Investments  

Crypto isn't going away so we must educate ourselves

James Coney

James Coney

It is the unspoken rule of giving a careers talk to schoolchildren that the first question you always get asked is, 'how much do you get paid?'.

No matter what you have said before, or how persuasively you have made the case for your industry, you had better be prepared to tell them about your salary.

And so it proved the case the other week when I went in to a local secondary school to speak about journalism to a group of year 10 students, right in the middle of studying for their GCSEs and pondering what next to do with their lives.

For almost an entire hour they sat there staring blankly back at me – no matter how funny or engaging I thought I was being.

That was until I showed them a screenshot of a story we had recently published in The Times. It showed the experiences of a group of 20-somethings who were investing, and almost every single one of them was invested in crypto in some way.

Suddenly the room was full of chatter and questions. Everyone wanted to know about crypto; 'how do you get into it?' and 'how do you make money from it?'.

It is worrying, but is it totally irrational? My colleague Imogen Tew recently argued very persuasively that rather than being utter madness, the pursuit of crypto by 20-somethings was in fact entirely rational.

They are having to watch as house prices continue to race way ahead of them, have been deprived the chance to ever have a defined benefit pension, and have missed out on the FAANG tech boom and the 12-year bull run in markets.

They are being told by older investors who have benefitted from all this, and pocketed gains from the crazy valuations of many of these assets, that they should not be similarly trying to chase gains.

It is rather logical, even if you do not believe it is the right thing to do. Sky-high market valuations and low interest rates were always going to lead to investors chasing returns by taking on risk elsewhere – and crypto is the means that younger investors have found to do that.

From the start I have disliked crypto. Initially this was because I did not understand it, then as I tried to educate myself more about it I found myself struggling to believe whether it would ever truly find its purpose as an alternative form of currency.

There is an excellent blog from economists at the Bank of England on this issue, and they come to the same conclusion about 'what exactly is the purpose of crypto?'.

It does not store value, it is not widely accepted and certainly recently seems to have been hijacked by criminals.