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Category: Money

The UK’s election – the good and bad

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It’s nearly Christmas, and no-one is more closely associated with Christmas in British minds than the 19th century author Charles Dickens. The story of how Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed from grumpy miser to warm-hearted dispenser of largesse to the poor and needy is regularly trotted out at this time of year. The new Prime Minister is promising largesse on the grandest of scales

But a more relevant Dickens’ novel for the UK right now is The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, and in particular the episode which shows Mr Pickwick at the parliamentary by-election in the fictitious borough of Eatandswill.

The Eatandswill by-election is fought between Horatio Fizkin and Samuel Slumkey. They slug it out in a drunken, brawling semi-riot, in which they try to outdo one another in the promises they make to the electorate.

Which sounds familiar.

The UK now has a strong Government, one with a handsome 80-seat overall majority. The 2 ½-year paralysis over Brexit will shortly be in the past, although much remains in doubt concerning the precise relationship between the UK and the European Union. That is surely good news, as everyone is by now weary of the seemingly endless wrangling over should we leave or should we stay.

On the news of the Conservative Party victory, the Pound Sterling went to its best level against the US Dollar since May 2018; it recorded a three-year high against the Euro. The Gold price slumped, losing more than 40 Pounds per ounce, although it has since recovered much of the lost ground. Yet those immediate variations in the value of the Pound and Gold tell us nothing about the more long-term consequences of the Conservative victory.

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is fully aware that he owes his success to the mass defection of former Labour Party supporters to his own Party – they have “lent” his Party their votes, he acknowledged. He is also aware that if he is to have a chance of staying in office following the next election – due in five years, currently – then he needs to pay some interest on this ‘loan’. Johnson will show his thanks by lavishing £100 billion over the next five years on roads, railways and other infrastructure projects.

Where will the money come from? It will be borrowed. The Conservatives hope to run a surplus of £5.3 billion by 2022-23 but the margin for error is wafer-thin.

Having a large Parliamentary majority is good and bad news. It means the Government can get things done. But it also means that it can, in the process of earnestly paying interest on the loaned votes from the North and Midlands, previous Labour strongholds, be extravagant, throwing borrowed money at projects which may or may not satisfy the voting public. In one sense the large Conservative Party majority has removed uncertainty; but the sheer size of that majority inevitably means that the uncertainties are merely pushed out to the longer term.

The UK’s national debt is currently around £1.8 trillion, the annual servicing of which takes about 8% of government tax income. Piling on more debt may be politically necessary, but economically it is a high-risk venture. The additional £100 billion in capital expenditure will amount to an approximately 25% gross increase in public sector spending – a level that has not been seen since the early 1980s.

So today’s austerity today will soon be over. But it may mean that, unless the economy starts to charge along at a more rapid speed than has been seen recently, there could be much worse austerity tomorrow. The Eatandswill voters got Slumkey or Fizkin – it doesn’t really matter. They were not noticeably happier and more content, in any case.

The US Federal Reserve and Inflation

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One of the numerous tasks of the US Federal Reserve – America’s central bank – is the maintenance of stable prices. The last few chairmen (and one woman) of the Fed have had a fairly easy job when it comes to keeping prices (inflation versus deflation) on an even keel. You have to go back almost 30 years, to 1991, to find the US inflation rate nudging above an annual 4%. Since that year it has occasionally crept above 3% but has generally been much lower.

Since the mid-1990s the Fed has ‘targeted’, i.e. aims to achieve, an annual rate of 2%, but this year US inflation is likely to be around 1.75%. Any change in this policy is rather unusual. It might have reverberations around the globe; for, as US interest rates go, others tend to follow.

Maintaining stable prices in an economy the size of the US – the world’s biggest since 1871; this year its gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to be more than $21 trillion –inevitably is a herculean task. No-one really manages this outsize octopus: it manages itself. With regards to stable prices, all the Fed can hope to do is to stop it from keeling over into runaway inflation on the one hand, or collapse into deflation on the other. The Fed, of necessity, needs a sensitive touch on the tiller.

