To get the most out of your crypto investing experience, you need to know what the following terms mean.
Cryptocurrency: A cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency that’s created through a process called mining. You can make money by buying and selling cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain: This is like an accounting ledger that records all transactions made with Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. It’s decentralized, meaning no one controls it—the whole blockchain is available on many different computers around the world, making it very secure.
Wallet: This is an online place where you can store your cryptocurrency, similar to how you would use a bank account to keep track of your money (and yes, there are also physical wallets). Your wallet has both public and private keys associated with it (we’ll get into that in a minute), which help keep everything secure.
Private key/public key/seed phrase/mnemonic phrase/mnemonic words: These terms all refer to strings of words that act as passwords for your wallet; they function together like those single-use codes on the back of credit cards for added security when you make online purchases. If someone else gets their hands on these codes, they’ll have access to your wallet, so be careful and don’t share them!
Tips for Beginners Before Investing in Cryptocurrency
Never trust anyone with your money
There’s no such thing as a safe cryptocurrency exchange or online wallet. If a company claims that its exchange service or online wallet is 100% safe, run away immediately. There are numerous examples of exchanges and wallets getting hacked over the years, so if you’re not in control of your private keys, the coins in your account aren’t yours.
To avoid making this mistake, transfer all of your funds to a hardware wallet or use a software wallet that supports cold storage.
No one cares about your funds more than you do
This may seem obvious, but protecting your crypto assets is entirely up to you. You’re the only person who knows what works best for you when it comes to security practices and managing your funds.
This means that nobody but you can answer questions like: Should I get a hardware wallet or keep my funds on the exchange? What’s a good way to keep track of my portfolio? Which password manager should I use? Does this website look authentic, or am I being redirected to a fake page?
Since these decisions are completely up to you, it’s important that you do plenty of research before committing to anything. This will help ensure that the choices you make will be well-informed ones, which in turn makes it more likely that they’ll be right for your unique situation.
Choose the right platform
When it comes to currency exchange, there are three options:
- Trade fiat currency into cryptocurrency. This is the easiest of exchanges and involves just a few steps to complete. You will also likely face fewer fees on this transaction.
- Get an exchange wallet and start trading cryptocurrencies (like coins or tokens). These platforms are free to use and provide many other various services to help manage your money, with minimal fees. Some give you a discount if you spend some money on their services or products in the long term for building up loyalty.
- Set up your own digital wallet and start buying cryptocurrency. Setting up wallets may involve hundreds of dollars worth of hardware, but that expense can be offset by getting a discount through referral links from brands like Coinbase (the most popular option among most people), which allows you to buy Bitcoin or Ethereum as easy as buying a stock at a broker.
Buy on an exchange, store in a wallet
There is a common misconception that it’s automatically stored in your digital wallet when you buy cryptocurrency. However, obtaining cryptocurrency is just one part of the process—you’ll still need to store it somewhere safe.
You can buy crypto from an exchange—like Coinbase or Binance—but exchanges are meant for buying and selling, not storing funds long-term. You wouldn’t keep money in a bank account if you weren’t planning to spend it at some point, right? That’s why you should store your coins in a wallet instead.
Wallets come with two keys: a private key that only you know, and a public key that allows others to send funds to your wallet address (just like an email address). The private key authorizes transactions on the blockchain network, while the public key facilitates fund transfers.
Think of your wallet as a checking account and your vault as savings—you can access your savings whenever you want, but you don’t touch them every day (or even every week). Similarly, you should frequently use hot wallets since they provide easy access to smaller amounts of crypto for daily purchases. Cold wallets are ideal for larger sums of crypto that aren’t used too often because they’re harder for hackers to breach.
Start small and grow big
Cryptocurrency is volatile, so it’s unwise to start your journey by putting in too much money. If you were learning how to use a new phone for the first time, you wouldn’t dive right in and try out every feature at once—you’d start small, read tutorials, and figure out how things work bit-by-bit. The same should be true of your cryptocurrency portfolio.
Start with a small amount of money. It should be an amount that will give you valuable experience without causing serious financial losses if something goes awry. You can always buy more later!
Don’t spend all your crypto initially; instead, plan to grow it slowly over time and do research on where you can spend it in your city or online. Cryptocurrencies are still not widely accepted as legal tender (yet), so cash will likely be the currency of choice for most transactions for the foreseeable future.
As you get comfortable with cryptocurrencies over time, expand your portfolio by investing more into different types of coins—but only do this when you feel ready
Have an exit strategy in mind at all times
The bottom line is that trading cryptocurrency carries risk any way you go about it. Knowing when to sell your tokens or coins is just as important as knowing when to buy, and having an exit strategy in mind at all times can help you minimize losses if things don’t pan out the way you thought they would. When buying cryptocurrency:
Figure out how much money you’re willing to lose, and stick to that amount. If a particular coin doesn’t take off, decide whether it’s worth your time to wait for the price to bounce back up—or whether you’d rather cut your losses now and move on to another investment.
Know what types of news will positively or negatively impact the currency’s value. Cryptocurrency is extremely sensitive to external events and tends to be volatile even under normal circumstances. This makes it crucial for investors to keep an eye on current events and pay attention whenever regulators or other bodies release statements regarding cryptocurrencies in general or specific currencies in particular.
It’s also possible that some unexpected event could occur (a natural disaster, a terrorist attack) that will cause a disruption in the normal flow of business; make sure that your investment strategy accounts for such possibilities so that if they do happen, they won’t come as a surprise.
Avoid following any “get rich quick” scheme, especially anything involving fraudulent ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings). Many companies hold these offerings with promises of making investors rich overnight by selling them newly-created digital currencies; however, these companies are just out for themselves and are only interested in using investor funds for their own purposes.
Never share your private key with anyone else
Never give out your private key to anyone. It’s the only way to access your cryptocurrency, and it’s how you can prove that you’re the rightful owner of your funds. If you lose your private key or someone else gets a hold of it, they can spend all of your cryptocurrency in an instant, and there will be no way to get it back.
There is no password reset function for cryptocurrency. If you forget or misplace your private key, whoever has access to it can use all of those funds, and there won’t be any way for you to get them back. Because cryptocurrency is so valuable, some people may want access to yours, so keep them safe from hackers, nosy family members, or friends who might try and trick you into giving up that information!
In closing, it’s important to remember that the cryptocurrency industry is still very much in its infancy. As a result, you need to invest wisely and at your own risk. A truly wise way of consulting a professional financial advisor would be to do this. But above all else, as with any investment, make sure you understand what you’re getting into. You don’t want to wake up one morning scrambling to figure out why your money is gone.