to invest, starting in 2015 and receiving a ‘no’.

“I attempted to get them to allow me to buy crypto for the next year, then I finally got through. I bought £250 worth of BTC in 2016 (0.5 BTC valued at £22,000 by today’s figures),” he told Proactive.

“Now both of my parents still wanted nothing to do with crypto despite me telling my dad this would one day be the future currency. I can’t blame him as I was only a child.”

He tried again in 2017, showing his dad a chart where Bitcoin had reached US$2,000 for the first time ever but his dad replied that “that’s probably the highest it’ll be”.

Last year, George’s dad finally changed his mind and asked him how he could start mining Bitcoin. He has been managing his dad’s assets ever since and he is eyeing to make £50,000 a year.

Done with silver

But sometimes it can be the other way round: that’s the case of David*, a UK-based doctor in his 40s.

Instead of money, his 70-something father had been asking for advice, for example with identification checks on Binance.

 “He has done well with silver using over the years (especially in 2011). I too have done well speculating in silver using BullionVault over the last year. Given that the spot price of silver has peaked, crypto looks attractive,” David told Proactive.

“We sold our BullionVault silver at the top of the market and so were open to the next opportunity. Others in the PM community were talking about crypto so I started looking into it. My father then encouraged us (as my wife was more nervous), by making us a small gift to invest. He also welcomed my assistance with getting set up.”

Making up for lost time

Alexandra*, a 48-year-old self-employed Colorado resident, has been “trying to make up for lost time” with crypto with her mother, but her father won’t jump on board.

“He’s conservative in investments – meaning cryptocurrencies, for example, are too unknown, too new and too risky for him. Which is completely understandable,” she told Proactive.

A very profitable decision

Conor Houlihan, a 29-year-old living in Brighton, is a ‘Popular Investor’ on trading app eToro through a programme where successful users share their expertise, and seemingly in his family.

“My mum listened to me and a few years ago bought bitcoin on my recommendation – which has turned out to be a very profitable decision. As a result, she trusts my outlook on societal trends, and regularly calls me to discuss investment ideas – such as space exploration or driverless vehicles,” he said.

Safety first

In all this, experts continue to warn of the potential risks and encourage traders to continue educating themselves.

“We want young people to invest – in their pensions and for their families’ futures. But we want them to think long and hard about it, do their research and take the time and effort to understand things like risk from different types of asset classes,” said Becky O’Connor, head of pensions and savings at interactive investor.

“Most young people don’t have money to burn – so potentially throwing it away on high-risk investments is a big waste when there are so many life challenges down the road for them that they might need that cash for. Developing self-awareness about your own individual risk tolerance and composure is also really important.” 

*Some names have been changed

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