For most of us that light touch manifests itself through Fed’s changes to US interest rate policy – pushing rates higher when the economy seems likely to overheat, or lowering them when it seems in danger of stalling. That’s been its conventional wisdom for what seems like forever, perhaps since 1913, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the law that established the Federal Reserve System. So the news that the Fed is considering relaxing its 2% target for inflation might turn out to deserve much more attention than it has so far received. As often the case, central bankers prefer euphemisms to disguise hard truth; so the Fed say it is thinking about what it calls a “make-up strategy” rather than simply saying ‘we’re going to abandon the 2% target’, and it is easing market acceptance of this by careful news management.

This abandonment of the 2% target has been floating around the think-tanks of Washington D.C. for some time. In June 2018 the Brookings Institution published a paper on this topic, which ended by rhetorically asking “wouldn’t a little higher inflation be nice for everyone?” It all depends on what is meant by a “little”. Not the kind of inflation that happened in Hungary in 1946, where prices doubled every 15 hours; in August 1946 the total value of all Hungarian banknotes in circulation was worth one-tenth of a US penny.

President Gerald Ford gave away lapel badges in the mid-1970s with the slogan ‘WIN’ – which stood for “whip inflation now” – when inflation was running at around 6.5%. But today, with unemployment the lowest it has been for decades, the printing of money, and extremely low interest rates, inflation seems like a thing of the past, like a dead dinosaur. The big worry right now for the Fed (and the European Central Bank and most other central banks too) is deflation. Deflation shrinks consumer demand, which can lead to lower prices, companies going out of business, trading collapses…pretty soon a deflationary economy starts to resemble Japan’s “lost decade”. In Japan, more than 20 years of zero interest rates has still failed to push annual inflation up to 2%: all kinds of odd suggestions are now being made, such as the abolition of cash.

One can sympathise today with the US Federal Reserve; indeed with all central bankers. They have tried just about every trick in their books to steer their national economies towards growth rates above a couple of per cent – low to negative interest rates, money-printing, and even using the central bank to buy shares in publicly traded companies, in the case of Japan. All this has been to no avail.

As central bankers fret, however, the risks of them falling prey to extreme temptations become ever greater. Abolishing cash sounds crazy right now, but who knows? The idea of developing national digital currencies and giving this ‘stable money’ to households, on condition that it is spent, not saved, would certainly spur inflation – but the law of unintended consequences might well come into play.

Perhaps all that can be safely said is that with each passing day the uncertainties are increasing; who would have imagined that the Fed would drop its once-iron rule of targeting 2% inflation. In this scenario it seems logical that people are increasingly thinking of holding more gold, valuing its certainty in the swirl of growing certainty.

Central banker wants digi-money

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In these times of crypto-currencies and digital money, a little bit of historical knowledge is worth a lot – it can save you time wasted on reading stuff like this. It’s a piece from the Financial Times of 1 July by one Jean-Pierre Landau, who – we are told – is “a former deputy governor at the Banque de France” and “a senior research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School”, just the kind of bien-pensant figure so loved by the paper.

Landau spends 663 words telling his readers that central banks should start issuing their own digital currencies, which as far as daft ideas go really takes first prize. He even comes up with a name for it, the “Central Bank Digital Currency” or “CBDC” for short. That’s the kind of zippy, catchy, instantly memorable name one expects from a former central banker.

Of course it won’t happen – at least, not just yet. The degree of cooperation required between central bankers of different national jurisdictions would be beyond the egos of just about all of them.

And in any case it’s a daft idea – it would not bring greater stability to the financial system, just increase its complexity a notch or three. The proposal is that the CBDC “should be as close as possible to cash.” In other words, it’s about protecting the control of the state over money and batting away the ever-encroaching threat of the private sector, which wants to take control over money into private hands.

This state versus private capitalism is not the battle that should worry us. It’s the fact that both the state and private capital are not really interested in protecting the value of our money.

For some sanity it’s worthwhile downloading (for free here) a copy of a now largely forgotten book titled Gold I$ Money (sic) edited by Hans F. Sennholz and published in 1975. It’s a collection of nine essays, all of them interesting, but the one by Henry Hazlitt – To Restore World Monetary Order – could almost be Glint’s strapline.

