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Understanding Crypto Currencies & Bitcoins

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Understanding Risks and Benefits

By Timothy J. McIntosh CFP® MPH CFA

TMMedical professionals might not know rupees from ringgits, but any investor should consider the benefits of currency investing.  Buying currencies allow for a hedge against the U.S. dollar and also permit for an investor to take advantage of major movements of foreign currencies for profit.

Today, it is easier than ever to invest in currencies through mutual funds or exchange traded funds.  U.S. investors are impacted by foreign currency fluctuations through international stock and bond exposure.


The advantage of investing in currencies is the investment generally has limited correlation with other real or liquid assets.  Medical professionals can initiate the process of currency investing by starting a forex account.  In many instances, an account can be opened with minimal investment.


One caveat is the tax consequences, as currency-based profits are taxed as ordinary income rather than the more favorable capital gains rate.

Digital Currency

Bitcoin is an open sourcepeer-to-peer payment network and digital currency pioneered in 2009 by pseudonymous developer “Satoshi Nakamoto“. Bitcoin has been called a cryptocurrency because it utilizes public-key cryptography for protection. Users send payments by broadcasting digitally signed messages that reassign ownership of bitcoins. A decentralized network of specialized computers verifies and timestamps all transactions using a proof-of-work system. The operators of these computers, known as “miners“, are satisfied with transaction fees and newly minted bitcoins.

Commercial Use

The commercial use of Bitcoin, illicit or otherwise, is currently diminutive compared to its use by speculators, which has led to extreme price volatility.  Companies and merchants have an enticement to recognize the currency because transaction fees are lower than the 2 to 3% classically imposed by the major credit card companies like Visa®.

Bitcoin Graph


Given the fact that Bitcoin is a new currency with extreme volatility, medical professionals should be very cautious with any potential investment.

UPDATE: 2017


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33 Responses

  1. More on Bitcoin

    Since the creation of Bitcoin in 2009, the price reached as high as $1,100 USD; thanks in large part to the surge in speculative interest from China. With more than 100,000 of virtual coins traded daily, China became the largest trading center of Bitcoin in the world.

    However; in December of 2013, when the People’s Bank of China decreed that merchants may not accept Bitcoin and forbade banks and payment processors from converting Bitcoin into Yuan; the price of Bitcoin fell to below $500 in response.

    Furthermore, Apple recently removed Blockchain, the last Bitcoin wallet app from its’ iOS App Store, signaling that Bitcoin is becoming an ever so more volatile asset.

    Ken Yeung MBA CMP™ candidate


  2. Clinkle

    A related start-up named Clinkle is a mobile payment firm. Founded by Lucas Duplan in 2011, the company began as a small group of students.

    In 2013 it raised $25 million in what became Silicone Valley’s largest seed funding round. Clinkle released an app for download on Google Play and the iTunes Store. The current versions have very limited functionality and only allow users to join a waitlist. Future products include a mobile app that serves as an online wallet linked to existing credit cards or bank accounts, and an app used high-frequency sound to send payments between devices.

    This product will also provide merchants with information about their customers for the purpose of targeted sales promotion.



  3. More on BitCoin

    Silk Road Pledges to Pay Back Users After $2.6 Million Bitcoin Hack




  4. Bitcoin ATMs?

    To expand its network, Robocoin is also offering $10,000 in Bitcoin to ambassadors who help find new ATM kiosk operators.




  5. Bitcoin

    The bitcoin currency has been banned in Russia due to increased threat of cyber criminals using the digital currency to launder funds.

    Money remains a state-controlled currency, so the rise of independent crypto currencies, such as bitcoin, makes it difficult to determine the right method to address these problems.



  6. Why more docs are accepting bitcoin?

    Ken – Some doctors who have taken bitcoins have found that doing so is both simple and relatively “unmagical.”


    And, in an industry where payment transactions are becoming increasingly more complex, that may be just what the doctor ordered.

    Ann Miller RN MHA


  7. A Bitcoin Death,

    Autumn Radtke, the CEO of the online currency exchange, died last week under mysterious circumstances at her home in Singapore.


    Ann Miller RN MHA


  8. Is bitcoin now as good as gold?

    Gold has long been seen by many investors a hedge against economic disaster.


    Bitcoins offer many of the same properties, but which is better?



  9. 3 reasons IRS ruling is good for Bitcoin

    Proponents of Bitcoin got good news when the IRS ruled the digital currency would be taxed as property and not as a currency.




  10. Mt. Gox

    Defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox has given up plans to rebuild under bankruptcy protection and has asked a Tokyo court to allow it to be liquidated, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.




  11. MIT Project Giving Every Student $100 – in Bitcoin

    Did you know that two students at MIT have raised enough money to hand out $100 in bitcoin to every undergrad at the university?


    Though they do admit they don’t know what will happen next.



  12. Feds Auction 30,000 Bitcoins


    From those seized in the Silk Road raid



  13. Bitcoin in California

    Governor Jerry Brown just signed into law a bill that clears away possible state-level obstacles to alternative currencies such as bitcoin.




  14. Don’t put your money into Bitcoins for the long run

    Warren Buffett recently said:

    “It’s not a currency. It does not meet the test of a currency. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not around in 10 or 20 years. … It is not a durable means of exchange. It’s not a store of value. … It’s been a speculative — a very speculative — kind of Buck Rogers-type thing, and people buy and sell them because they hope they go up or down just like they did with tulip bulbs a long time ago.”

    But, is he right?



  15. Bitcoin promoter to plead guilty to unlicensed money transmission

    Bitcoin entrepreneur Charlie Shrem reached a plea deal to resolve U.S. charges that he engaged in a scheme to sell over $1 million of the digital currency to users of illicit online marketplace Silk Road.




