7 of the Top Cryptocurrency Trends to Keep an Eye On

Cryptocurrencies have been a recurring news item in recent years. They were one of the first investments to emerge after the COVID-19 pandemic. The price of Bitcoin rose rapidly at the end of 2020, going from US$10,000 to over US$65,000 by the second half of 2021.

According to figures and experts, the future of digital currencies should be quite interesting, but it’s still somewhat unpredictable. That is one of the reasons it’s so important to monitor them. Keep reading to learn about the top trends in the crypto space:

Trend #1: The Rise of NFTs

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are encrypted digital assets and are one of the most exciting developments in the crypto space. NFTs are a growing trend and it’s said that the market is going to see more demand in the coming months and years. This, in turn, has caused large investors to look at this strategy as one of the most striking.

Tokenization is the process of creating digital tokens that indicate the ownership and rights over some asset that a person has. This applies to personal, real, and digital assets. Blockchains have allowed the partial purchase of properties, with legal rights, without the need to buy a complete property.

Tokenization seeks to advance to the point of being able to invest in any type of asset, making investment in an easy, simple and affordable way. Through this new methodology, it will be possible to have income from renting a fraction of ownership until you want to sell it in tokens. For investors, this could be a trend that leads to new types of profits.

Trend #2: Increased Support of the Crypto Ecosystem

The more prevalent Bitcoins and cryptocurrencies become, the more big banks and platforms begin to take interest in these investment methods. For example, PayPal has already focused its interest on investments with cryptocurrencies. Many other institutions are beginning to offer these investing methods as well.  For example, on 4/26/22, Fidelity Investments announced that they were adding Bitcoin as an investment choice in their 401k programs.  In the case of PayPal, there was a twofold increase in activity among the users who bought cryptocurrencies through the application. 

Trend #3: Increased Regulations

Although at the end of 2021 there was a great regulatory clarification regarding cryptocurrency, one of the “advantages” of this digital business is that it’s not currently regulated or tracked by the government. As a result, it facilitates freedom when it comes to investing and other financial activities.

Still, trends in the cryptocurrency community are showing that industry regulations may soon see a shift. Although Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies, for example, are decentralized currencies, governments are seeking ways to impose taxes and regulations on these types of investments.

Trend #4: Institutional Adoption of Bitcoin and Ethereum

Cryptocurrency adoptions increased by 880 percent in 2021. This trend has increasingly become something of a refuge against the economies of each country, the degradation of currencies, inflation, and future pandemics like the one recently experienced.

Given this data, many fintech, banks, and asset managers have competed by offering blockchain payments and investment deals. Even some world-renowned brands began to receive payments with cryptocurrencies, including Starbucks, Amazon, and Microsoft. El Salvador was the first country in the world to accept Bitcoins as currency for legal use and issues bonds that are striking for many other countries with debts in dollars. As of the summer of 2022, several other countries (and US states) are looking to add Bitcoin as a recognized and accepted alternate currency for official daily use, including the payment of taxes.

Trend #5: The Rise of Stablecoin

Stablecoin is a variation of cryptocurrency. Tether is used by 80 percent of the stablecoin market. Tether is based on blockchains where circulation tokens are backed in US dollars. However, the growth of these currencies can also come from other sources. Stablecoins join in DeFi (decentralized finance) applications given their tendency not to fluctuate much in price. This is the most stable currency that has appeared so far in this cryptocurrency trend.

Trend #6: Access to the DApps Market

Decentralized Apps are decentralized tools or applications that allow users to communicate directly with each other, usually through a blockchain. The potential market for these applications is very large, and just like cryptocurrencies, their use has increased drastically. These apps are executed on Ethereum blockchains with DeFi functionalities.

It’s estimated that around 2,000 DApps operate within the Ethereum blockchain. The current trends suggest that DApps are only likely to increase in number.

Trend #7: The Rise of Web 3.0

Web 3.0 or Web3 allows users to control their data and the decentralized use of the Internet in a secure and verifiable way. In web 3.0, there is no surveillance or censorship of any kind. Each user is free to browse as they please. However, needs have arisen with regards to issues like data hosting, management, and computing, among others.

The cybercurrencies supported in web3 include Theta, Helium, Arweave, rendering, Ocean, and Filecoin. The Web 3.0 is expected to grow significantly, benefiting investment businesses that work with cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin.

Monitor Bitcoin Trends before Investing Cryptocurrencies are the latest “It Girl” in the financial world. They are increasingly embedded in everyday life and have been the subject of many rising trends in recent years. By knowing about these trends, you can keep up with what’s happening to Bitcoin and make smart decisions surrounding your investments.

A Guide to Marscoin: What Is It and Should You Buy It?

Most people are familiar with cryptocurrency and the idea that the decentralized digital currency could be the way of the future. 

One of these cryptocurrencies is called Marscoin. But what exactly is Marscoin and how does it work? Here’s a quick guide that breaks down what you need to know. 

What Is Marscoin?

Marscoin is a cryptocurrency project founded by Dr. Robert Zubrin in 2014. 

Its main purpose is to serve as a charity project and provide financial support for missions to Mars. 

Users can generate Marscoin through the blockchain mining process, similar to that of Bitcoin. The price of Marscoin fluctuates pretty regularly from hour to hour. Marscoin is currently trading in five active markets.

Mars is listed on many cryptocurrency exchanges, but unlike other major cryptocurrencies, it cannot be purchased directly with fiat money. That can make it a bit harder to invest in than other currencies. 

If you want to purchase Marscoin, you’ll have to first purchase another type of cryptocurrency. Then, you can move to an exchange that allows you to trade that currency for Marscoin. However, you can still easily buy the coin by first buying Bitcoin from any fiat-to-crypto exchange and then moving to an exchange that offers to trade Marscoin.

The Vision of the Marscoin Project

As a cryptocurrency intended to fund missions to Mars, Marscoin will act as a separate currency for people on the Red Planet.

A major problem with the Mars missions of companies such as Mars One and SpaceX is that there isn’t enough money to finance the projects. Experts estimate that the projects will require billions of dollars. This is where the Marscoin project would like to start.

Hundreds of thousands of Marscoins have already been donated to the Mars Society, a nonprofit dedicated to funding missions to Mars, to provide part of the necessary budget for these missions. By purchasing a coin, the buyer supports the settlement missions to Mars. Currently purchased coins will still exist on Mars if the missions are successful.

Key Information about Marscoin

Marscoin is an open-source coin that’s maintained by the Marscoin Foundation. Originally, it started with a value of about 0.0030 dollars. In the years that followed, the cryptocurrency did not see a significant increase, but it has increased fivefold since 2018. Around 28.3 million Marscoins have been generated so far, with a hard cap of 44 million. 

A big advantage of Marscoin over Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies is its fast processing rate. A transaction can be confirmed in just two minutes, while waiting times can run up to 40 minutes with Bitcoin.