Hazlitt opens his second paragraph with a sentence that echoes through the ages: “Nobody seems quite sure what any currency will be worth tomorrow.” Late in his essay he turns to David Ricardo, the 19th century political economist, for a quote that’s as true today as ever: “Experience, however, shows that neither a State nor a Bank ever have had the unrestricted power of issuing paper money without abusing that power; in all States, therefore, the issue of paper money ought to be under some check and control.” As Hazlitt says: “It is not gold that carries some irrational mystique, but paper money. The mystique is the naive assumption that we can trust politicians or bureaucrats to issue paper money without their grossly abusing the power to do so.” It is because States and central bankers – governments – cannot be trusted with the money supply that we need to get our own, personal, gold standard.

In 1973, when the bulk of Sennholz’s book was being written, much of the industrialised world was going through stagflation. The world felt then like a very grim place, with monetary chaos matched by international sabre-rattling and outright war in Vietnam. Sennholz, in his epilogue, was pessimistic about the future and considered that “we seriously doubt that the American people will soon regain this right to gold as money.”

If only Sennholz could have been alive today – he died in 2007 age 85. He no doubt would have been delighted to see that people everywhere now have both the right and the opportunity to use gold as money. We think he would have been first in line to download and us the Glint app. Get rid of those value-of-money worries: download the Glint app, register today and find out how easy – and useful – it is.

Gold for Stocks: For real or another false dawn?

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A month ago, here at Glint Perspective, we wrote about a potential time for rotation from stocks into gold.

Since then stocks have fallen over 6% and gold is up 3.5%. The chart below shows this clear inverse relationship and how it has played out over the last month since our article.


Arguably, both can attribute their moves to the trade war threats. There are serious concerns over the US-Chinese trade tensions along with Washington’s threat of tariffs on Mexico that will have implications for the global economy. This move that we have seen in gold over the past month may well be based on a simple concept of ‘flight to safety’. Tensions were not helped over this past week when the two giant political states clashed when they met in Singapore. The global market has become jittery as Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard suggested that the threat of punitive tariffs on Mexico would be devastating. Any comments concerning US growth slowing down further forces investors into a risk-off mentality.

When you look at the markets and the more you read, it seems as though people are not willing to listen to any worries on the fragility of the global economy or there are far too many blind-optimists who seem to think that because something bad has not happened yet, it never will. A 1914 mentality in our books.

Of all the charts and tables that haunts us, the Hussman MAPE stands out. We are higher in US stock valuations on nearly every metric than ever in history and a 60% decline should be seen as a typical mean reversion probably in next 18 months. It staggers us that people think that other ‘cheaper ‘ stock markets are immune when historic correlations to US equity declines are nearly 100% on most observations with a beta at best 1:1 as the table shows.

So, if all stock markets in the world collapse, at least to the same decline of the US market, how badly will investors fare everywhere. All we see, is complacent long assets and fund strategies that have worked in the last ten years, more often than not because of the short volatility aspect.  We don’t meet many people at all who have large portfolio allocations in short selling funds, for the obvious reason, they have not worked that well.

As the central bankers have continually flooded the system with liquidity at every turn, the biggest problem that has happened is the debt-to-GDP ratios soaring. We all know Japan’s ratio is 250%, US, and most countries are over 100%, and if China actually counted correctly, it might be 300%!  No one knows what the actual tipping point could be, but it is coming and nearly every strategy pursued by investors and wealth managers will have the largest drawdown in history.

Gold and other precious metals are severely unloved, and we can see this through the low COT levels. The COT (Commitment of Traders) data helps investors to understand the market dynamic within a particular market. This data provides a breakdown of the open interest for futures and options markets. This information is based on the position data supplied by actual traders (producers/ merchants /processors/users). Usually using this information, we look to understand the relationship between hedgers and speculators to help ascertain whether the underlying asset is over or undervalued. For both gold and silver the net position as % of open interest levels are significantly low, demonstrating how unloved these assets really are at the current time.

Time and time again, seasonality has shown itself to be a powerful force within the gold market. As we move into the summer period, gold’s positive seasonality shows up noticeably. Coupled with a low COT and wavering stock market, moving some of your hard-earned wealth into gold may be a very wise move.

Protect your assets and purchasing power now.  Buy gold through the Glint app.

