Collins on Crypto

Since I keep getting asked, here’s my take on…

It all feels very much like a religion to me. Believers revel in the glorious revealed truth of it. Nonbelievers think they are batshit crazy, and maybe dangerous.

I am not a believer, but I am intrigued.


So far, cryptos are too volatile to serve well as actual currencies. After all you are unlikely to spend something you think is going to be worth dramatically more tomorrow. And you are unlikely to accept in payment something that might drop dramatically the next day.

The exception being mostly for criminal activities where the advantages of secrecy outweigh the issue of volatility. Will that change? Some are trying. Time will tell.

For now, cryptos are speculations, and potentially stores of wealth. Unlike a business or a piece of investment property, there is no intrinsic value in them.

Like gold, buyers are hoping in the future someone will pay more for it. So far that’s worked out rather well. But as we all should know, that is no guarantee for the future.

Disaster insurance?

Also like gold, some favor them for disaster insurance against something seriously going wrong in the world.

Of course, cryptos rely on our energy grids and internet remaining intact and stable. So if you are expecting a civilization melt-down, gold in hand might be your better choice.

Then again, if you expect a disaster that has you fleeing across borders — Crypto for the win!

Depends on the disaster you are expecting, I guess.

Energy hogs?

Creating and maintaining these things is breathtakingly energy intensive. Major infrastructure and environmental concerns are being expressed. I realize this is an ongoing debate, but as yet I have found the crypto folks unconvincing.

Too complicated?

These things are insanely complicated, at least for me. I’ve had them explained to me by smart people numerous times and at best I think I kinda maybe get the general idea. Perhaps.

But I don’t believe in investing in things I don’t understand.

By most accounts, I’m a reasonably bright fellow especially about financial stuff. So if it is too complex for me, I doubt most people out there snapping them up have any real concept of what they are buying.

If they are only suitable for an elite who actually understand them, well there you go.

Which one?

There are precisely 12,345,678,901,234,567,890 crypto currencies out there last I checked, although that’s just an estimate. 

Assuming crypto is destined to be a real thing in our future and you’d like to stake your claim, just where exactly?

Bitcoin, the Kleenex of crypto?

Or perhaps Dogecoin which started as a joke and suddenly became a real thing. At least until Elon outed it on SNL last Saturday.


Well, you have no end of choices.

Governmental backlash?

What about the concern of a governmental backlash as/if these things begin to get real traction? Issuing currency is not just a public service, it is a major source of power. And we all know how willingly governments gracefully relinquish power. 

So those are my thoughts, but what do I know? In my introduction in this guest post, How to Invest in Bitcoin like Benjamin Graham, I said…

My pal Lucas, who wrote that post back in 2017, has promised me an updated one shortly. You’ll get a much more positive take in that. It will be worth a read. Anyone who followed his advice back then would have profited handsomely.

Meanwhile, for balance, here’s Bill Maher, who is noted for being anti-religion of all types, railing against them:

Would I invest? No.

But I might speculate in one with a minor amount of money on the off chance it might explode on the upside.

Remember what is a minor amount of money to you might be a fortune to me. And vice versa. When you read Elon Musk has $5-billion in Bitcoin, put it in context:

That is 3.3% of his $150-billion net worth.

So, good ahead. You have the…

Official JL Collins Seal of Approval

…to invest 3.3% of yours.

Will I? Probably not as I can’t be bothered.

I don’t care. I don’t have to. VTSAX


My pal Carl and his pal Doug just launched their new podcast Mile High FI. Not sure if the name comes from their location in Longmont CO or from what you can legally buy there.

They foolishly asked me to be their first guest.


An existential crisis for us travelers.


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Important Resources

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  1. JL says

    I would encourage you to keep studying as you are only at the surface level and taking in the information of the corporate media (at least from what I can tell from what you’ve written). And, the fact that you post erroneous info stated by Bill Maher. Totally ignorant posture and position he has.

    Most are not currencies. Name given due to the first one.

    Here are two places I’d encourage you to learn.

      • JO says


        I respect so much of your work but your response is simply an attack on a request to dig a little deeper.

