Even in the currently roaring stock market, people are looking for higher returns. And an investment that has jumped more than 40 percent in one week can seem like just the way to make a lot of money.
“What do you think of bitcoins,” a number or people have asked me.
Bitcoin is an electronic currency that exists only on the Internet. There are not any actual coins. It’s not backed by anything except the hope by investors that that other folks will continue to want to buy it. Yet, it has become one of the most talked about investments of late. Why?
“Supply and demand. People are buying up bitcoin, driving up the price of the 16.7 million coins in circulation,” reported The Washington Post’s Thomas Heath.
In January, the cryptocurrency was trading at just under $1,000 per coin. Last week, it reached a high of $17,000 on one exchange and just over $19,000 on another. By Friday it was sliding down.
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) December 7, 2017
It dropped to as low as $14,566.81 Friday just after 1:30 p.m.,” reported CNB’s Everett Rosenfeld.
CNN tech writer Seth Fiegerman wrote about buying $250 worth of bitcoin. In writing about the volatility of the currency Fiegerman said, “a key reason the price of bitcoin keeps going up is, well, because it keeps going up. Small investors like yours truly have a fear of missing out on a chance to get rich quick. And when the value of your bitcoin doubles in a week, as it did for me, it’s easy to think you’re a genius. But you can get burned assuming it will keep skyrocketing.”
best bitcoin headline of the day pic.twitter.com/4wsVKfEnJR
— Seth Fiegerman (@sfiegerman) December 7, 2017
For the average investor, folks with mortgages, student loans, credit card debt or regular jobs they can’t afford to lose, bitcoins are highly risky — more akin to gambling than investing. Stay away unless you have the stomach for speculative investing and cash to lose your money without tears. But don’t take my word for it.
Jack Bogle: “Did I make myself clear? Bitcoin has no underlying rate of return. You know bonds have an interest coupon, stocks have earnings and dividends. There is nothing to support bitcoin except the hope that you will sell it to someone for more than you paid for it. Bitcoin may well go to $20,000, but that won’t prove I’m wrong. When it gets back to $100, we’ll talk.”
A roundtable of experts at NerdWallet answer questions about bitcoin: Is Bitcoin Safe? Bitcoin may be soaring lately, but there are plenty of reasons to steer clear of the digital currency
Here’s how the NerdWallet writers answered this question: In 20 years people will hear ‘bitcoin’ and say. . .
Anna-Louise Jackson, investing: “That’s so 2017.”
James Royal, investing: “Vanilla Ice? Pet Rock? Beanie Babies?”
Tina Orem, taxes: “Didn’t bitcoin date one of the Kardashians?”
Dayana Yochim, investing: “Why oh why didn’t I sell at $16,000?”
Andrea Coombes, investing: “Bit-what? I actually tend to think cryptocurrency is here to stay. But it’s probably going to be regulated, and it’s probably not going to be bitcoin.”
The meteoric rise of bitcoin and its buying frenzy have regulators and big banks concerned.
Then there was this: Hackers made off with $70 million in the digital currency after targeting NiceHash, a cryptocurrency platform.
Still thinking of speculating in bitcoin? I’ve got three words for you: Beanie Babies bubble
What do you think of the bitcoin craze? Are you tempting to join the frenzy? Have you invested? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Retirement rants and raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging.
This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”
Patricia S. from Mason, Mich., had a rant about her years-long struggle with finding a decent family or primary care doctor who will accept new Medicare patients.
“When we moved my mom from Pueblo, Colorado to Mason, my primary care doctor would not accept her as a new patient because she was on Medicare,” she wrote. “I explained that she had a secondary plan with Blue Cross Federal Retirees, but that fell on deaf ears. This made mom’s end of life medical care (she died at 88 from lung cancer in 2016) a really tough slog. I sure wish the Affordable Care Act would have mandated doctors’ acceptance of new Medicare patients.”
Kent Jamison of Avon, Conn., had a rant about long-term care insurance. “I am a 72 year old retired male who did consumer research for a trade association in the financial services industry. I am and was fairly knowledgeable about consumer issues in regard to retirement. My rant is long-term care, a major concern of retirees. I took early retirement in 2000 at age 55, having been a caregiver for my late wife who died in 1998 after five years with a rare form of dementia, three of which were in a nursing home. I not only know the ins and outs of long-term care insurance because of my professional work, but I also know it firsthand as a caregiver.”
His rant: His annual premium has gone from $479.52 to $1,189.73. “And it will go up again next year, the second annual increase
of a scheduled increase spread out over three years. I’ve lost track of how many increases I have experienced so far over the life of this policy. Fortunately I purchased a modest policy. Many who purchased larger policies, frankly more adequate policies, have had to trim their benefits in order to keep their premiums affordable. I have been able to keep my benefits intact. I fully expect these increases to continue due to adverse selection (premiums go up, the only ones who hang in there are the sick ones.) The ramifications of this are not only sobering for myself as a policyholder and retiree but it has huge implications for federal and state budgets.”
He’s not wrong: Out-of-Control Premium Hikes for Long-Term Care Insurance
What’s been your experience with premium hikes for your long term care insurance? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, a lot of folks are still upset that there’s a chance Congress will eliminate the deduction for medical expenses.
Elizabeth of Virginia wrote, “Over 18 years ago, my husband at age 59 suffered a severe stroke that robbed him of his speech and mobility. He could not be left alone and needed help with many functions of daily life. I hired caregivers while I was at work and took care of him myself when I was home. Three years ago, he had a second stroke and now requires care seven days a week, 24 hours a day. His care at home now costs over $250,000 a year. Although, we might once have considered ourselves upper middle class, the medical expense tax deduction has been essential to my ability to provide for his care. As we draw down our assets, it becomes even more essential as I fear running out of money. Tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy should not come at the expense of the most vulnerable—those who need [long term] care at all income levels. Elimination of this deduction would also increase government expenditures, particularly for Medicaid costs.”
Newsletter comments policy
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.
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