Gold and currency depreciation

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Over the last two decades, essentially, since the ‘Brown bottom’,(a reference to Gordon Brown, the UK chancellor who took the decision to sell off most of the UK’s gold reserves at the historic low price) of the gold market in 2000, gold has had a strong upward bias in every currency.

While some of the yearly changes reinforce the perception of high volatility in this asset class, the average return and more importantly the annualised return are surprisingly constant across different currencies. You can make a clear observation that for developed countries’ currencies, the gold appreciation is around 8% p.a., while emerging market currencies, favour considerably more.

While stock markets have seen two significant crashes, (2001-2003), (2007-2009), in the last twenty years, gold has really only suffered one, in 2013. This has been an era of consistent monetary expansion, driven by the ‘maestro’ central bankers of Greenspan, Bernanke and Yellen and their counterparts throughout the world. Whether it was the Y2K concern, the internet bust, the great financial crisis or general debt accumulation, the excuse by the authorities to supply money at declining interest rates, zero rates and action bond purchases has been non-stop. It should be seen, as no surprise that the real reserve currency of the world, gold, restricted by physical capacity to mine rather than merely print, has risen in this time. Of course, a better way of looking at it, may well be that all currencies, continually oversupplied by desperate central bankers, are losing their value and continue to do so.

An interesting analysis that the table suggests we should demonstrate is to show the average gold appreciation/currency depreciation for developed markets by a linear slope line at the average 8.2% yearly rate, measured against the actual increase/decrease in that currency.

If we look at Gold in USD versus the average growth of 8.2% we can see that it has been above the average line for much of the long period, significantly so in the 2010-2013 time frame and currently is slightly above the line reflecting the actual average annualised rate of increase for the USD as 9% rather than 8.2%.

If we look at all the currencies in the same way on a single chart, we can make assumptions that currently gold in CHF, AUD and EUR is ‘cheap’, while gold in GBP terms could be considered ‘rich’. We can also see how much more tightly gold in AUD and CAD terms, (the other dollar currencies), hug the average line, compared to gold in USD terms.

Finally, the most important observation for gold in every currency term is that it is clearly either cheap or fair to the long-term average growth rate of 8.2%. The hugely expansive monetary policy that has been in place globally since 2000 continues to be with us, in fact, with GDP slowing across all economies, with debt increasing at never before levels outside of world wars, this low interest rate policy appears to with us forever, as we edge towards the next global crisis. Gold remains an obvious choice to guard against currency depreciation in whichever country you reside and an insurance policy for when the crash happens. Unfortunately, time is running out. Protect your wealth by purchasing gold via Glint.

America’s Middle Class vs. Retirement (and how to punch above your weight)

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Good evening ladies and gentleman…

In this corner, weighing on your conscious continually your entire life; causing stress, fear, uncertainty and doubt; it only relents upon your imminent death, RETIREMENT…And in the opposing corner; recently downgraded, drowning in debt and just added to the endangered species list, THE MIDDLE-CLASS.  “Ding” let’s get it on!

These two formidable opponents have been counter punching blows for many rounds.  Sadly, the middle class isn’t quite the brawler it once was.  Retirement however is growing stronger and meaner.  Mandatory retirement ages, people living longer and inflation are only a few things opponents (like the middle-class) must worry about when getting into the ring with the retirement monster.   At one point the middle class was well a middleweight.  These days the entirety of this once proud class falls into a scrappy flyweight.  What lead to this severe weight drop in our middle-class competitors?  Quite simply a combination of debt and loss of purchasing power.  Both crippling and making it feel like your gloves are tied behind our back during the bout.

Before the tale of the tape we need to understand the definition of middle-class.  There are many ways economist define middle-class:  Income, demographics and aspirations are just a few things that can be used to interpret middle class.  Some folks would say you are middle-class if you own two working cars, one non-working car, a defunct pool and a freezer in the garage.  Middle-class neighborhoods have changed.  The days have disappeared when people gathered for a mortgage burning party.  You may recall Archie and Edith Bunker did this on an episode of All in the Family.  What was once a rite of passage, mortgages are now likely to outlive people as fifty- and hundred-year mortgages are not uncommon globally.

