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[flagged] What Happened to the Guys Who Invested Their Life Savings in Cryptocurrency? (melmagazine.com)
47 points by kaboro 38 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments



What's worse than losing your life savings, is those that made a huge profit on one coin, then traded that directly for another coin that then lost everything. The IRS considers that trade to be a liquidity event, and you owe taxes on the value difference (of the first coin) from when you bought to when you sold (even if it wasn't sold for cash). Now you could claim a loss on the second coin, but only if you sold it during the same year. If you sold it the next year, you can still claim it as a loss against future profits, but you still owe taxes on the original coin sale.

So now that you've lost everything, you still end up owing the IRS possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars.


> those that made a huge profit on one coin, then traded that directly for another coin that then lost everything.

It sounds like the article is mostly about those people: if you crunch the number the examples they give of people who are now wreaked purchased bitcoin at ~$3000. It's currently trading at over $10000.

(I suppose technically they could have just been day trading bitcoin, but given the price history it would have been somewhat difficult to lose money starting from a $3k price just by trading BTC/USD without additional leverage, except via taxes)


This is why anyone trading digital assets should use a tax tracker to understand the implications of each trade before they make it. I've spent some time building software for exactly this (https://cryptotax.tools).


Whats worse is that those who said, "maybe that's not a good idea" at the time were attacked six ways from Sunday and the same thing will happen the next time.


And even once they get burned, they don't understand what they did wrong. Instead of cashing out part of their stash for taxes (equiv. to the taxes owed on the coins they traded, plus the taxes owed on what they cashed out), they effectively went gambling with the government's money.


I though the whol point of these currencies was anonymity? If you never cashed out gains into a currency tied to you how would anyone know anything beyond the purhase?


Many exchanges report user's activity to the IRS.

Moreover, even if your tax authority wouldn't currently have a way to know-- the penalties for cheating can be very serious so it's in your best interest to comply with your obligations.

This is essentially how all income/gains tax works in the west: Governments have very limited ability to catch people, but they scale the penalties so that the risk from audits and whistle-blowing are enough so that most voluntarily comply. After all, cash is quite anonymous especially for small amounts.

If you're constrained to spend your money only in ways that could never be found in an audit or revealed by a spurned lover, did you ever really have that money in the first place?


These people are dead broke with hundreds of thousands in back taxes. Jail might look like room and board at that point. Given the only use they made of the gains was to purchase something that no longer exists, the risk v reward in their specific instance seems well tilted towards crime.


Surely blockchain currencies are the opposite of anonymous? All your transactions are publicly visible if you know where to look?


There are some projects, most notably Monero, which obscures transaction info.

But yes almost all cryptocurrencies are pseudo-anonymous, including Bitcoin.


Not necessarily, some claim more anonymity than others.


Bitcoin is over $10k last I checked. Unless you only bought it the short time Bitcoin peaked at $20k you probably haven't lost that much, unless you sold already.

It's the altcoins that continue to get crushed right now against bitcoin. Many are still hitting all time lows against bitcoin as bitcoin's dominance has increased (officially) to 70% of the total crypto marketcap but probably higher in reality.


What are your reasons for believing that the real ratio (bitcoin:total crypto) is higher than the official or "nominal" ratio?


A lot of crypto investors will say the same thing. I'm referencing the dominance on CoinMarketCap's website but in reality there's a lot of dead projects with basically no liquidity. CMC doesn't do anything special to filter those projects from the denominator, but if you identified those projects and removed them BTC would probably be at 75-80% or higher.


A slight counterpoint that a lot of crypto investors will point out is that BTC's marketcap is artificially inflated by Tether. Tether has been printing a lot of coins (highly likely without backing) which has gone directly to buying BTC, pushing it higher than other coins trading against fiat.

Marketcap is generally a pretty poor metric to use, as it can be gamed in various ways.


Can you explain how Tether can print coins at will but still pay out $1 USD per 1 Tether? If one can cash out, doesn't that mean it's accurately pegged to the buck?


Crypto caps are calculated by multiplying the price by the potentially circulating supply. In most cases there isn't enough liquidity to accommodate the biggest holders, so there isn't much actual circulation happening. If there was enough liquidity to unload this dormant supply, then the actual coin prices would be much lower.

Bitcoin doesn't really have this problem - the trading volumes are much higher and there is a healthy OTC market for huge trades.


Wonder what happened to those that invested in Bitcoin as soon as it made front page here in Hacker news. At that time it was selling like 40 cents for 10,000 coins, if I remember correctly.