How to Purchase Marscoin

Marscoins are available for purchase both online and offline. They can only be purchased online at Cryptopia. Therefore, a digital wallet is required to complete the purchase and make future transactions. Wallets from Cryptopia are available for all operating systems as a download.

There is also a mobile version for all Android platforms. If you don’t have Internet access, the wallet can also be used offline. Soon Marscoin will be available for trading on well-known websites like Poloniex, Bittrex, or Binance.

Aside from purchasing Marscoin, you can also mine it. This works much the same way as it does Bitcoin—you use mining pools and combined computer power to generate more coins at a lower price. 

Why Purchase Marscoin

While the price of Marscoin was originally low, Elon Musk inadvertently endorsed the currency. 

Since the owner of SpaceX is always involved in new business opportunities and modern trends, many people were excited by his endorsement. With just one tweet, Musk caused the price of Marscoin to rise significantly.

Thanks to this endorsement, Marscoin could be a good future investment. With the price steadily on the rise, investing now could lead to big returns in the future. 

And, if space travel becomes a reality, Marscoin will be our currency. That makes it even more of a critical investment.

The Future of Marscoin

The first mission to Mars is scheduled to launch in 2024 at the earliest, so a short-term investment into this cryptocurrency is speculative. However, a long-term investment could pay for itself over several years. 

Mars missions will likely attract increased attention, which means that the market value of Marscoin has a chance to increase in value. The future is uncertain, but there’s no doubt that cryptocurrencies have an important role in our financial landscape. Marscoin is meant to be a commercial competitor, and you don’t have to be an expert to know that it has many investment benefits. 

Perhaps now is the time to speculate with a small investment in Marscoin. Doing so could provide you with big payouts in the long term. 

10 Great Tips for Planning for Retirement

Retirement doesn’t just happen. It requires careful planning and commitment to make sure you have the financial stability needed to support yourself into your golden years.  

If you’re thinking about retirement, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. Here are 10 important tips for planning for retirement. 

1. Start Investing Early

When it comes to retirement planning, one of the most important things you can do is to start investing early. The sooner you start saving money and investing in retirement accounts, the better. That’s due to the power of saving over time— you’ll be able to accumulate more wealth over time if you stay at it through thick and thin. 

For example, let’s say you start investing $200 a month for 10 years. Assuming that you receive the average return of 8 percent in the stock market, you’ll have saved roughly $37,000.  Even more impressive—if a 30 year old saves $6,000 per year in a ROTH IRA, and earns an average of 6.5%/year all the way to age 67 ( “full retirement age”), they would have accumulated $856,000 tax free dollars.  If additional dollars were saved in a 401k or ROTH 401k plan along the way, you can see that the saver can come into retirement  in strong shape, without needing to realize “superior” or high returns.  

2. Think Small

Another thing that can help you build wealth is compound interest, small amounts of interest that build up over time. Compound interest can be a great way to save money for retirement. 

Even though it’s just a small amount, compound interest adds up over time. That can make a big difference in your golden years. Einstein called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world!

3. Make a Retirement Budget

Many people don’t know how much money they need for retirement. Try calculating your personal savings goals to figure out how much you’ll need in retirement.

To do so, consider a few factors such as: 

·      Age of retirement

·      Life expectancy

·      Projected retirement lifestyle ( could include more travel and leisure)

·      Current spending habits

·      Current saving habits

Make a rough estimate of how much you’ll spend in each category. This should help give you an idea of what to budget for your retirement years.

4. Plan, Prioritize, Protect

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when thinking about saving for retirement. To help make things less anxiety inducing, you might want to use the plan, protect, and prioritize method. 

Here’s the basic rundown of how this method works:

·      Plan: Experts suggest saving 15 percent of your annual income.

·      Prioritize: Cut expenses or increase your income as you prioritize retirement savings.

·      Protect: Have an emergency fund to cover unexpected expenses so you don’t have to touch your retirement savings.

By following this method, you make it easier to put aside money for retirement. 

5. Enroll in Your Employer’s Retirement Program

It’s common for employers to offer retirement savings plans as part of a benefits package. Many times, these plans will match a percentage of the funds you save. You can think of these “matching funds” from the employer as free money. For example, if your employer will match 50% of the first 6% of your salary that you contribute to the plan, that is a 50% return on your money every year—don’t miss this free money!

If you’re not already enrolled in your employer’s retirement program, you may want to do so. This can be a great way to set aside additional cash for retirement. 

6. Get Professional Financial Help

No matter how much you save on your own, the experts always know better. Financial experts have a deep knowledge of how to manage savings to help get you the cash you need for retirement. 

Try speaking to a financial expert to get a good look at your savings. They can help you better manage your funds and avoid future problems as you plan for retirement. 

7. Be Aware of Inflation

Many people plan for retirement based on the earnings they have right now. However, you need to remember that inflation can alter prices and earnings in the future.

When you plan for retirement, remember to prepare for inflation. Be aware of the fact that inflation will make things more expensive over time, and plan accordingly. A financial professional can help you address the loss of purchasing power over time from inflation.

8. Get Out of Debt

Getting out of debt is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to planning for retirement. Being debt-free means you don’t need as much money every month to meet your needs. 

And, when you have no debt, you can start using the money you were using to pay off loans and credit cards to save for retirement instead. Plus, you won’t have to worry about these expenses once you are no longer earning employment income. 

9. Earn Passive Income

Another great way to start saving for retirement is to look for ways to earn passive income. This helps increase your cash flow and provides you with an extra financial cushion for retirement. 

There are many different ways that you can earn passive income, including: 

·      Peer-to-peer lending

·      Investing

·      Rental property income

With these income streams, you can help supplement your savings when money is running low. 

10. Live Below Your Means

Unfortunately, many people run out of money once they retire. This can force them to return to the workforce to supplement their income. 

One way to avoid this is to practice living below your means. In other words, try to save money wherever you can and avoid living paycheck to paycheck.

Getting into this habit helps free up more income to put into your retirement fund. You’ll thank yourself later. 

Start Planning for Retirement

With these tips, you’ve got the tools you need to start planning for retirement early. That way, you can ensure that your golden years are full of the financial freedom you’ve always dreamed about. 

10 Things to Know before Investing in Bitcoin

Lately, Bitcoin (BTC) has been noteworthy in the world of finance, because it has fallen roughly 68% from its all-time high of $68,000 on November 10th, 2021, to the $20-21,000 level currently. However, Bitcoin is still up tremendously from just the spring of 2020, when it traded below $5,300 on 3/17/20—only 27 months ago.  Even more impressive, BTC was trading at the $676 level only 6 years ago, in late June of 2016! So it is still up an incredible 30 times in the last 6 years!! There are only a handful of investments in recent history that have returned those numbers. In that same time frame, for example (from 3/17/20 to today), some of the most popular and well know “big winners” have had nowhere even close to Bitcoin’s returns….