I would like to introduce another way to define middle-class, time.  How much time your savings will last you?  Retirement at the core is essentially you buying enough time until the last round and the bell tolls.  These days folks are living longer and actively living after retirement.  Retirees have time to be reborn and re-purposed.  Artists, gardeners, teachers, technologist, surfers, birdwatchers, grandparents or just being grumpy at everybody younger.  It is all up for grabs for our sage, gray-haired seniors.  This uncertainty means they need a fail safe while they fight the good fight. It’s time they sprinkle some gold on themselves as they wait for round two. Gold should be a part of every retirees’ savings account to ensure a long happy retirement.  Pound for pound, pun intended as gold is a heavy weight.  There is no currency that maintains the purchasing power of money over time the way gold does.  It has outlived every senior you know and did so for hundreds of generations before them.  Something I should remind you that no FIAT money has achieved. Since 1913 the value of the dollar and what it can purchase has fallen off a cliff.  What $100 bought in 1913 now takes almost $2,600 to purchase.  Here is the official U.S. government CPI inflation calculator.

In the ring when your corner is yelling “be first!”  Get in there and land those first golden sprinkled punches against retirement.  Retirement is nothing to fear. The prepared fighter soon discovers with gold in their corner that retirement has weak knees, no counter-punch and a glass jaw. Get the knock out and do it with Glint!

Baby Boomers Make Gold a Tier 1 Asset Again

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George Orwell said, “every generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it”. If so, what’s the scorecard of my US generation – the Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964. We have been effectively handing the generational baton over in the last 10 years to Generation X (1965 to 1976) and less so to the Millennials (1977 to 1995). So what did we accomplish and what exactly are we handing over?

Before trying to answer that question, let’s look at what the ones before us – the Silent Generation – accomplished. They weathered the Great Depression, fought a massive two front war in WW2 and emerged not only victorious but with an intact infrastructure that gave them the leverage to secure the US as a Superpower. They built a solid global empire and tried to police the world. Putting aside a bad closing act in Vietnam, history should treat the Silent Generation for what they were…a success.

So what did the Baby Boomers do? Well…first off…for those in management, we contrived to pay ourselves more. The 1965 CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was about 20-to-1. Currently, it’s well over 200-to-1. So was Orwell right? Were Baby Boomers 10 times more intelligent than their parents? Or were they just “riding the wave” their parents created and falsely validating their increased compensation as a sign of their success? Leaving that question aside, let’s consider the historical implication of gross income inequality – namely – it never ends well. It destabilizes society and eventually undermines the economy.

Next in line is our eagerness to use debt to fuel our “better than are parents” storyline. From 1980 to today, we have ramped up the US public debt to GDP ratio from below 40 to above 100…approaching the mark we peaked at during the massive costs of WW2. However, we’re not fighting a world war, we’re financing an image of success. Again, the historical implication of excessive debt – governmental, municipal, corporate and private – never ends well. It destabilizes society and eventually undermines the economy.

Lastly, let’s name the country that is truly the most socialist…which would be the Unites States of America. No, not in the tradition definition where government controls the means of production, distribution and exchange but rather in something that could be coined as “monetary socialism”, i.e., the gargantuan foundation of “out-of-thin-air” money supplied by the Federal Reserve. Like the opiate crisis that has hooked a declining middle class in America, the US economy, like that of Japan and most of Europe, is addicted to “made-up” money. Once more, the historical implications of excessively printing money never ends well. It destabilizes society and eventually undermines the economy.

It’s because of this debt to GDP ratio that individuals need to secure part of their savings outside of the US dollar. In investments, it very difficult to just walk away from the table. But it’s much less difficult to spread your bets. Gold. Gold is still the go-to-money and on March 29th, Basel III rules go into effect.  Gold will now be treated as a Tier 1 asset.  The Bank of International Settlement (BIS) will recognize central banks holdings of physical gold as a reserve asset equal to cash.  If you can believe it, currently gold is counted as a Tier 3 asset which is marked off 50%.  Tier 1 = risk free, Tier 3 = more risk.  Central Banks have been purchasing a lot of gold the last few years getting ready for the new requirements.  The debt in the system is so sick and grotesque that a rising gold price could alleviate that pain. With the new rules in place the central banks’ balance sheets are set to be remedied. As an individual it is imperative that you do as the central banks of the world and secure parts of your savings in Gold. Glint is here to help you do that with an easy to use app and a Mastercard that allows you to spend your gold whenever you wish.

