Category Archives: Technology

IOTA Moves to the Top 5 in Market Cap Thanks to Microsoft.

I have been fooling around with cryptocurrencies for a while now and a few days ago one really just caught my attention. IOTA. The coin a which is a play off the phase “IoT or Internet of Things” is a coin/cryptocurrencies created to be traded between different machines on the “Internet of Things”. This coin caught my attention because it does not use classic Blockchain technology that we have seen on other very popular cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum or LiteCoin, instead it uses Directed Acyclic Graph technology, which is a blockless ledger. IOTA refers to its DAG technologie as “tangle”.  Confirmation times are fast and transactions are basically free. As of Dec. 2017. The market cap made it the 4th largest cryptocurrency by market cap, which is around $12 billion. IOTA was created in 2015. These coins are not able to be mined so there was a set amount that was created 2,779,530,283,277,761. In May 2017 IOTA was listed on its first exchange: Bitfinex and is now also listed on Binance as well.

I follow a lot of tech/coin personalities on Instagram and this was getting a lot of attention. At the time the coin was selling for approx. $3 dollars and in a day or two went to $5.5 and has since retracted to mid $3’s. Since I first started trading crypto I had only used the widely popular american exchange “coinbase”. Because this currency doesn’t sell as a fiat currency pair such as IOTA/USD I had to first convert my USD to ETH or BTC and then trade indirectly on a separate exchange “Binance” which is a UK based platform. Binance is one of the top 5 crypto trading platforms in the world according to Coinmarketcap.com.

Another big reason this coin has become popular is because in the past week Microsoft made a big announcement that they were going to collaborate and partner with IOTA coin. This made the currency grow in value with a 90% increase in market cap basically launching it into the 4th position. IOTA has previously partnered with large companies such as Samsung, Cisco, and Volkswagen. Tangle will help with the large process of trading information Business-to-Business between these large corporations using the technology. The tangle system is designed to allow users to create transactions by validation (making sure all transactions are secure, immutable and without fees). The no-fee part of the technology model is huge for information sharing between businesses because tiny micropayments for information between businesses cannot be handled well and complicates the transactions on a large scale. IOTA hopes their technology and the tangle structure will allow a widespread of micropayments for data between companies. This will allow for the transfer of data and information from all kinds of IoT devices with little to no fees to give a greater feeling of interconnectedness between smart technology machines.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IOTA_(technology)

https://coinmarketcap.com/currencies/iota/

https://iota.org/

https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/iota-price-explodes-after-microsoft-partnership-announcement/

https://cointelegraph.com/news/iota-partners-with-microsoft-fujitsu-others-for-iot-data-monetization

Top 5 Cryptocurrencies by Market Cap

The number one, I’m sure you’ve heard of it is Bitcoin. Bitcoin currently has a market cap of approximately $95 Billion as of today. The one that started it all. Created by the psyudenym Satoshi Yakamoto and released in 2009. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that allows for peer-2-peer payment transactions and built on the Blockchain ledger technology, a digital payment system and was the first currency with the ideal of a decentralized monetary platform. There are nodes around the world, mining these bitcoins by recording these transactions on a distributed public ledger called a blockchain. Miners are incentivized with more Bitcoins. Bitcoins can be exchanged for other currencies and in some places other products and services. Bitcoin has been gaining world popularity since the beginning. The currency has seen positive and negative reviews but as of lately has been gaining popularity and value as more companies and leaders are seeing new uses for this technology.

Ethereum has a market cap of approx. $28 Billion, Ethereum has gained wide popularity especially this year. The currency was developed by Vitalik Buterin. A developer who used to work for bitcoin but left when he realized he wanted to create a more app friendly platform that users would be able to build off. Ethereum is open source, which means that the original source code is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. The reason that this is important is because vitalik wanted other developers to use the ethereum platform to build other tokens and currencies based in the network. The platform is blockchain-based and features a smart-contract functionality that makes this currency widely popular. “Smart contracts are computer protocols intended to facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract.” These enforces that proper inputs result in proper outputs in an exchange within the network. The ethereum blockchain also has its own token called “Ether” which can be traded on all main crypto exchanges. The Ether is also used to reward Ethereum Miners who complete and verify computations and hashes of other users. Ethereum was proposed in 2013 and the development was funded in late 2014 by a crowd sale.