        Isn’t that the essence of your work?. People follow your thinking because it is distinct from the common assumptions.

        For example one project that is doing good work is THETA.

        They are solving real problems with a good team and excellent partnerships.

      • Accidentally Retired says

        You’re not wrong about it being a religion, BUT I do think the Blockchain will matter going forward. Seth Godin has a really, really good explanation:

        “Okay, so what’s the blockchain?

        It’s a database.

        Unlike most databases, it’s not controlled by one entity and it’s not easily rewritten. Instead, it’s a ledger, a permanent, examinable, public database. One can use it to record transactions of various sorts.

        It would be a really good way to keep track of property records, for example. Instead, we have title insurance, unsearchable folders of deeds in City Hall and often dusty tax records.”

        So while Bitcoin may be a religion, Blockchain technology in itself has a way of disrupting many old-school industries and record keeping technologies, but doing so in a more secure way…in the long-run.

        But for now, it is speculation…

        • Mich says


          This statement from jlcollinsnh …
          > Creating and maintaining these things is breathtakingly energy intensive.

          True for Bitcoin and other proof-of-work crypto, but NOT true for all. Proof-of-statement crypto like Ethereum does not use the same energy-intensive processes.

          This statement from Accidentally Retired …
          > … but doing so in a more secure way…in the long-run

          Guess we’ll see what happens with quantum computing. If QC delivers on its promise, this could disrupt all crypto.

    • Eric says

      Very confusing post when I first read it—thought it was JL replying to a post that was magically gone! After rereading it, appears that the user name is “ JL says”. Just thought it might be confusing to others as well…

      • jlcollinsnh says

        It is confusing and made more so by the fact that “JL” and “JO” are the same person. Not sure why they chose to change their name with the second comment.

    • Alex Lee says

      Hi JL
      I’m a literary agent in Korea and one of my publisher is interested in your book-where can I get your email to discuss? I’ve sent a message in as well and I hope to hear from you soon.

  2. Stefan Novak says

    Haha great witty post as always Mr Collins, I’ve been curious about your thoughts on Crypto. I put £20 into the Doge as I was just fascinated how the value of this seemingly made up thing seemed to fluctuate based on Tweets! It was fun but I’d certainly never invest any real money into something so volatile.


  3. Peter says

    Thanks for yet another insightful post!

    You have a small error at the end of your post. You state that Elon Musk holds $5-billion in Bitcoin out of his $150-billion net worth. That equates to 3.33% and not .033%.

    • jlcollinsnh says


      You are correct Peter. Thanks for the catch.

      No wonder I don’t understand crypto! 😉

  4. Georgia boy says

    Timely post, Mr. Collins.
    You do need to check your decimal point on how much of Elon’s net worth is in crypto.
    To commenter JL, Bitcoin, and some others, are pitched as currencies, alternatives/replacements for the USD. A widely used currency does have value. Gold has value as a store of value/currency substitute, and for use in jewelry.
    I have never heard any reasonable explanation of why or how a non-currency crypto has any value.
    For Bitcoin, one big selling point/use case is as a currency/alternative for the USD.
    As of now, it’s a whole lot easier to use USDs, not to mention the crazy value fluctuation problem Mr. Collins mentions. Many of the proponents of crypto like the fact that it isn’t the USD (e.g. Iran, North Korea, Russia, criminals), but there are alternatives to the USD (Swiss Francs, japanese yen) that are a more stable store of value and are at least as easy to transact in as bitcoin. A pretty good argument can be made that bitcoin has facilitated the growth of the ransomware business
    Even some of not explicitly criminal use cases are not exactly on the moral high ground, such as hiding assets from spouses and creditors.
    I don’t expect the speculation in crypto to end, and that’s fine, but it is speculation.

  5. Kevin says

    I believe you mixed up the decimal in your estimation of Elon Musks Bitcoin holdings.

    5 B / 150 B = 0.033


  6. Alex says

    Greetings from Brazil.

    Mr. Collins, I’d like to thank you for your lessons. In a world where people tend to complicate things, you show us, with great sincerity, the safe path to reach and preserve our wealth.