  16. Don’t put your money into Bitcoins for the long run

    Warren Buffett Speaks:

    “It’s not a currency. It does not meet the test of a currency. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not around in 10 or 20 years. … It is not a durable means of exchange. It’s not a store of value. … It’s been a speculative — a very speculative — kind of Buck Rogers-type thing, and people buy and sell them because they hope they go up or down just like they did with tulip bulbs a long time ago.”



  17. Bitcoin Grows Up

    From Bitcoin’s beginnings five years ago, it’s been all about sticking it to the man and the financial establishment. Until now.


    Two Bitcoin companies, BitPay, a payment processor, and Vaurum, an exchange for institutional investors, have hired Arthur Levitt Jr., who served as the chairman of the SEC from 1993 to 2001, as an advisor.



  18. Bitcoin

    Bitcoin, the online cryptocurrency recently hailed as the most successful of its kind, has been valued as potentially the worst investment in 2014 by business site Quartz.




  19. Preston,

    Yep – It’s true.

    In fact, Bitcoin did so poorly this year, Bloomberg notes that it was the world’s worst currency for 2014. Even with the losses plaguing the European and Asian landscape this year, mostly centered on Russia and Ukraine, their currencies’ fluctuations were overshadowed by Bitcoin’s poor performance.



  20. The Winklevoss Twins Can’t Catch a Break

    According to Wealth Management’s MorningMem, the Winklevoss twins just filed with the SEC on December 31st. to launch a bitcoin ETF. Yet, even some bitcoin enthusiasts think it’s a bad idea.

    One section admits that there is nothing a shareholder can do if the bitcoins backing the ETF happen to disappear, whether by human error or criminal action, which is a problem bitcoin has faced repeatedly.

    The bitcoins won’t be insured and the investment trust won’t be held responsible, so places like Inside Bitcoins conclude that it’s probably just better for people to keep their bitcoins privately.



  21. Citigroup Building A Bitcoin-like Digital Currency

    While several financial services companies ponder how they can incorporate digital currencies like bitcoin, or if they should at all, Citigroup is instead building its own.

    Kenneth Moore, head of Citigroup Innovations Lab, recently opined that the bank has three separate systems to experiment with cryptocurrency technology, and one of them is a bitcoin equivalent called “Citicoin.”

    Moore also suggested that a digital currency could help Citigroup move money from country to country, and developing their own could help the bank maintain control.


    So, is imitation really the sincerest form of flattery?



  22. Florida Men Charged For Underground Bitcoin Exchange

    While some in the financial world are trying to make bitcoin a viable alternative investment, the digital currency still seems to attract trouble.




  23. IBM is all in on the tech behind Bitcoin

    Expect IBM’s chief executive to announce a string of initiatives that underscore its backing of blockchain, the technology behind the on-again, off-again digital currency, Bitcoin. IBM has friends in the game; two of its customers, the London Stock Exchange and Japan exchange are looking at how to integrate the technology.

    (Wall Street Journal)

    Hope Hetico RN MHA


  24. Finally ID’d

    Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright has publicly identified himself as Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto.





    On Dec. 14, 2013, speculators jacked the price up to a dizzying $1,150. Eighteen days later, it fell by more than half. Today Bitcoin goes for $453.



  26. New digital currency sees 2,000% price rise in a week

    Suddenly the world’s 3rd-most-popular digital currency, Steem is raising scam alerts for some observers.




  27. ETF?

    A Bitcoin ETF filing was just declined by the SEC; as an unregulated market-place.



  28. CyberAttacks

    In the past week, two globe-spanning cyberattacks caught the world’s attention: the WannaCry worm and its stealthier cousin, Adylkuzz.


    These two pieces of malware shared more than just code: they each were designed as ways for cybercriminals to get their hands on cryptocurrency.

    As this troll through MIT Technology Review’s archive shows, though, the world of cryptocurrency is about more than cybercrime. And Bitcoin, the most famous form of digital money, is just the beginning.

    MIT Technology Review


  29. What is a ‘Blockchain’?

    A blockchain is a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed. It is constantly growing as ‘completed’ blocks are added to it with a new set of recordings. The blocks are added to the blockchain in a linear, chronological order.

    Each node (computer connected to the Bitcoin network using a client that performs the task of validating and relaying transactions) gets a copy of the blockchain, which gets downloaded automatically upon joining the Bitcoin network.

    The blockchain has complete information about the addresses and their balances right from the genesis block to the most recently completed block.

    Read more: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blockchain.asp#ixzz4i8bisqQY



  30. Bitcoin is forked (but it’s not necessarily a bad thing)

    For years, the Bitcoin community has been fighting about the best way to upgrade the cryptocurrency’s software so that it can handle more transactions.

    Now those arguments have come to a head, and Bitcoin has suddenly split in two (or “forked,” for those in the know). There’s been a lot written about what the split means for the future of the currency but the truth is … we don’t really know yet.




  31. Coinbase to users: Pay the tax man!

    Did you know that fresh off of a drawn-out court dispute with the Internal Revenue Service, popular cryptocurrency wallet and exchange service Coinbase is reminding users to pay their taxes on their gains this year?

    YEP – A federal court ruled in November that Coinbase must turn over account information for the nearly 14,500 users who bought, sold, sent, or received $20,000 or more between 2013 and 2015. The government said the order was needed due to the vast disparity between the number of Coinbase users and the number of U.S. citizens who have reported cryptocurrency holdings in their tax filings.

    A recent survey of Americans who have invested in Bitcoin found that more than a third do not plan on reporting their cryptocurrency gains or losses in their taxes.



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