Caveat emptor. It’s volatile right now.
But it won’t be forever. After a prolonged period of adoption and price discovery, Bitcoin will settle down substantially. When this period arrives, it will provide everybody, but especially the poor, with an ancient technique for improving their standard of living. This is a practice that hasn’t been employed for so long, that today it would actually be considered new: We call this phenomenon “saving.”
When you hear the word saving, you might think, “I save quite a bit of my salary: 20% at least,” (you might not). But what you are more likely doing is using the dollars, or euro, or yen, that you have saved, to purchase financial assets. If this describes you, then you are only a saver in name. In reality, you are an investor.
Saving and investing are very different. Saving is easy: you simply retain a percentage of your income to store for a rainy day. Investing is hard: you must choose between hundreds of different mutual funds, stocks, and bond products, to structure your assets in a way that aligns with your long-term goals.
Historically, there has been a place for both. Saving would produce a modest return in the form of increased purchasing power over time. Roughly speaking, if the economy grew 2%, and the money supply remained about the same, then your savings grew by 2% as well. Investing would produce a more promising rate of return, but with the addition of risk. Tied to the potential for a 10% return would be the chance that you might earn -5%.
Nowadays, the option of saving has been taken off the table. Imagine that a gentleman in his 40’s has managed to accumulate $100,000 in cash, stuffed under the proverbial mattress. If the inflation rate is a low 2%, then he’ll still be losing $2,000 per year in purchasing power. That’s almost $40 per week!
So he must become an investor if he doesn’t want to lose this money. But where to start? Investing is not for everybody; many people have neither the interest nor the time to become truly qualified to make sound investment decisions. So today, any would be savers, people who like to keep it simple and predictable, either lose out by default, or are pressured into gambling with their earnings.
How does this affect the poor? They are the ones who can’t afford to lose any money. Yet they are left with only two options, both of which have the potential to incur a loss: hold onto depreciating dollars, or risk them in financial instruments.
One day, with Bitcoin, individuals of all economic backgrounds will benefit from the elegant choice to simply save some of their earnings. Those who can afford to will always be able to decide between saving and investing their disposable income, but it will be the poorest among us who will be truly protected from modest yet painful financial losses.
We’ve been surrounded by a world of steady inflation for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to live with a currency that has a stable supply. With some luck, and for the sake of the poor, Bitcoin will deliver on that promise.