I turned down a 3,000 bitcoin payment for a website I made in September 2011. I told the rather elderly man who suggested the exchange that I didn't accept "magic beans".


I spent about 10 bitcoins on a coffee.

I've talked to loads of people with the same sort of story. Truth is that I never believed BTC could be worth what it is and in a way I still don't. I think its valuation is ludicrous given its economic design issues and scaling problems.

My take away from the whole saga is that it's totally debunked any notion that I had that markets or their participants are rational. I honestly find it a bit depressing. Maybe I should give up trying to do useful work and invent the next pet rock fad.


I've spent several Bitcoins on pizza. I have no regrets; if nobody used the magic beans, nobody would be interested in them. In other words, if early-ish adopters hadn't "taken one for the team", we wouldn't be discussing Bitcoin now because it wouldn't exist.

In a way the person who bought that famous pizza for 10,000 Bitcoin only lost "wealth" that wouldn't have existed without the buzz generated by that transaction.


The problem is that this illustrates what's wrong with highly deflationary currencies. Who wants to spend a currency that could appreciate by over 10,000X if you just "hodl" it? That's why Bitcoin has actually been abandoned for a lot of commerce. Why spend it ever?


I would still spend it if it were easy. I bought my first Bitcoins when they were around 10 USD, so anything I buy is at one 1000th of the dollar price. Could it go to a 2000th? Yes, but apart from something huge like buying an apartment it would be hard to care about the difference.

But yes, this is not an answer that applies to deflationary currencies in general, nor to people who came later to Bitcoin than I did.

Edit: Although again, the only way Bitcoin can appreciate is if people do spend it. Tragedy of the commons.


3,000 magic beans == ~$60,000,000 USD at the peak

hindsight is 20/20, but wow...


They sold it when it hit 80 cents for 10,000 coins.


Yeah, I had at one time like 57 or something like that bitcoins, I losed them in a HDD failure (External hdd against the floor kind of failure xD) and if there is ocasion I tell to people about it because I like how they think I would have sold at the peak point and make more than a million dollars and then I break them reality saying that not, I would have sold them at... 50$? 100$? For all of them? It would have been an awesome profit and I didn't generate any income at that time so I would have SURELY sold at that price or even less. Its like thinking some people were idiots because they didnt invest in Apple, or Microsoft or Uber and that it was really clear and blah blah blah... And yeah, the next Apple is probably some startup starting now and you know what? They are not investing in it.


Yep. I once bought a VPN service for half a bitcoin.

Briefly considered generating more but didn't bother.

ooops.


I was one of those people. But sadly I only invested a few dollars. Sold it when it hit $800.


One thing I find interesting about this was the description of the people likely to borrow to invest.

>Borg told City Lab that they’re usually educated, with some assets in their portfolio, but are worried about their retirement. “They earn more than $60,000 a year, and have at least an adequate handle on technology,” reports CNBC.

I think this is very understandable from my perspective. I'm relatively young, smart and have a good job. I'm tech savvy, but I'm also numerate. Because I'm numerate I can look at the house I'd like to buy - it's £3/4/5m, I earn >£100k, but probably will never earn >£300k (numbers deliberately fuzzed for privacy reasons). So I look at my situation and say "I can never get to that house that I really want". It's not a mansion, it's just a nice detatched house in a good part of town.

From that perspective I completely understand this compulsion to start betting. The step from working middle class to comfortably well off is just an unimaginable step.


Unrealistic desires are not an excuse for betting, they're the exact reason not to bet. The road to the mansion is paved with the crippling debt of the less fortunate. Assuming you'll be the winner of a speculative bubble is not the numerate decision.


Those £3/4/5m houses are not affordable for the comfortably well off. They're for the very wealthy.

You can only be talking about London here because in most of the UK you can get a nice detached house in a good part of town for well under a million. Probably under half a million in most places.

Earning over £100k pa is also not "working class". You're earning several times the national average wage. If you're not feeling "comfortably well off" on somewhere between four and ten times the average wage, you might want to look at what you're doing with your money.


Surely a lot of people got burned ingesting in crypto but I know quite a few who made out like bandits as well. 7 and 8 figure payouts in their 20s and 30s


The key being they 'got out'. Most of the idiots on Reddit have convinced each other to bag-hold to the grave, if they stepped outside their echo chamber they'd see crypto is clearly dead for some time now.


But if you made 7 or 8 figures, then BTC being at 50% of it's all-time high still keeps you at approximately 7 or 8 figures.