Amazon is up 3 times since 3/17/20

Google is up 4 times since 3/17/20

Nvidia is up 5 times since 3/17/20

Microsoft is up 5 times since 3/17/20

Apple is up 6 times since 3/17/20

Tesla is up 19 times since 3/17/20

BITCOIN IS UP 30 TIMES SINCE 3/17/20!

Part of that is because the developed nations of the world are printing too much paper/fiat currency—they are devaluing their currencies in the process.  So digital currencies offer an exciting investment opportunity to anyone looking to hedge their dollar exposure, and grow their capital over time.   

However, if you’re going to invest in Bitcoin, there are a few things that you need to know about. Let’s take a look at what you should know before you get started.

1. Bitcoin Is a Form of Decentralized Currency

Most people are familiar with currencies such as the euro or the American dollar. These currencies are controlled by central governments and financial institutions. In other words, they are centralized currencies.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, doesn’t work like this. There is no governing body controlling Bitcoin. As a decentralized currency, it doesn’t have the same rules and regulations as other currencies.

On top of that, there’s no chance that your Bitcoin will be devalued by a third party. The Bitcoin that you have is based on the market value, not on what a government or financial institution decrees. For many Bitcoin investors and users, this is the most important and attractive feature—that BTC is not controlled by any government or central bank.

2. No One Knows Its Origin

Another thing to be aware of before you invest in Bitcoin is that it has some rather nebulous beginnings. The cryptocurrency was first introduced in 2008 by someone called Satoshi Nakamoto. No one knows whether Nakamoto is a real person or an entity that created the currency.

In fact, this mysterious fact surrounding Bitcoin has been a point of contention for years. It likely won’t affect your investments, but it’s still good to know.

3. Bitcoin Is Anonymous

Another interesting thing about Bitcoin is that it has no physical form. The only way to use it is to exchange it on specialized trading platforms online.

Although you will need to create a username on these platforms, you don’t have to provide any personal information, making it an anonymous source of cash.

As a result, it’s often been used by donors who want to remain anonymous. For example, they can donate Bitcoin to a charitable organization without worrying that their identity will be revealed.

4. Bitcoin Is a Real Currency

Although it is a fully virtual currency, Bitcoin is still a very real type of money. You can use it in the same way that you would the American dollar or the euro. Many companies now accept Bitcoin as a form of payment as well as fiat currencies, and this trend is growing.

5. Bitcoin Is Unpredictable

Probably the most important thing for investors to know before buying Bitcoin is that it’s an unpredictable currency.

Although it can make a great investment, it can also be a very risky one. Bitcoin’s value has been known to fluctuate dramatically in the market, causing many people to lose or make large amounts of money over shorter periods of time.

If you’re going to invest in Bitcoin, it’s a good idea to diversify your portfolio. Make sure that you’ve planned for the risk associated with this volatile investment.

6. Bitcoin Can Be Sold in Multiple Exchanges

Another thing to know about Bitcoin is that, as mentioned earlier, it’s not used in the same way as fiat currency. Instead, you buy, sell, and trade it on virtual exchanges.

Before you start investing in Bitcoin, it’s a good idea to get a feel for these exchanges. Take a look at what platforms you want to use and get learn the ins and outs before you start investing. That way, you can ensure that your investments will be a success.

7. Bitcoin Cannot Be Hacked

Bitcoin is a relatively new technology, but in its nearly fourteen years of existence, Bitcoin has proven itself to be the most secure digital system in the world and the most reliable monetary system ever invented. Bitcoin’s blockchain has never been hacked, and zero counterfeit currency has ever been uttered on the network.

Hackers can, however, steal bitcoins by gaining access to bitcoin owners’ digital wallets.

If you’re going to start investing in Bitcoin, it’s imperative to transfer them to your own digital wallet, and avoid leaving them on the exchange you used to purchase them.

8. Bitcoin Isn’t the Only Cryptocurrency

While Bitcoin might be the most popular cryptocurrency, it’s certainly not the only one. Anyone who is considering investing in Bitcoin should look into other cryptocurrencies as well.

Consider diversifying your portfolio to include more than just Bitcoin. In doing so, you can help protect yourself from loss and limit your overall risk.  My personal favorite is Theta, which as of late June of 2022 is trading in the $1.10-$1.30 range, and is valued at only approx.. $1.25B.

9. There Are Some Big Public Figures Backing Bitcoin

One of the reasons why Bitcoin has become such a popular cryptocurrency is because it has some big-name backers. In recent years, billionaires, and large hedge funds and even countries have invested in Bitcoin.  In particular, in June of 2021, the country of El Salvador approved Bitcoin as a legal currency, and several other nations are considering joining them. Despite Bitcoin’s incredible meteoric rise over the past 14 years, there is still widespread skepticism on the part of the majority of the investing public, and there is surprisingly still a contingent who say that it’s a scam.

On April 26, 2022, Fidelity Investments announced that they would be adding Bitcoin as an investment choice in their 410k plans, and they are the top (or close) 401k provider. So, when coupled with the increasing number of billionaires and hedge funds and other large entities buying and holding Bitcoin, it seems increasingly unlikely that Bitcoin is a “scam” or can go to zero, and that the naysayers will continue to be embarrassed as time goes by.

Get Started Investing in Bitcoin

When handled properly, Bitcoin can be a very valuable investment. With these 9 tips, you should have a better foundation for investing in Bitcoin and earning some fast cash.

6 Types of Retirement Accounts to Know About

Many people don’t start saving for retirement until it’s too late. And, a lot of the time, that’s because they don’t know the first thing about finding a good retirement plan. 

To make sure you don’t fall into that trap, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the different plans available to you. Here are six common retirement plans to be aware of. 

  1. 401(k) Plans 

One of the most common accounts people use for retirement planning is a 401(k) plan.  

These plans provide you with a tax-deferred way to invest your money over the decades. Your contributions to the account reduce your taxable income right now. However, you’ll have to pay taxes on withdrawals from the account when you’re retired.  

401(k) plans are offered through your employer. You can automatically allocate a portion of your paycheck to your 401(k), which makes contributing to the account simple. Your employer may also match a percentage of your contributions, which is essentially free money.   

Many 401k plans offer a ROTH account, or ROTH side of the plan, in which you contribute from your paycheck as usual, but the contributions do not reduce your taxable income-they go in as after tax dollars.  The big benefit to doing this is that you build a pool of tax free money-not tax deferred-and when you eventually start your withdrawals in retirement, they are completely tax free.  If you believe taxes are going to go up in the future, this may be a wise long term step to take.   

Pros of 401(k) Plans 

  • Automatically contribute from your paycheck. 
  • High contribution limits ($20,500 per year or $27,000 per year if you’re 50+) 
  • You may get matching contributions from your employer.  

Cons of 401(k) Plans 

  • Limited investment options that are dependent on your employer.  
  • Penalty fees if you withdraw from the account before age 59 and a half.  
  1. Traditional IRAs 

Another popular type of retirement plan is an individual retirement account (IRA). Traditional IRAs are plans that are usually managed by individuals on their own, outside of their employers. Because of that, they’re good options for people who don’t receive retirement benefits at their jobs. 