Bitcoin is widely hyped, but is it worth your hard-earned money?

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U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) summarized Bitcoin best when he said cryptocurrencies have “captured the imagination of some, struck fear among others, and confused the heck out of the rest of us.” For most of us, it’s the latter, even six years later. The only difference now is that more of us know cryptocurrencies exist, even if we don’t know exactly what they are.

The rise in Bitcoin’s value to nearly $20,000 in late 2017 is why cryptocurrency became a household name. (Its value has since fallen to a little over $3,700.) Thanks to that surge, people who bought a couple of bucks’ worth of Bitcoin in 2009, became millionaires overnight.

It’s not hard to see why people are drawn to the excitement and hope around cryptocurrencies. But let’s take a few steps back to understand what role, if any, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin should play in fast tracking your path to an early retirement.

Crypto-what?

What exactly is a Bitcoin? Despite its frequent depiction as a gold coin, Bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies are just code. It all began in 2009 when an anonymous person by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto announced he had developed a peer-to-peer electronic cash system that prevented double spending. It all sounds a bit technical, and it is, but the bottom line was blockchain technology securely transferred cryptocurrency from one person to another. It created a permanent transaction record and ensured that money couldn’t be spent by the same person more than once.

Blockchain is the network and Bitcoin is the currency. You settle currency on the blockchain, which is no different in practice from a ledger, from the Mastercard network or the clearing system for banks. When you send a Bitcoin to another person, you use a private key to sign over your rights to that virtual cash. No central bank is required to facilitate the transaction, which places cryptocurrencies squarely outside of the system and ultimately democratizes their use. Anyone can buy some.

What’s more, you remain anonymous when you sell Bitcoin. In fact, your identity in real life is not connected to your Bitcoin ownership. (There are pros and cons to that—an obvious con being that it’s strongly appealing to drug dealers and money launderers.)

 

The Closed Loop

Despite the passion of those who have purchased Bitcoin and the dozens of other virtual currencies that have arisen since then, cryptocurrency remains for the most part a closed-loop system. A Bitcoin inherently holds no value except for what someone is willing to pay for it. And because it’s hard to pin down a value, given its volatile ups and downs, it would be difficult to price a product or service accurately in a cryptocurrency. In other words, they face a lot of obstacles to broad usage in the real world.

“There is no payment rail,” says Jason Cozens, co-Founder and CEO of Glint. A payment rail is a payment network, like those that facilitate bank transfers, or mobile money apps that facilitate payments between people regardless of the currency or where they’re located. “The payment rails don’t want to work with cryptocurrencies because of the risk,” Cozens says. “The very nature of cryptocurrency relies on some sort of proof to say I own it, or you own it. When that’s done, it settles.”

It takes somewhere between 10 minutes and four hours to settle a trade (with Bitcoin). When was the last time you had to wait for your money to be approved before you could take a bag of groceries home?

If someone were to use Bitcoin to buy a cup of coffee, for example, and walk away with the “trade” not yet settled, the shop bears the risk if the trade (cash for coffee) doesn’t settle. “There is a price to that risk,” Cozens says. And while some options are emerging, including prepaid credit cards you can load cryptocurrencies to, users pay a higher interest rate to account for the additional risk the vendor is taking.

Even the 2010 purchase of two pizzas—which is widely recognized as the first time someone bought an actual product with Bitcoin, was done by sending Bitcoin to another person within the Bitcoin network. That person then ordered pizzas from Papa John’s with dollars and had them delivered to the purchaser.

Since then, a few online vendors have started to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment, but given the volatility of the currency, some argue it makes far more sense to hold onto Bitcoin in the hopes it will spike again, than it does to spend it.

 

No Safety Net

The bigger problem to putting cash into cryptocurrencies is the lack of central management. In other words, while the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies is what has drawn many to buy them, it can also play against the user. For one, it’s difficult—if not impossible—to reverse a trade. Once you sell the cryptocurrency, it’s gone. There are pluses to that level of security and the anonymity that the network provides, with one writer saying, “a Bitcoin address is more secure than Fort Knox.”