    There’s no shortcuts, instead there’s a lot of traps, and this speculative frenzy is one of them.

    • Henrique says

      Another Brazilian here. Mr. Collins doesn’t even know he’s the godfather of the Brazilian FIRE movement as well as the american. Hope he comes to a chautauqua in Brazil soon!

        • Andrea Meier says

          I don’t care, too and I don’t have to: VWCE

          Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETF USD Acc

          The few Bitcoin I bought while ago for speculation and to learn about are already sold thanks ELON for one crazy tweet …

          Blockchain is an interesting disruptive technology and another topic for me!

      • jlcollinsnh says

        Unfortunately, no plans for a Brazilian Chautauqua. However, my agent tells me she has begun negotiations with a publisher in Brazil for my book. 🙂

  7. No More Weekdays says

    Equities and other investments are intuitive and their value and rationale as an investment can be explained without much effort. If it takes white papers and multiple long winded answers to explain crypto and it still doesn’t make sense then it must be pretty complicated.

    • vorlic says

      True, but then I really cannot understand electricity. I have worked with it, designed and built systems which use it, generate it and so on, but I still cannot, for the life of me, understand exactly what it is or how it works.

      Same with Bitcoin/Ethereum/Litecoin – currently I am approx 500% up from following JL/Lucas’ tip back in 2017. If the money had landed in the Lithuanian bank account four days sooner, and from thence made it into Coinbase two days sooner, I would now be up about 1500% up.

      I am just leaving my modest little speculation well alone. If it’s going to catch on, the sky is the limit. If not, no stress.

      For the rest, it’s Bogle’s Baby.

      • Greg says

        I understand what you’re saying about electricity, but with cryptocurrencies as with any other thing I would consider risking my money for, there has to be a relatively straightforward answer to the question “Why does this exist?” If you need a white paper to make the case that people should put their money into this thing, that’s a problem.

  8. FiPhysician says

    Wait a second… you wrote a SIMPLE Path to wealth and there is concern that you might have thought crypto was part of that simple path??? Blockchain = revolutionary; Bitcoin = bubble. Those with the religion don’t like to see that.

  9. Michael Graham says

    I have come to the same conclusion Josh. Since when is high systemic complexity a positive feature? I think the truth is that none of the varying bells and whistles between them actually matter. They’re all Ponzi scheme memes and the only feature of merit is popularity; which historically is an incredibly fickle friend.
    A simplified system view is adequate to see that any crypto is a game of hot potato, with an expected value of paying out positively less than 50% of the time simply due to the transaction costs. I’d don’t like those odds. I sleep best with my stack in VTWAX.
    I’m looking forward to the crypto bubble popping. My bet is it’ll be this fall when the hyperinflation boogeyman turns out to be only mildly inconvenient at worst, yet again.
    Love your book by the way.

    • Greg says

      There’s a distinct possibility that at least part of the crypto space is just straight up money laundering / counterfeiting, as well. Read the piece “The Bit Short” on Medium; the spam filter will not let me post it here.

  10. John says

    The answer might be 1% or 10% or 8% or 2%…. but it is not 0%
    A small percentage of your portfolio in cryto is a no brainer. DYOR.

    Be it this ” but I might speculate in one with a minor amount of money on the off chance it might explode on the upside” or any other reason, but not having some exposure to crypto is negligence.

    BTW, Bill Maher is a comedian, he makes money being by making people laugh. Would you take financial advice from a comedian?

  11. Nick G says

    A friend suggested that I research cryptocurrency because it is the currency of the future. Not interested. I don’t invest in currency. I invest in companies. My portfolio of VTSAX is up over $300k since August 2020. I’m very good with that!!! And I understand everything about my portfolio. No extensive research required. I’ll stick to “simple” every day, all day.