Traditional IRAs, like 401(k)s, have tax advantages. Your contributions are made on a pre-tax basis—meaning contributions reduce your taxable income—and the money grows tax-deferred. You pay taxes on withdrawals from the account after you retire. You may not receive any tax benefits on the contributions if you have a higher income. 

Pros of Traditional IRA 

  • You don’t need to have an employer to open one. 
  • There are an endless number of choices for investments. 

Cons of Traditional IRAs 

  • Lower contribution limits than 401(k)s ($6,000 per year or $7,000 per year if you’re 50+) 
  1. Roth IRAs 

Roth IRAs work a bit differently from traditional IRAs, even though they’re fairly similar. The difference here is that with Roth IRAs, you pay taxes on your contributions, but your withdrawals from the account in retirement are not taxed.  

In addition, you can withdraw contributions from a Roth IRA any time without penalty, and even the earnings, as long as it has been at least five years since your first contribution. However, there will be a 10% penalty tax if you withdraw your earnings before you reach age 59 and a half. The same is not true for traditional IRAs; you’ll be taxed on the full withdrawal, and also be slapped with a 10% penalty tax if you withdraw contributions or earnings from a traditional IRA before you reach age 59 and a half.  

If you think that your taxes will be higher when you retire, a Roth IRA might be a better option for you. Since you’ll pay taxes upfront, you won’t have to worry about paying them in the future. 

Pros of Roth IRAs 

  • You don’t pay taxes on withdrawals in retirement. 
  • You can withdraw your contributions any time without penalty.  

Cons of Roth IRAs 

  • You don’t get a tax break on your contributions.  
  • Contribution limits are low ($6,000 per year or $7,000 per year if you’re 50+) 
  • If your earned income is too high, you can’t contribute. 

4. SEP IRA Plans 

Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs are ideal for business owners or individuals who are self-employed. These plans, although designed for self-employed people or small business owners, can be used by anyone.  

With a SEP IRA, individuals can contribute as much as 25% of their income, or $61,000 in 2022, whichever is less, to the account. Contributions are tax-deductible. The catch: if you have any employees, you must contribute a similar proportion of their compensation to their own SEP IRA. This is why SEP IRAs tend to work best for self-employed workers, sole proprietors, or small business owners with one or two employees.  

Pros of SEP IRAs 

  • High contribution limits—$61,000 in 2022.   
  • Tax-deductible contributions.  

Cons of SEP IRAs 

  • If you have qualified employees, you must contribute an equal proportion of their compensation to their own SEP IRA.  
  • Like a traditional IRA, there are early-withdrawal penalties if you withdraw before age 59 and a half.  

5. SIMPLE IRA Plans 

SIMPLE IRA plans aren’t simplified IRAs as the name suggests. Instead, SIMPLE stands for Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees.  

With a SIMPLE IRA, your employer has to match your contributions to the plan on a dollar-to-dollar basis, up to 3% of your salary. Alternatively, if don’t contribute to your plan, your employer still has to contribute 2% of your salary. 

SIMPLE IRAs are offered through your employer; only employers with 100 or fewer employees can provide them. You can contribute up to $14,000 a year to these plans, plus an extra $3,000 a year if you’re 50 or older.  

Pros of SIMPLE IRAs 

  • You get matched or guaranteed contributions 
  • They’re easy to set up. 

Cons of SIMPLE IRAs 

  • Lower contribution limits than 401(k)s.  

6. Solo 401(k) Plans 

Last but certainly not least is the solo 401(k) plan. Solo 401(k) plans are sometimes called one-participant plans. They’re ideal for individuals who are self-employed; small business owners with even one employee aren’t eligible for these plans.  

Solo 401(k)s have high contribution limits: $61,000 in 2022. That limit goes up by $6,500 if you’re 50 years old or older. The fine points are somewhat complicated, but in essence, you contribute to the plan both as employer and employee. Within that $61,000 limit, you can contribute up to 100% of your income, or $20,500, as the employee. As the employer, you can contribute another 25% of your compensation or net self-employment income.  

Pros of Solo 401(k) Plans 

  • High contribution limits.  
  • There’s a traditional and Roth option so you can pick the tax advantage that works best for you.  

Cons of Solo 401(k) Plans 

  • Limited investment options. 
  • Your contributions as employer may be subject to vesting terms.  

Choose the Right Retirement Plan 

Now that you’ve got a bit more information on retirement plans, you’re on your way toward selecting the right one for your own needs. Consider the pros and cons of each, what’s available to you, and choose one—or more—that makes sense for your unique situation.  It is best to consult a qualified retirement planning expert, such as a Retirement Income Certified Professional ( RICP), or Certified Financial Planner ( CFP).   

A Step-by-Step Guide to Retirement Planning 

Many people fail to think about their retirement until their 40s or 50s. However, this is a mistake. Putting off retirement planning can force you to postpone your retirement, sell your home and downsize, or otherwise compromise your plans for your golden years.    

To make sure you’re fully prepared for your retirement, start planning today, if you haven’t already. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get your finances in the best shape possible for a comfortable retirement.   

Step One: Know When to Start Planning 

When it comes to retirement planning, there’s no better time to start than the present. Experts recommend that you start planning for retirement in your 20s, as soon as you land your first full-time job. The earlier, the better.  

The sooner you start saving and investing money for your retirement, the more time that money will have to grow. This will lead to a larger pile when you’re finally ready to retire decades later.  

However, even if you’re well past your 20s and are only just starting to plan, don’t panic! Retirement planning can be started at any time. You may have to save a greater portion of your income to catch up with those who started years earlier, but you can still take action to build up a nest egg.  

Step Two: Calculate How Much Money You Need to Retire 

The next step to retirement planning is to figure out how much money you will need in order to retire. Remember, the money that you save for retirement is what’s going to function as your income when you’re no longer working.   

That means you’ll need to think about your current expenses, as well as what new expenses might arise in retirement, such as higher and more frequent healthcare costs. You’ll need to calculate your retirement income based on that.  

One tip for retirement: estimate that you’ll need about 70% to 90% of your pre-retirement income to retire comfortably, with Social Security, your 401(k), individual retirement account (IRA), and other investment accounts and savings contributing to that figure.  

For example, if you make $50,000 a year before you retire, plan to need between $35,000 and $45,000 a year once you retire, in order to continue in your current lifestyle without significantly downsizing.  

Step Three: Prioritize Financial Goals 

People generally have more financial goals than just retirement. These goals might include paying off a mortgage, funding their children’s college education, or buying a vacation property. 

In general, it’s good to aim to save for retirement as well as for other financial goals, if possible. You can do so at the same time.  

Remember, a little goes a long way. When it comes to retirement planning, even putting aside a little bit each month can be a great way to steadily build up your savings. 

