finance

My name is Clare Stephens, and I single-handedly crashed cryptocurrency.

All I wanted was free money.

That's all. 

Just money for doing nothing. 

I figured that given I spend a ridiculous number of hours on my phone, if I could convert a small amount of that time into using an investing app, it might translate into cash moneys (rather than low self-esteem/attention-span issues like everything else I do on my phone). 

Rich people are always talking about investing, and recently, they've been using a word I didn't (and to be honest, still don't) understand: crypto. 

Cryptocurrencies are digital money that can be used to buy goods and services, or be traded for profit. They're not issued by a bank, and aren't regulated, which means the market can be volatile. But we've all heard the story of that guy who bought one bitcoin in 2009 which is now worth millions. 

So why can't I be that guy?

Also, why is it always a guy? I'll tell you why. Because women are socialised from the moment we're born to have a very different relationship with money to men. We're not spoken to about money in the same way, we're risk-averse, the investment world feels like an 'old boy's club' (because it... is), and before we know it, the men our age are in WhatsApp groups chatting about stocks and I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT A STOCK IS.

I don't remember agreeing to this double standard. 

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So, over dinner on a windy Tuesday night in early May, as the four men at the table started talking about their investments, I started to yell. 

"WHAT DO I INVEST IN," I yelled. "I HAVE MONEY I COULD INVEST. NOT A LOT BUT I DON'T NEED IT FOR TOMORROW."

Of course, this was where the patronising conversation began. 

One man told me I should only be investing money I could afford to lose, which is silly, because I'd prefer not to lose any? I want to make free money? That's why I want to invest?

Another man asked me what companies I believe in, encouraging me to invest in those. To this, I thought for a moment and then yelled "TINY BEANS," referring to the family photo sharing app that allows parents to share images of their kids (or pets) with a selected network of people. I really like that app and spend a lot of time on it. 

I hope I don't have to specify that this should not be used as legitimate financial advice. Image: Tiny Beans.  

He gave me a look of pity which made me think maybe that's not the kind of company he meant, and maybe you can't invest in Tiny Beans, but when I Googled it later I'm pretty sure you can?

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Feeling confused, I asked them what they had invested in and what they were making money from.

There it was.

Crypto.

Bitcoin. Ethereum (which sounds like a type of petrol). Dogecoin (literally based on a meme). They had investments in portfolios consisting of a bunch of different cryptocurrencies, and they'd all had wins. So, I thought, simple

I'll do exactly what they're doing, and I will also make some free money. 

Smart girl. 

So right there, at the table, while the conversation around me moved on, I downloaded an investment app and invested in a crypto portfolio. 

As I went to bed that night, I felt so smug. I'd given the invisible men (and women, of course) in my computer a little bit of my money, and now it would grow. Maybe I'd be able to buy a house. Or stay at that really fancy resort on Hamilton Island. Or maybe I'd become one of those people who buys a bunch of flowers for their house every week just because.

A couple of days later, I checked my app, and yeah, I was ready to be rich. 

THX. 

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...So why then had I lost a third of my money. 

At first I ignored it, remembering that this was a long-game (eugh but I want my money now), but my investment just... continued... to... fall. 

Here's a fun fact: Bitcoin plunged 50 per cent in May. 

So I did some research. Admittedly, the exact type of research most people would recommend doing before you invest. But let's not get into technicalities. 

In my defence, a number of incredibly unlucky things happened in the short period after I invested in crypto. 

First, there was 'ol mate Elon Musk's announcement that he was reneging on Tesla's commitment to accept bitcoin as payment - pointing to his concerns about the currency's carbon footprint. 

Great. So in one fell swoop I've now learned that I'm a terrible person and am actively ruining the environment, and am also not getting any free money.

Second, Chinese officials threatened increased regulation of crypto use, plummeting the value of the currency even more.

But then there's the biggest factor: me.

...Oops. 

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I'm the single unluckiest person I know, in this type of context. I've never won a prize. I've broken several bones. I constantly get flat tires and run out of petrol, which yes, could be to do with my poor level of car maintenance but stick with me here.

I think I... single-handedly sunk cryptocurrency. For a few reasons. There's my aforementioned bad luck, but also, I should've seen it coming. By the time a possible investment has found its way to me, at dinner, on a Tuesday, with a group of men who in hindsight really don't know that much more than me about investing, things are about to take a turn. 

When I invest in something you KNOW it's over.

Smart people aren't taking investment advice from their impulsive friends, and also, there's a reason finance people have so many damn caveats when talking about investing.

Because they know people like me will take the most basic version of what they've said and make a bold decision, before crawling back and yelling that I haven't received my free money yet, please.

Of course, crypto is notoriously volatile, and as Nate Nieri, a CFP with Modern Money Management in San Diego told Next Advisor, "You have a high chance of losing it all, but a small chance of winning it big". For that reason, investing experts and financial advisors tell their clients to be cautious with how much they invest in crypto. 

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Listen to What the Finance, Mamamia's money podcast that will actually give you legit advice and that I have nothing to do with, personally. So it's safe. Post continues after audio.


For now, I'm going to follow the advice of personal finance expert Humphrey Yang, who told Next Advisor he avoids checking his investments during volatile periods, and has a 'set and forget' strategy.

I can do without the money I invested into crypto, although it would be nice to have it?? 

But either way, I've learnt my lesson. Two things my friends said that night were actually true: only invest what you can afford to lose, and invest in something you believe in. 

That way you won't end up like me: A person with an ethically dubious investment that has brought me nothing but stress and resentment.

Free money, you're a little bit tricky. 

For more from Clare Stephens (but definitely no financial advice) you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Mamamia.

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