  12. New2Crypto says

    I recently launched a very simple web site to give new crypto investors a heads-up on some of the major items that they should be aware of if they decide to try investing:

    Cryptocurrency is quickly becoming a field of technology that is increasingly about the utility of the networks/blockchains/distributed ledgers etc. and less about the currencies or tokens. But it is a very immature field/market. However, huge companies have long saw the value in the tech for conducting their business transactions—beyond the currencies. IBM has been using/developing blockchain for the past 6 years. This is the cryptocurrency company they (and 19 other enormous companies) are now deeply involved in:

    I think that the companies on this list illustrate the scale of the industry involvement that is happening right now. And highlight the probability that it won’t be long before Vanguard begins offers the Hedera Hashgraph’s tokens to their investors.

    For now though new investors would be wise to proceed with a lot of caution and do a lot of research as crypto investing is very different from what most people are used to in relation to risk, security and customer support.

  13. George Choy says

    I don’t touch crypto as an investment vehicle, as it is pure speculation and there’s no cashflow. It’s unstable, with wild fluctuations every day.
    I want cashflow in the bank every month, which is why I buy residential and commercial property. It’s real. I can touch it. The money arrives every month in my bank.

  14. Andrea says

    I don’t care, too and I don’t have to: VWCE

    Vanguard FTSE All-World UCITS ETF USD Acc

    The handful Bitcoin I bought while ago for speculation and to learn about are already sold thanks ELON for one crazy tweet …

    Blockchain is an interesting disruptive technology and another topic for me!

  15. K from Chautauqua says

    JL, for someone who doesn’t understand crypto, you have written the best and most succinct analysis of crypto I’ve read. And that’s from someone who has (through sheer luck and/or irony) done well playing crypto roulette. Sage wisdom as always.

  16. PB says

    I have no idea whether this blog influenced my thinking about investments so much, or I keep reading it because I have already thought that way and this is just confirming my bias, but these are exactly my thoughts about crypto. That said, I do engage in some small scale (about 1% of my net worth) speculations with it, and have seen some pretty ridiculous growth.

  17. Chris says

    I will just stick with this for now … Thanks for the insight though …

    Avoid fiscally irresponsible people. Never marry one or otherwise give him access to your money.
    Avoid money managers. It’s your money and no one will care for it better than you.
    Avoid debt.
    Save a portion of every dollar you get.
    The greater the percent of your income you save and invest, the sooner you’ll have F-You money. Try 50%. With no debt, this perfectly doable.
    Put this money in the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX) This is the fund you already own, so just keep adding to it.
    Realize the market and the value of your shares will sometimes drop dramatically. People all around you will panic. They’ll be screaming Sell, Sell, Sell. Ignore this. Even better: Buy more shares.
    When you can live off the dividends VTSAX provides you are financially free.
    The less you need, the more free you are.


  18. Steveark says

    Crypto reminds me of the early days of personal computers. There were thousands of equal sized competitors. The idea than anyone could know that Dell and Microsoft and Apple would win and Texas Instruments and Gateway and Osborne would lose is ridiculous. Picking a crypto winner now is just as unlikely.

  19. RobDiesel says

    I can see blockchain being of use.

    I crack up when people complain that “one tweet from Elon and I lost everything” – that’s sort of the point with crypto. It’s not regulated, so people like Elon could tweet, drop the value of whatever crypto, buy a whole bunch of it and tweet something else and magically make hundreds of millions of dollars.

    If he does that with publicly traded companies, the SEC will jump on it quickly (as they have in the past), so it’s open to manipulation.

    I actually bought ETH 4-5 years ago and about forgot about it until the other week. It’s done well, but it’s less than 0.1% of my portfolio invested (though worth more now) so I might as well let it ride. It might vanish or it might double from here.

    For people needing to park cash for a little while, I suspect a covered-call fund might make sense for a few months. It would have a dividend and be less volatile than crypto.

    Ultimately, like JL says, if you just keep throwing your excess money into VTSAX, you can sleep easy without having to worry about volatility.