Step Four: Choose a Retirement Plan 

Choosing a retirement plan is a key part of saving for retirement. You generally have two options for starting a retirement plan: 

  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans 
  • Individual retirement plans 

If your employer doesn’t provide a retirement plan like a 401(k), Roth 401(k), or pension, you can open your own account. Even if you have access to an employer-sponsored plan, it’s often a good idea to open another account on your own.  

Retirement accounts that you can open on your own, without an employer, include the traditional IRA and the Roth IRA, both of which provide tax advantages. With a traditional IRA, contributions are tax-deductible in the year they are made, and withdrawals from the account when you’re in retirement are considered taxable income. In contrast, with a Roth IRA, you cannot deduct your contributions when you make them, but your withdrawals from the account when you’re retired are tax-fee. Both accounts come with a yearly maximum contribution limit of $6,000 in 2021 or $7,000 if you are 50 or older. Early withdrawals before retirement age can incur a penalty tax.  

If you’re an employer or self-employed, you have other options as well. You can consider a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRA or SIMPLE IRA. Similarly, if you’re a business owner without any employees, you can open a solo 401(k). 

Step Five: Choose Your Retirement Investments 

When you open an investment account like a 401(k) or IRA, you’ll have to make decisions about where to allocate your money.  

In general, it’s a good idea to focus on investing more aggressively during your younger years: you can take bigger risks and potentially reap bigger gains, and you have decades to recover from losses. Usually, as you grow older and your retirement draws near, your investment strategy should become more conservative.   

In addition, it’s also important to revisit your investment strategy every year—saving for retirement isn’t a “one and done” job. You may need to adjust your strategy based on job and income changes, family growth, inheritances, and other major life events.   

Start Today 

With these tips, it’s easy to start planning for retirement. By following this process, you can get started saving for your golden years and position yourself for a comfortable retirement.  

12 Fascinating Facts about Bitcoin 

Ever since its launch in 2009, Bitcoin has been wildly popular. Anyone new to investing in cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin, in particular, should first have a little background on it. That will make it easier to make informed investments that result in a big return on investment. Read on to learn 12 interesting facts about Bitcoin you may not know. 

  1. No One Knows Who Created Bitcoin 

Who created Bitcoin? No one knows. The digital currency appeared seemingly overnight out of the hands of someone named Satoshi Nakamoto. No one knows whether Satoshi Nakamoto is a person, a group of people, or an organization. What we do know, however, is that Satoshi holds roughly 1 million bitcoins. 

2. There’s a Limited Supply 

Another surprising fact about Bitcoin is that there is a limited supply. In other words, eventually, there will be no more bitcoins for investors to buy. 

There are a total of 21 million bitcoins available. Out of that number, miners have already harvested 19 million. With only 2 million remaining, it won’t be long before the supply runs out. 

3. Bitcoin Rules the Black Market 

When we think of Bitcoin, most of us think of investment portfolios and retirement funds. However, Bitcoin also has a strong presence on the black market. 

Because bitcoins can’t be traced like normal currency, they’re ideal for cybercriminals. Luckily, the government is on top of bitcoin transactions and has seized hundreds of thousands of bitcoins used in illegal sales. 

4. Bitcoin Can Be Traded on PayPal 

PayPal, a popular personal finance platform, recently announced that users will be able to trade bitcoin through their service, making it even more accessible to the amateur investor. What’s more, PayPal is planning to extend this service to its additional platforms. That means that pretty soon investors will be able to buy and sell bitcoin on Venmo. 

5. The First Bitcoins Were Used to Buy Pizza 

With the current value of bitcoin sitting at just over $41,000, it’s hard to believe that the first bitcoins were used to buy pizza.  

In 2010, an early bitcoin owner used 10,000 bitcoins to order two pizzas. Today, that purchase would be worth more than $417 million. 

6. A Man Once Threw Away Thousands of Bitcoins 

In 2013 a man named James Howells of Wales had an old hard drive that contained more than 7,500 bitcoins. However, he didn’t foresee a future for the currency. As such, he decided to throw the hard drive away, losing out on millions of dollars today. Now, he’s trying to get his city council to let him excavate local landfills in an attempt to find it. 

7. Bitcoin Projections Could Reach $500,000 

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that’s seen quite a bit of fluctuation since it was first invented. However, despite that fluctuation, it still seems to be growing. 

Experts predict that the currency could eventually reach a sale price of $500,000. Some analysts are projecting Bitcoin prices over $1,000,000! That would mean huge payouts for anyone who’s taken the time to invest in bitcoin, or starts buying today. 

8. Companies Are Investing in Bitcoin 

While bitcoin is mostly talked about among individual investors, they’re certainly not the only ones with their eyes on the currency. Many large corporations are starting to invest in bitcoin to earn extra cash for their business operations.  

One such company is MicroStrategy Inc., which bought more than $400 million in bitcoin to beat inflation. This money is now stored in the organization’s private treasury. 

9. Not All Companies Allow Bitcoin 

The cryptocurrency market is thriving in the United States, but the same can’t be said for every country in the world. In fact, several nations have banned the purchase and sale of bitcoin, including Bolivia, Qatar, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. It looks like some other countries might be following suit shortly due to the currency’s decentralized nature. However, in June of 2021, El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as an officially accepted second national currency. Other nations are expected to follow their lead.  

10. Bitcoin Mining Requires Tons of Energy 

One of the few disadvantages of bitcoin is the amount of energy required to mine it. Bitcoin mining takes up as much energy as a medium-sized country. Machines that run the software used to mine bitcoin are big energy consumers. That is one reason why so few people spend their time mining bitcoin. However, studies show that global video gamers eat up 40-50% more electricity than global Bitcoin miners, and no one complains about them. Also, upwards of 30-40% of the electricity used to mine Bitcoins is from renewable sources, while almost none of the electricity used for gaming is from renewable sources. 

11. Some Bitcoin Is Lost 

Aside from the bitcoins that have yet to be mined, some haven’t been touched. Roughly 20 percent of the total supply of bitcoin has been lost or is otherwise inaccessible. It’s unknown if the world will ever have access to it. So the supple of available Bitcoins is even smaller than most people think. 

12. Cybercriminals Steal Bitcoin 

While Bitcoin is certainly a safe way to keep track of money, it’s not entirely protected from cybercriminals. Back in 2020, several cybercriminals were able to break into celebrity bank accounts and steal roughly 400 bitcoin payments. 

Invest in Cryptocurrency Today 

Investing in cryptocurrency is a great way to set aside a nest egg for the future. With so many cryptocurrencies on the rise, it’s a great way to make some extra cash and keep up with an increasingly digital world.  Also, more importantly, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin can act as an inflation hedge against the printing of too many dollars, euros, yen, and all other fiat currencies.  

Is Crypto Innovative or Insidious? How and Why Countries Are Banning Cryptocurrency 

Cryptocurrency has been experiencing surges of usage and popularity in mainstream digital media in the United States. However, the digital currency exchange is being curbed by the negative reactions of national banks across the globe.  