Just saying that even if they didn't get out, they still did marvelously.


> crypto is clearly dead for some time now.

BTC went from 4000 USD six months ago to over 10 000 USD today.


All I can see is uneducated investors taking highly leveraged positions and feeling the inevitable pain when they didn't cover the possible downside.

A lesson to us all, absolutely. Know damn well what you're doing (and prepare accordingly) before you start trading with someone else's money.


I think we should hold our judgements for a bit longer. It is yet to be seen how the looming recession affects the cryptocurrency demand.


Most will probably liquidate their position.


probably the opposite will happen... if a lot of people lose confidence in the dollar


The judgments need to happen now. Holding our judgments is how people wound up being the one holding the bag. Everyone in their right mind knew that people investing into vaporware in the worst case or a speculative bubble in the best case were going to get burned on average.


Probably investing all your life savings into something you don't fully understand is not the best idea in any case - cryptocurrency or something else.


In the same way as not many people bought Bitcoin at the beginning and sold for $20k, the stories of buying at $20k and losing 95% are equally unlikely. The crash took the whole of 2018 to happen. Did the guys with all their savings in Crypto not take any of it out while it was dropping? Seems unlikely to me


They went for bad crypto coins and ICOs...


The S&P500 Market Cap is 24.30T. Bitcoin's market cap is $184 Billion. Therefore for proper hedging, you should put 0.75% of your assets into Bitcoin. For every $100k, that's $750.

Put it another way, you should put 132x more money into stocks than you should Bitcoin. If Bitcoin were to steal market cap from the investment markets, you'd be well positioned for transition. If Bitcoin were to become worthless, you'd still be well positioned.

Bitcoin will one day become worthless but it may be a while before that happens. The speculation is whether the new universal currency will kindly be available to prior bitcoin holders as an airdrop or fork, or whether it will be a brand new cryptocurrency without any ties to Bitcoin. So far, no cryptocurrency has overtaken bitcoin and the next 10 by market cap don't look like they will overtake it soon.

Planning for the additional (and painful) tax complexity in advance is advised. If you don't how to do taxes yourself, it won't be fun to pay an bitcoin-specializing accountant $300-$800 each year because you bought Bitcoin once.


In 2012 I learned about Bitcoin and I was denied a MtGox account in 2013, I wanted to buy a few thousand BTC. I don't feel bad about his anymore. I could not buy Bitcoin for a long time out of spite. Saw it coming by, every time it was worth more and more.

Finally in August 2017 I finally jumped in and made well over 500k Euro in profit, but I kept it too long so I lost 75% of that, I am really glad I took my initial investment out, even though it would have been worth more today.

I did not know anything about trading or reading charts when I started, it would have made a huge difference for me. Since the beginning of 2018 I have invested most of my free time into understanding trading / markets and programming indicators and market analysis tools. I feel much more confident in trading now and for me it is a good way to make more money.

I like the proverb 'Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.'


Never invest in something you don't understand.

Words to live by.


Not really. Understanding comes in degrees, and most things that the average person doesn't truly understand (the market, index ETFs, your startup equity agreement) give better ROI than those you do.


Does this BTC valuation graph not look like a massive pump and dump or am I missing something?

https://www.dropbox.com/s/3lcuf7df5km8rmn/Screenshot%202019-...


Does this Nikkei valuation graph not look like a massive pump and dump or am I missing something?

https://www.marketwatch.com/investing/index/nik?countrycode=...


Yeah, up until 1990. Then, not since.


About as much of a massive pump and dump as the stock market, yeah https://www.macrotrends.net/1319/dow-jones-100-year-historic...

Tbf, way smaller tbh, but the pump shows no signs of decreasing over time, so we'll probably get there in the end. Crazy right


Remember the posts from people who mocked Warren Buffett for warning people away from BitCoin?

I surely do. I'm a Boglehead, I like to read that stuff.

If you are unsure of what happened (and why you should have been on the sidelines), please visit Bogleheads.org. You will learn that anyone can become relatively wealthy given a little discipline and a lengthy working life. It really works.


Can anyone explain why this is flagged? It's a very one-sided article, talking only about people who did dumb things and lost out. But is that a reason to censor it?


My guess is they're doing fine as long as they invested in Bitcoin and avoided 90% of the other vaporware imitation crap floating around.


Max: The two cardinal rules of producing are one: Never put your own money in the show.

Leo: And two?

Max: [yelling] Never put your own money in the show!

[The Producers]




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