Most owners of Bitcoin purchased them through a cryptocurrency exchange. They then deposited that Bitcoin in a cryptocurrency wallet stored offline and protected by what are called keys. Some owners chooses to “store” their keys on a literal piece of paper. Those keys validate your ownership of Bitcoins; they are essentially your unchangeable password to your stash. They are also required to sell your cryptocurrency.

You can see why that would be a risky proposition. If you lose the piece of paper, or your wallet is stored on a computer that crashes or on a hard drive that simply gets lost, you lose access to your Bitcoins.

According to Cozens, that risk is one reason there won’t be mass adoption of cryptocurrency. If someone steals your private key, it’s gone. “They’re untraceable, and there’s no authority who can help you get it back,” Cozens says. “There’s no form of protection. That’s at odds with how we organized ourselves as a society.” The same is true if you simply lose the data.

One of the more famous examples involves a man in Wales who accidently threw away a hard drive, containing the keys to $127 million in Bitcoin. He’s now on a lugubrious mission to find it—in the landfill. “This is the level to which you are responsible for your money,” Cozens says. “I don’t think we’re ready for that. That’s almost back to the Wild West.”

The way we sell and buy cryptocurrencies has changed since that man purchased his now-lost Bitcoin in 2019 (cloud storage, for one), but the currency itself hasn’t become any less vulnerable. Being outside the market, they will remain unregulated.

 

The Gold Option

The appeal of cryptocurrencies is similar to that of gold: Buyers want something that can be used everywhere and that is controlled by no one. But when it comes to functionality, the similarities end there. “Cryptocurrency was genuinely set up as an antidote to a depreciating money system,” Cozens says. “Unfortunately, the way the network was built went far from it becoming a decentralized ledger where lots of people are participating in transactions.”

And as Bitcoin is “hoarded,” supply falls and prices go up. “Then you’re operating a bubble because people are speculating on the value. But people aren’t using it. They don’t trust it. They can’t relate to it, and that doesn’t seem to be shifting,” Cozens says.

While Bitcoin is frequently depicted as gold in pictures that accompany articles, it’s wholly digital. On the other hand, gold—real gold—is an actual physical commodity that can’t be hacked or wiped out in a rush of pixels. It’s numbered, regulated, insured, and pro­tected in the world’s most secure vaults. Cloud-based currencies may ultimately have their place in the finan­cial system, but gold is far less risky as an alternative to national currencies.

“We have no animosity toward cryptocurrencies,” Cozens says. “We think that people educating themselves about what money is and what money should be is a positive thing. The cryptocurrency boom has really opened up that debate.”

The value of the dollar goes down each year, which means you can buy less with the same amount of money. One hundred dollars in December 1999, for example, bought you the same as $146.48 did in December 2017, a nearly 50 percent loss of value in just 18 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index calculator. Other currencies have faced the same fate: £100 in 1999 was £160.05 in 2017, a nearly 60-percent drop in value, according to the Bank of England.

“People are saving for things that are inflating in price,” says Cozens. “They are saving in a unit of currency that is deflating.” Glint’s answer is to offer an alternative to national currencies that is shielded from inflation and has a history of reliability. Enter: Glint Pay. With the mobile app, you can instantly buy, save, and spend gold that is stored in Brinks vaults, insured by Lloyd’s of London. And the app can be used at any shop or ATM that accepts Mastercard. All of that without the usual bank fees or an expensive investment advisor. Glint is also regulated by British financial authorities, and every ounce of gold purchased is held in segregated accounts at a tier 1 bank. U.S. accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000.

“It’s low-risk and holds its value better than paper money. Gold’s historical resilience makes it a very attractive way to protect your hard-earned savings,” Cozens says. Glint is introducing gold not as an investment, but as money that can be saved and spent for daily needs or for more discretionary payments, like a vacation or a down payment on a ski condo.

In fact, Glint’s online calculator shows that if you were to save £300 a month, with a goal of £35,000 toward a down payment on a moderately priced ski condo, it would take you nine years and nine months to achieve that goal with cash—and just six years and two months with gold.

“It’s an alternative currency—and gold has always been money. It’s the safest form of money in history,” says Jason Cozens.

 

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