Part of the appeal of cryptocurrency usage is its independence from traditional finance infrastructure. As Bitcoin is decentralized (ie. no one nation of bank controls it, or can even influence it), it represents a threat to both governments and central banks.   

   It is perceived as a more secure method of transferring funds and is much faster and cheaper then using the traditonal financial institutions and the government.  

However, not everyone sees that appeal: there are a few countries that aren’t quite so on board with cryptocurrency for a variety of reasons. To understand why, it is important to consider the pros and cons of using this type of currency, from the perspective of both investors and governments.  

The Pros and Cons of Using Cryptocurrency Depend on Perspective 

Cryptocurrency is—and was intended to be—a fully anonymous system, meaning that there is no equivalent to a receipt for transactions made. 

Using cryptocurrency means that data about people’s purchases are not collected, stored, or reused by third parties—including banks and the government. As a result, consumers can engage in a variety of financial activities while maintaining their privacy. For consumers, this is good. For companies that make their money by buying, selling, and trading money or data, it is a significant threat to their business model. 

The biggest downside for consumers is that cryptocurrencies are not insured by the FDIC. This means that investments in cryptocurrency through an exchange or intermediary, may be significantly less secure. Market conditions can change at the drop of a hat, and the exchanges and intermediaries that trade and offer digital currencies do not have the same protections as traditional banks. Unexpected changes could lead to sudden halts on transfers or withdrawals, and the consumer would have no recourse.  This is why almost all holders of Bitcoin, or other cryptocurrencies, do NOT hold or store their tokens on the exchange. They transfer them right away to a secure “digital wallet’, which only they (and perhaps a family member or two) have access to.  Once this is done, the crypto currencies are actually safer and less prone to theft or interruption than a traditional bank account, or credit card, or brokerage account, which can be, and are, hacked regularly.     

Additionally, the lack of surveillance and protection is the same reason for the proliferation of cryptocurrency usage in illegal online marketplaces and fraud. Without the restrictions and regulations of cash-and-coin banking systems, large amounts of money can be traded much more easily without being flagged or seized.  Indeed, many governmental or global financial entities, such as the IMF, World Bank, and central banks claim that Bitcoin and other altcoins are used for “black market” activities, such as gun and human trafficking and illicit drug trading-and indeed they are. However, the “authorities” claims ring quite hollow, as the US dollar remains the leading tool around the world for drugs, guns, human trafficking, and all other nefarious activities.       

The Reaction to Cryptocurrency 

With these more problematic aspects of cryptocurrency in mind, nine countries currently have an absolute ban on the use and ownership of cryptocurrency, and an additional 42 countries currently have implicit bans in place, a statistic that has doubled since 2018. Now, with talk of Russia adding their name to that list, consumers want to know how these bans are being enforced, and what that means for crypto users on a global scale. 

Absolute vs. Implicit Bans 

An absolute ban, as adopted by Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Nepal, Qatar, and Tunisia, prevents all individuals and financial institutions from owning or dealing in cryptocurrencies in any way. Any operation that involves the transfer or holding of a digital currency is considered a criminal activity and could result in a person’s imprisonment. 

An implicit ban, on the other hand, means that governments restrict financial institutions from acquiring cryptocurrency users or owners as their clients. Additionally, these institutions may not offer their services to someone known to have any dealings in cryptocurrencies. 

The Effect of Crypto Bans 

The hope of legislation like this is to create restrictions around the usage of cryptocurrency. That would reduce its usage in criminal activities such as money laundering or drug trafficking. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the overall usage of cryptocurrency, leading to a decrease in crypto mining. 

This effect was seen immediately after China’s ban on cryptocurrency, which led to an 8 percent fall for Bitcoin on the same day as the legislature was passed. However, within a few weeks of the ban, Bitcoin bounced back to numbers even greater than it had been previously—despite the fact that China had been one of the largest markets for cryptocurrencies prior to that point. 

Nations embracing Bitcoin and cryptos 

At the same time, several nations have embraced Bitcoin and are looking to expand its use.  The small nation of El Salvador officially adopted Bitcoin as an accepted currency and legal tender alongside the US dollar as of September 7, 2021.  Other nations that have expressed interest in adding or adopting Bitcoin or other cryptos are Switzerland, Cuba, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil, Ukraine, and Germany. Additionally, four US states have granted commercial status to Bitcoin-Wyoming, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Texas.  Bitcoin entrepreneurs are flocking to Texas and El Salvador (who is building a Bitcoin City shortly).    

Crypto Mining and Potential Future Bans 

The environmental impact of crypto mining has received negative attention from the media recently. Notable innovators such as Elon Musk spoke out about the state of our climate, and the impact of crypto mining. The process of crypto mining utilizes an extremely large amount of energy. Unfortunately, it is also the most popular method for large companies like Bitcoin and Ethereum for create new crypto coins. 

The energy usage of these processes is staggering, with numbers sometimes exceeding that of the usage of entire countries. Renewable energy sources are used by some companies such as Bitcoin. However, green sources of power only make up around 39 percent of the total energy used for crypto mining as a whole. 

Critics of cryptocurrencies’ use of electricity, however, usually fail to point out that video gamers use even more electricity globally, and that almost none of that power is from renewables, so that argument is also increasingly specious. We must remember what a threat Bitcoin is to the establishment as we read negative articles about it, or cryptos in general.   

While places like China are implementing laws to remove these mining centers from their country, it is not eradicating the process entirely, especially since the United States currently makes up 35 percent of all Bitcoin mining worldwide. While reducing numbers for individual countries, it seems that the bans countries are implementing are not making a dramatic difference on a global scale.   

The Outlook on Cryptocurrency 

Whether inspired by the move towards eradication of cryptocurrencies by other governments, or as a call to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of crypto mining, more and more countries are creating legislature to put restrictions around crypto usage. 

With some countries even creating their own digital currencies produced and monitored by their central banks, statisticians are expecting more countries to move toward the banning of cryptocurrencies in some fashion in 2022. 

Again, at the same time, some analysts and economists expect the number of countries using and/or embracing digital currencies to grow this year and in the near future. It is a fascinating situation, and makes it hard to predict what money and daily financial dealings will look like in just a few years.  

The Top Cryptocurrencies to Keep an Eye on in 2022

Each month, new cryptocurrencies are released to the digital world for potential buyers to invest in. Cryptocurrencies offer incredible money-making opportunities and are a way for investors to generate additional income.

However, for anyone planning to invest in cryptocurrency, it’s important to know which cryptocurrencies are on the rise and which will most likely die out fairly quickly. That way, they can try to maximize their return on investment, and/or mitigate their losses.

Here are a few of the top cryptocurrencies that are expected to succeed in 2022.

Arcane

Investors getting started with cryptocurrency in 2022 should have Arcane on their radar.

Arcane is a cryptocurrency that was released in November 2021. Despite its relative newness to the scene, it was able to rise to a market cap of more than $1.3 million in just one month.