Ripple has a market cap of approx. $9 Billion, which makes it the third largest in terms of market size. Ripple is the name for both a digital currency (XRP) and an open payment network within which that currency is transferred. The platform and currency is still in beta testing. Ripple was created to allow people to transfer money across the system seamlessly, through people, banks, Credit, etc. Many of the creators of the coin have a Bitcoin background. Ripple was Released in 2012, Ripple reports it enables “secure, instant and nearly free global financial transactions of any size with no chargebacks.” The tokens represent value in fiat currency, crypto, and many other units of measurement, even things such as mobile minutes or frequent flier miles. The Ripple network was built on a decentralized Blockchain ledger without a central hub for seamless transfer of currency along the network. Ripple became popular because it was endorse and used by companies such as UBS, santander. Ripple is advantages among other competitors because of its low currency price and its security

Bitcoin Cash is the fourth largest coin in terms of market size with a market cap of Approx. $5 Billion. Bitcoin Cash was created when On July 20, 2017, Bitcoin Cash (BCC) was created when there was a “Fork” or upgrade in the public ledger of the original cryptocurrency. The issue was the scaling of the original Bitcoin’s block size. Bitcoin Cash is a P2P electronic cash. The currency has different rules that were upgraded from the original bitcoin that allows “the continuation of the Bitcoin project as peer-to-peer digital cash. The currency has upgraded consensus rules that allow it to grow and scale differently from the original Bitcoin product.

Litecoin Is coming in at #5 in size with a market cap of $2 Billion. Lite coin is one of the three currencies that is trading on the widely popular exchange, Coinbase. The cryptocurrency is also a P2P  and an open source decentralized platform that was basically inspired by and very similar to that of bitcoin. In terms of differences Litecoin has also adopted SegWit technology and the lightning network. SegWit is the process by which the block size limit on a blockchain is increased by removing signature data from Bitcoin transactions. When certain parts of a transaction are removed, this frees up space or capacity to add more transactions to the chain.These both basically call for a larger number of transactions to happen with much greater speed. One major advantage that LTC has over bitcoin is its fees are close to zero and payment processing is much much faster. LTC was introduced in October 2011 by a man named Charlie Lee, who used to work for Google. As we mentioned earlier LTC became the first of the top 5 largest currencies (in terms of market cap) to adopt the SegWit technology. A few months later, The first lightning network transaction was completed sending 0.00000001 LTC from Zurich to San Francisco in under one second.

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litecoin

https://litecoin.org/

https://www.bitcoincash.org/

https://coinmarketcap.com/coins/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethereum

https://ripple.com/

https://www.coindesk.com/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-ripple/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitcoin

. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ripple_(payment_protocol)

 

The Next Big Thing in Crypto: Asset Tokenization

Last week, I got out of work and I headed over to 3rd ave to the Grant Thornton building to attend a seminar. The event was sponsored by ConsensSys and Balanc3, venture production studios that are focused on building and scaling tools and software products powered by Ethereum. They want to get operating systems around the world using their ethereum platform to innovate and expand business everywhere using Blockchain. I forked over $15 for the ticket because they were serving food and drinks!

The seminar was hosted by the ABC (Accounting Blockchain Coalition), a group whose main objective  is to “educate and empower its members to understand the impact and opportunities that blockchain technology brings to the accounting industry.” I wanted to see how other industries were being impacted by this technology, how they were starting to utilize it, and what this means for business long term. Grant Thornton is not one of the “Big 4” in accounting, but being #6 in the world surely makes them a leader in the industry. They have recently created a subdivision specifically for Blockchain technology and clients of theirs who have started to transact on this currency.

I would like to now summarize some of the main points that I took from the seminar:

Companies are popping up left and right by creating different tokens from the Ethereum open source platform. With these crypto currencies emerging, startups are converting 100% from the start, with protocols that pay employees 100% with crypto currencies instead of regular fiat currencies (dollar, pound, euro), while working on redesigning enterprise resources. One thing that the ABC looks at is how this can affect accounting procedures. One major roadblock will be taxes as people will have to report earnings, in regards to the cost basis and the realized gains and losses. The ABC is set out to help companies and individuals with account for these conversions.

Another point to keep in mind when dealing with digital currencies is that the recorded value of a certain coin is always changing, and therefore must be tracked for use at any given time. That is what the blockchain ledger is for. The value of 10 ETH will fluctuate regularly, so it is very important for accounting to keep track of current value based on a record of prices. Everything purchased needs to be recorded at a certain value so long as we are dealing with multiple currencies (USD/ETH). Things can truly only be streamlined when everything is seamlessly recorded on a permanent ledger. The ledger will help reduce the need for a lot of overhead in the audits.

The next part of the presentation was lead by Balanc3. Balanc3 is like a Quickbooks for the crypto space. They help to maintain a transaction log, similar to a balance sheet, for companies performing regular crytpo transactions. With all transactions recorded in the blockchain ledger, the balance sheet and other financial statements in the program can be constantly updated in real time to give the viewer an accurate representation of the company/token in real time.