  20. Fe says

    Mr. Collins, thanks to your stock series I started investing in 2015 with only 10k in savings and $0 invested. I had just turned 27. I recently turned 33 and have a portfolio of $370k (annual salary $75k in the Bay Area) thanks to your advice (I found you before Mr. MMM). I need to get to $600k to be financially free, so I’m hoping to get there in the next 3 or 4 years assuming the market doesn’t go south and I’m also planning to move out of California. Although I’d also love to hit $1M even if I don’t need the money. The only stock I own is VTSAX, but in January I decided to diversify my portfolio and put about 5% in crypto (20k, 50/50 BTC/ETH). I didn’t sell stocks, I’ve never sold stocks (VTSAX). I sold some bonds plus some savings I had. I considered it play money as I’d be getting into an asset class with no long term track record. I also did it because more institutions (e.g. PayPal) started adopting it. Crypto quickly became 10% of the portfolio on its own. Not sure what the future holds (10-15 years from now) and I’m not planning to add more to it, but in case it grows, I’m planning to not let it grow more than 30% of the portfolio and I’ll only consider the Vanguard money as the one that “counts” for financial freedom. I also have to say that BTC has not performed that well compared to some other coins, which means that crypto can also benefit from the index fund concept. If crypto really takes off, it probably won’t be with BTC that wins. I’m sure there’ll be a crypto index fund in the future, so I’ll transfer all of that play money into that index fund once available.

  21. Rafael says

    Finally someone touches on the main question for me and 90% of population:

    “It’s only suitable for an elite who actually understand them”. This is exactly why none of the current coins will be used as main currency on streets ever.

    Central Banks will have to come up with their own government-controlled cryptos encapsulated in something the general public can understand, not just the silicon valley people.

  22. MyFinancialShape says

    Hi JL
    Very interesting read. Cryptos are an extremely interesting topic and I think its sensible to have at least some little exposure (I am thinking of the major ones like Bitcoin, Ethereum etc.). A few hundred dollars are enough. There is big upside potential and not too much to lose.

  23. Dan says

    There is some value in the technology of blockchain. And the way it’s propagated makes sense in some respect because that is how the technology works – you need people to mine it or farm it to establish and large enough pool to enable the value of blockchain.

    At this point, we are way past proving value and setting up technology, and into full on stupid speculation. It’s absolutely reminiscent of the internet companies in 1999, and likely to end in the same way.

  24. Knight Rider says

    Crypto “investors” wanted a completely non-regulated non-governed decentralized currency…well, THEY GOT IT !
    Now they have to live with things like Elon manipulation price and there’s no “crypto SEC” to complain about…
    see, complete freedom and anarchy aren’t so good, isn’t it?

    • Alex says

      Correct on 1, necessary evil on 2. All feature, no bugs 🙂
      See prior cycles — especially BCH hard fork.

  25. Chris says

    How can an asset go from being with $0 to having a multi trillion dollar market cap without volatility?

    Volatility is a reflection of the world’s understanding of bitcoin; it isn’t inherent to bitcoin. It is the result of externalities.

    “if a global, digital, sound, open source, programmable money was monetizing from absolute zero, I guess it would seem a lot like this …”

  26. dandarc says

    You can really piss off someone who just got into crypto by saying this (although perhaps had I used these exact words it would have gone better): “I don’t care. I don’t have to. VTSAX”

    So thank you for 8 words that fully sum it up so clearly.

    If crypto does wind up being a huge thing, some company in this fund will have done very well with it. No need for to overweight any further than that.

  27. Chris says

    Hey JL, I’m a huge fan of your book. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the only book I’ve ever read twice!

    It’s very interesting to me that you compare to crypto to religion. I’ve approached crypto thinking of Pascal’s wager, which is pertaining to religion. Pascal said there are four scenarios, depending on whether or not God exists and whether or not you are a believer. If God exists and you’re a believer you are awarded eternal life. If God doesn’t exist and you are a believer then you’ve wasted a few hours going to church every Sunday but no biggie. If God does exist and you aren’t a believer you are headed to hell.

    So I’ve invested a small amount into crypto hoping for a large upside.

    Make sense?

    • jlcollinsnh says

      You only mentioned three scenarios. Perhaps the 4th is: God does exist and you aren’t a believer but He has a sense of humor and you get eternal life anyway.