What’s interesting about Arcane is that most cryptocurrencies tend to peak upon release and then fizzle out. Arcane, like other digital currencies, peaked during its initial release but has managed to maintain its own as the hype wore down.

On top of that, this platform focuses on DeFi projects and is applying for equity on the OTCQB, a mid-tier market. If Arcane’s efforts are successful, it could see huge increases in its value in 2022, making it a potentially great speculative investment opportunity.

Chiliz

Chiliz coin, which is traded as CHZ, is another relatively young cryptocurrency. CHZ launched in October 2018 and made gains of 170 percent in October 2021 after launching live in-game NFTs.

Currently, CHZ has a market cap of $2.6 billion and is traded at a volume of roughly $317 million in a 24-hour period. Its current position of 67 out of all cryptocurrencies currently trading puts it in a solid spot for continued growth.

On top of that, CHZ is the first tokenized sports exchange. That means it’s become extremely popular with sports fans around the world, offering a novel idea with a future that could go beyond expectations.

Ethereum

No list of trending cryptocurrencies would be complete without Ethereum. Ethereum is both the second most popular and most valuable cryptocurrency on the market.

Ethereum, traded as ETH, saw drastic increases in 2021, when its value increased by nearly 800 percent. Trading at almost $30 billion in 24 hours, Ethereum has a market cap of $562 billion that is continually on the rise.

Outside of the incredible financial figures, ETH is currently in the process of updating its original blockchain to provide more environmentally friendly and efficient transactions, thus making it a potentially solid investment option for anyone wanting to make socially responsible investments.  Investors and speculators should note that ETH has risen from a low of $125 and a $12.5 billion market cap in March of 2020, to the $3750 and $443 billion market cap level only 21 months later, so a lot of good news and expectations are already built into ETHs price, and various competitors are gunning for ETH at this time.

Theta 

Theta is an exciting token that started trading in 2019. Theta (THETA) is a blockchain powered network purpose-built for video streaming. The Theta mainnet operates as a decentralized network in which users share bandwidth and computing resources on a peer-to-peer (P2P) basis. The project is advised by Steve Chen, co-founder of YouTube and Justin Kan, co-founder of Twitch.

Theta features its own native cryptocurrency token, THETA, which performs various governance tasks within the network, and counts Google, Binance, Blockchain ventures, Gumi, Sony Europe and Samsung as Enterprise validators, along with a Guardian network of thousands of community-run guardian nodes.

With demand for streaming growing rapidly around the world, developers say that the project aims to shake up the video streaming industry in its current form — which includes centralization, poor infrastructure and high costs that mean that end users often end up with a poor experience. Content creators likewise earn less revenue due to the barriers between them and end users. Theta is currently valued at approximately $4.75 billion, and is now in the top 40 in terms of market cap. If Theta even partially solves the “loading…loading…loading…” problems that everyone who uses any video platform has experienced frequently, it could see explosive upside from current levels.

Elrond

Elrond first entered the crypto scene back in September 2020 and has experienced fluctuations ever since. However, 2021 was a positive year for the currency. It reached an all-time high in November 2021, trading at $492.

While its value has dropped slightly in the following weeks, Elrond is still holding its own in the market. It currently has a 24-hour trading volume that sits at close to $300 million and a market cap of about $7.7 billion. 

Experts predict that Elrond will continue to grow and could even rise above its current position in crypto rankings. Several crypto wallets and investment apps are also offering rewards in the form of Elrond, helping to boost its value and keep the currency on the rise.

Solana

SOL, or Solana, is a cryptocurrency that’s giving Bitcoin and Ethereum a run for their money. This currency has a 24-hour trading volume of $1.9 billion and its market cap is over $54 billion.

Those numbers don’t seem like they’ll be being capped anytime soon, either. After its sudden drop in November 2021, SOL rebounded and is expected to climb high into 2022.

The currency’s long time on the market also helps it maintain a steady value, making it a strong competitor for other hot cryptocurrencies.

Terra

Terra is a cryptocurrency whose coin is better known as LUNA. Released in early 2019. LUNA is currently trading at $23.5 billion in a 24-hour volume and has a market cap of more than $52 billion.

LUNA has seen some pretty incredible jumps, once nearly doubling its value in a week. While there’s no telling whether that trend will continue, the outlook is good for 2022. On top of that, several crypto exchanges have chosen to adopt LUNA. This type of expansion and diversification means that it could see some promising growth and provide great investment opportunities in 2022

Tips to Help You Prepare for Retirement

When you are in the prime of your life, retirement may seem like a long way off in the future. Maybe this perception is the reason why 60 percent of Americans haven’t determined how much they’ll need for retirement. However, if you want to enjoy a financially secure retirement, now is the best time to start.

How Much Money Will You Need?

Everyone has different needs and expectations. Nevertheless, considering the average spends 20 years in retirement, the Department of Labor calculates that you will need between 70 to 90 percent of your pre-retirement income to continue your standard of living through your retirement years.

For example, if you earn $5,000 a month, you’ll need a little over $1.2 million to maintain your living standard for 20 years. Social Security benefits will cover about $370,000 of the $1.2 million. So you’ll need to save about $830,000 to maintain your living standard at that income level.

Saving over $800,000 may seem like an impossible task, but it is more achievable than you may think. For example, if you start saving $500 a month at age 25 in a Roth IRA account with a 7% return, you’ll have $898,358 by age 65. If you’re 35 years old, you would need to double your monthly contribution or work 10 years longer to reach that amount.

How to Get Started With Your Retirement Plan

When you make up your mind to start the process, you can begin by setting goals. Primarily, decide how much money you can realistically save in a month and how much money you want to save by retirement. Once you have set some concrete goals, you can use the following tips to prepare for a financially comfortable retirement.

Assess Your Net Worth

To assess your financial condition, you need to calculate your net worth. You can do this by tallying up all of your assets, such as your house, car, investments, and cash. Then, deduct all of your outstanding debt, including your mortgage, car payments, and student loans. Knowing your net worth is important because it is the focal point of your financial profile.

Even if you can only save $60 a month, you should start saving that amount until you begin contributing more. Before paying your bills, groceries, and other expenses, deduct your monthly savings from your paycheck and place it in a separate account until you find a retirement account with the best return.

Grow Your Savings with a 401(k) Plan

Check with your employer to see whether they offer a 403B or a 401(k) plan. Over the past five years, the average 401(k) account has had a healthy 9.5% return rate. Obviously, it is important that you continue to commit funds from your paycheck even when the markets are negative, or in a prolonged slump. In fact, it is even more important then! If you continue to add funds in negative market environments, you will be buying more shares of the depressed funds that performed so well in previous years. Then, you will have a lot more shares when there is a recovery, and over time this will give you better results. This concept is referred to as “dollar cost averaging” and it works well over longer periods of time. Also, you can make it easier to save by allowing your employer to direct deposit funds from your paycheck to the 401(k) account automatically, every pay period.

