The Motley Fool

Why I don’t want Bitcoin for Christmas

Don’t get me wrong — if anyone wants to give me anything that’s readily converted into coin of the realm, I’ll gratefully accept it. After all, a ‘thing’ that has increased in value from a little over $700 about a year ago to around $10,000 today is not something to turn your nose up at.

But I’d keep Bitcoin only for as long as it takes to sell it, and it would certainly never figure in my long-term investment plans.

That’s because companies producing things and providing services are the only entities that really create actual new wealth, and Bitcoin doesn’t generate a penny of it. If you invest in Bitcoin, you’re just betting on the exchange rate, and you’ll only win if you can find a so-called greater fool to buy it from you later at an even higher price.

Oh, and Bitcoin is not cheap to hold securely either (and it’s risky keeping it on your own computer, as technical failures could wipe you out.)

So what?

You might point out that people invest in conventional currency all the time. But I reckon that’s pretty much the same kind of thing as investing in Bitcoin (though a less risky version). And currency trading really is a pretty short-term activity, often just used for hedging against other business transactions that also involve exchange rates. And at least real-word currencies have actual economies to back them up, and some sort of rational intrinsic value does actually exist.

How about gold then? That doesn’t generate any new wealth either, but surely I wouldn’t class that in the same category as Bitcoin, would I? Well actually, I would. And again, that is because gold is not a productive asset. It does not generate any actual new wealth and just fulfils the role of a currency. Probably a lot less volatile than Bitcoin is likely to be, and it is a popular refuge in hard times, but it still doesn’t create new wealth.

Bubble

I always reckon it’s a mug’s game to try to time your entry into the market (as the old adage goes, it’s time in the market not timing the market that builds long-term wealth).

But I do have one rule of thumb that’s usually a good indicator for when it’s not time to buy something — it’s when taxi drivers, local tradespeople, or blokes down the pub get interested and start asking about it. When the excitement over a new investment fad reaches that far, there are no mugs left to sell to and keep the bubble inflating.

That’s exactly what happened to me back in the days of the dotcom bubble. When everyday folk, who never spend a minute in their daily lives thinking about investment, start being tempted by some get-rich-quick thing they’ve been hearing about from their mates, you know you’re in a bubble.

It’s happened every time. Tulip mania, the South Sea Bubble, and all the rest… gullible folk piled in and lost their shirts.

I’ve been asked about Bitcoin twice recently, once by a taxi driver and once by a local builder, the latter being one who’d previously asked me about dotcom stocks). I reckon it’s time to run away, before the bubble bursts.

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