      As for a little bit of crypto hoping for paradise, sure why not. Just keep a sense of humor. 🙂

      • Chris says

        Ha, the one I didn’t mention is if God does not exist and you do not believe. Then, you are right but eternity is…..???? And I definitely believe that God has a sense of humor (I see it every day), so maybe (and hopefully) you are correct!

        I’ve got my little bit of crypto and I’ll keep my sense of humor!

        • dandarc says

          JL is not jlcollinsnh. I’d ban whoever JL is from commenting if this were my site, but then I have very little patience for this sort of nonsense.

  28. Khurram Din says

    Mr. Collins, with all due respect and your advice. Your strategy and mindset reminds me of a leadership book called “what got you here will not get you there”.. technology and mindsets are evolving with time. Your mainstream investors soon to be gen Y and Gen Z who are driven primarily by technology and independence from the “Eff Ups” of the federal government. Crypto allows that flexibility and freedom. This is not a religion approach, this is an evolutionary approach based on what disruptions technology has done in the past years! Simple TRENDS! not Religion. I would say quiet the opposite. Religion is a fixated mindset, and not being flexible. In this case sticking with FIAT currency to me sounds more of a religion than progressive mindset of crypto.

    • JL says

      Very well said.

      Fundamentalism is reactivity being dogmatic. It is not the content but the dogmatic approach.

      Anyone can be a fundamentalist.

  29. Greg says

    @Theophite on Twitter offers the following explanation of Bitcoin:

    “Imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin.”

    • AW says

      What version of Sudoko secures our Vanguard ETFs and bank accounts? 🙂
      If you’re so inclined, look into SHA256, Proof of Work and elliptic curve cryptography…

  30. SavyFox says

    Hi Jim
    All very good points you are making. And you’re right, as a diversified long term oriented investor one is perfectly fine without cryptos. But still, it’s incredibly interesting and as for me, I took the decision to take some exposure. The learning effect is also bigger when I have “skin in the game”.

  31. Chris@TTL says

    Hey JL!

    I especially appreciated your POV on whether it’s disaster insurance or not, specifically the point about it depending on what type of “disaster” you’re trying to avoid! A personal disaster that has you getting out of country might mean having crypto is quite useful while a global catastrophe might make it inaccessible! Great points all around.

  32. Vic says

    No comment for or against crypto but thanks for the Bill Maher clip. I know a lot of people don’t like him but I find his humor refreshingly right on.

  33. Jessica Wood says

    Hey JL,

    Just finished your book and loved it. Will you be coming out with another book at some point?

    Some are saying stablecoins (those that have their value pegged to the dollar or other national currencies) could have the potential to replace bonds. There are a lot of ways to earn high interest on stablecoins (4%, 7%, 10%) that isn’t an option via the traditional monetary system. I’m fascinated by this myself. Could be something for you to look into.


  34. Sheila says

    Hello Mr. Collins, thank you for your book The simple path to wealth, it helped my family get started with investing. Considering the above article about crypto and the consequences of the government printing dollars I would like to learn more about inflation. Is there a book you’d recommend?

    • ChakraTease says

      The classic book “The Creature from Jekyll Island, a Second Look at the Federal Reserve System”, by G. Edward Griffin. I see this 600-page, which is as easy to read as a detective novel, as a sort of “primer” for an understanding of inflation of fiat, fractional-reserve money, which leads to money devaluation. Reading it in 2009 after the Great Recession wiped my successful business out helped me understand the boom and bust cycle.

  35. Mac says

    It’s amusing to see people in comments writing about things they have little knowledge of, and obviously have no interest of educating themselves on.
    To each their own.

  36. Sean says

    Hi Mr. Collins, do you have any thoughts on loss-mitigating options in lieu of bonds in the “wealth preservation phase”?

  37. Jason says

    The Crypto disciples usually make the following arguments for Bitcoin with the following ideas:
    Crypto as a currency
    Crypto as a commodity
    Crypto as a store of value
    Crypto as technology / Blockchain
    I think we will have a digital currency. It makes sense. But it will be legal tender managed by the Federal Reserve. Crypto has been called greater fools theory by some of the greatest minds of our time. If you want the truth about Bitcoin listen to this podcast episode.

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