Some companies will match a certain percentage of your contribution to the 401(k) plan. Typically, most companies match 50 cents to the dollar up to 6% of your pay. Also, your employer may offer an automatic escalation feature that will automatically boost your contribution by 1% each year.

Contribute to An IRA

You can open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or Roth IRA through your bank or brokerage. The yearly contribution limit is $6,000 for customers under 50 years old and $7,000 for people over 50.

In a Roth IRA, your after-tax contribution appreciates tax-free, and your withdrawals are penalty and tax-free after you reach 59½ years old. On the other hand, you must pay taxes on your traditional IRA balance after age 59½ at whatever the current tax rates are then.

Take a Part-Time Job

Working a side job would help you earn extra money to increase your monthly contribution. Within the gig economy, businesses offer many job opportunities with very flexible work hours. Try searching online on sites like ZipRecruiter.com, FlexJobs.com, and Career Cloud.

Select a Debt to Pay Off

You can add to your retirement savings by paying off one of your debts ahead of schedule. Then, along with saving on interest expenses, you can assign the money you’ve already designated for the loan payments to your retirement account. For example, you can accomplish this task by adding $100 a month to your debt installment until you ultimately pay off the debt.

Use a Finance App

Free downloadable finance apps can help you track your spending, manage your debt, and organize your budget in a streamlined manner. Additionally, they can enhance your financial knowledge through the tutorials as you use them. Overall, the best apps for this purpose are: You Need a Budget (YNAB), Mint, Simplifi by Quicken, PocketGuard, Goodbudget, and Stash.

Open a Social Security Account

Suppose you want to determine how much in Social Security you will get at retirement. In that case, the Social Security Administration allows you to set up a My Social Security Online Account, at www.ssa.gov . It is a valuable tool for learning about your Social Security benefits and keeping tabs on your future benefit amount.

If you want to make the best of your retirement years, there is no time like the present to get started. So many options and resources are available to you that prior generations didn’t have. Once you begin, you will discover that managing your retirement plan is not as complicated as you thought and that reaching your retirement goals is possible. Patience and even being stubborn in rough periods are key!

How Do Cryptocurrencies Work, and What is the Impact of the China Ban?

On September 24, 2021, China’s central bank issued a statement explaining that all virtual currency-related business activities were illegal from that moment on in the country, effectively placing a nationwide ban on cryptocurrency transactions. The announcement came amid a largescale crackdown on the trillion-dollar cryptocurrency industry by the Chinese government.

According to the statement, which was published on the People’s Bank of China website, all financial institutions, Internet platforms, and payment companies in China will be banned from enabling cryptocurrency trading. The People’s Bank of China also seeks to target foreign exchanges, banning foreign entities from providing virtual currency exchanges for Chinese residents via the Internet.

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrencies are virtual assets that are bought, spent, sold, and traded via digital exchanges. Also known as crypto assets, they are cryptographically secured representations of value capable of being traded or used to pay for things.

Cryptocurrency does not represent a physical asset, so it has no intrinsic value, just as paper, or fiat currencies have no intrinsic value. The user of the $20 or $100 bill has to have faith (along with lots and lots of other people) that that $20 or $100 will indeed buy him a certain amount of good or services. Supply and demand dictate its value. Similarly, and put simply, cryptocurrency is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, making it a somewhat speculative, unpredictable asset, like paper currencies, which have historically lost all or most of their value over time.

What are the benefits of cryptocurrency?

In traditional business transactions, agents, brokers, and legal representatives can complicate and generate additional expenses to even straightforward transactions, with things like paperwork, commissions, brokerage fees, and a variety of other expenses hampering the process.

One of the main benefits of cryptocurrency is that this peer-to-peer platform enables users to effectively cut out the middle man, creating accountability and reducing the possibility for confusion. With cryptocurrency blockchain essentially serving as a large property rights database, the medium minimizes the time and expense involved in making asset transfers. It also eliminates bank transaction fees.

Cryptocurrency transactions offer enhanced confidentiality compared with traditional cash/credit systems, where an individual’s entire credit history can be viewed by banks or credit agencies. Users are shielded against the threat of identity theft, account tampering, fraud, and invasion of privacy thanks to the strong encryption techniques utilized throughout the transaction process.

Digital currencies enable anyone with a viable data connection to complete cryptocurrency transactions, increasing access to credit. Though unrecognized as legal tender in many countries worldwide, cryptocurrency does facilitate cross-border transfers without complications, eliminating costly currency exchange fluctuations, transaction charges, interest, and other levies.

Most countries operate stringent rules regulating the banking industry, protecting the rights of consumers. Nevertheless, when we deposit funds in the traditional banking system, we are effectively signing over control of our assets to a third party. If an account holder impinges the bank’s terms of service, the bank could make them jump through hoops to access their money. One of the greatest advantages of cryptocurrency is that investors are the sole owner of private and public encryption keys, effectively ensuring that they retain full control of their money.

What risks are associated with cryptocurrency?

Virtual currencies have gained significant traction in recent years, but investing in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is not without risk, with some seasoned investors warning that the phenomenon is a “mirage” and a “soap bubble”, while other big name billionaire investors and hedge fund managers have embraced it, and continue to add to their holdings.

One of the main dangers of investing in cryptocurrency is price variability. As with most types of investment, values fall as well as rise. With digital currency, these fluctuations can be dramatic.

As with any popular technology, competition is a big problem. An influx of new cryptocurrency competitors have entered the market recently, an issue any Bitcoin owner is acutely aware of. Unless investors keep their eye on the ball, they could lose a lot if the cryptocurrency they invested in suddenly loses value due to the emergence of a stronger rival, as we have seen over the years with countless tech stocks and companies.

Fraud is a risk that is inherent to owning any financial asset. In terms of buying and selling, crypto investors should keep in mind that if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Also, because cryptocurrency details are stored on computers, if that hard drive breaks down or the key file is accidentally deleted, the investor could lose access to their digital currency. Similarly, if a hacker gains access, they could steal the contents of your digital wallet, as they can with your brokerage or bank accounts.

A significant problem with cryptocurrency is the lack of regulation. Unlike conventional bank accounts, cryptocurrencies do not benefit from FDIC insurance. Plus, the US government regards cryptocurrencies as securities, applying existing laws to digital assets and obliging investors to report realized gains. In other countries, like China, crypto investments are banned.

What is the impact of China’s cryptocurrency ban on the market?

In the wake of China’s latest cryptocurrency crackdown, many major cryptocurrencies took a massive tumble in value. Bitcoin fell 8 percent to around $41,000 by 9 a.m. on the day of China’s announcement.  However, less than two weeks later, Bitcoin had recovered to over $50,000, as the concerns about China’s efforts faded.

Although cryptocurrency continues to provide the opportunity for massive gains, equally, there remains potential for huge losses, making it a high-risk, high reward strategy for speculative investors. Therefore, cryptocurrencies or “digital assets” should only comprise a small percentage of the average investor’s portfolio.