Now the main part of the talk/presentation was asset tokenization. This world has a finite number of tangible assets, but there is endless opportunity in the digital space to work with and utilize those assets. Therefore, creators of the Ethereum blockchain have a lot of control. Businesses have started to create tokens and currencies to represent real world assets, in order to trade their value, quicker and easier. When I hear the word “tokens” I picture my 5 year old self at the arcade. In order to play games, I had to cash in  real USD in exchange for the silly arcade tokens that only  worked in the machines. By using these tokens and earning tickets, you had the opportunity to trade their value for prizes. Tokenization is essentially that, the conversion of real tangible and intangible assets to a digital token on a blockchain in order to trade for assets. Assets such as real estate, businesses, art, gold, commodities and many of these assets are hard to split up or convert into shares on a decimal level. Now buyers and sellers of assets trade papers and money that only represent part or all of the asset. Many times there are huge processes involved or red tape that limits access and availability to these assets. Things like paperwork, titles, ownership documents, liens, etc. If we already have the technology such as the blockchain why not switch to digitize the transaction similar to how bitcoin works? Startups, small tech businesses, and even major financial companies are competing to do what bitcoin has done which is basically tokenizing assets similar to what bitcoin did to the fiat currency initially.

There will be a digital footprint of all transactions. In this way fractional pieces of assets can be bought and sold in the form of digital currency or tokens. Transfers will happen quickly on a decentralized platform without the need of a central control.. Ethereum has quickly become the major breeder for tokenization because it was created as an open source platform, allowing businesses to create their own currencies for this specific purpose. Businesses are having “ICO’s” that allow investors to buy in the initial sale of these tokens with their current ETH and the use of “smart contracts”. You can lock in on smart contracts and utilize them for so many different business purposes. These aspects make Ethereum versatile and ready for widespread utilization in the currency marketplace.

 

Soure: http://www.nasdaq.com/article/how-tokenization-is-putting-real-world-assets-on-blockchains-cm767952

 

Bitcoin, Ethereum, And Other Cryptocurrencies Aren’t Just For Nerds, You Too Can Invest Like I Did.

Lately, everyone who knows me knows I can’t shut up about crypto currencies. Tired of sharing my excitement with uninterested parties, I thought I’d share my knowledge of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology with other millennials like you who could really benefit. I am really passionate about this topic for so many reasons. Now this topic is very broad so I will be keeping it surface level here and provide an overview of my experience with the emerging technology thus far.

My interest in cryptocurrencies really picked up about five months ago, when my boss pulled me aside and told me to read up on the newest crypto technology called Ethereum. To start with some background definitions, a cryptocurrency is a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds. A crypto currency is unique in that it operates independently of a central bank. You can think of this as a monetary unit that only exists and is valuable in the digital space. One of the unique aspects of this currency is that it is not regulated by a centralized base, as the US dollar is by the Federal bank. Instead, Ethereum is decentralized by the mere fact that it exists within Blockchain technology. A blockchain is made up of a network of computer users that jointly manage the digital transactions of currency created by a universal ledger of accounts that cannot be erased. The universal ledger is a record of all transactions that have occurred since inception of the Blockchain.

What I just said probably made your head spin, if you’ve never heard of these topics, but i needed to get the formal definition out. The blockchain is the technology that these currencies are built upon and whenever the currency is traded, there is a permanent digital record that is kept to keep track of what took place.  This record happens instantly and cannot be changed or modified. This ledger of records is decentralized and universally recorded, which is the brilliance behind the technology.

Now at this point I had heard of bitcoin from way back in 2013 when there was a lot of buzz about the new technology, but I never really invested much thought into it before. I’m sure some of you have similar memories, maybe you heard of the Silk Road, the bitcoin crash or other scandals. But up until recently Crypto has been getting a lot of buzz because businesses are starting to catch on and realizing that the world can really utilize this technology for business applications. After doing preliminary research on Ethereum I was interested and started checking the currency rates every day against the US dollar. I noticed the market was very volatile. I was interested when the price of Ether jumped up from $83USD/ETH to $183 USD/ETH in the span of a few days. This is where it hit me, REAL MONEY COULD BE MADE! The market was extremely volatile and going back and forth like crazy. Yes, money was my primary motivation for taking an interest but it wasn’t until I started learning about the technology behind the cryptocurrency before I knew that this was going to be something big because even if Bitcoin and Ethereum fail, the principles and the guiding technology is what would prevail. This is when I fell down the rabbit hole.

I did what everyone else who was in the know was doing. I downloaded an App called CoinBase and threw in $1,000 just to see what would happen. I purchased half a bitcoin and a number of Ether Coins and some Lite Coins. These are the three main coins available for purchase on the popular CoinBase App. I was able to quickly double my investment in the coming weeks. At this point I was hooked. At first it did seem like I was winning the lottery but what I realized and was told before was that the currencies were highly volatile. Also i had been invested in the stock market for quite some time and had to wrap my mind around the fact that these currencies were not shares of a company but exchangeable currency pairs. Because of the volatile nature of these currencies you have to have an appetite for risk. Everyday I would gain/lose hundreds of dollars in unrealized gains and losses. But after a while you start to notice trends and patterns that you can use to your advantage. You can see when to hold your investment or buy the dip. My biggest recommendation for anyone would be to try out the market. When i initially put my first investment into the market if forced me to pay attention. I was seeing headlines i wouldn’t normally read and focus in. What was causing the value to rise and fall? What technological advances have occurred since? The material and future ideas were so intellectually stimulating that I had to dive right in.

Personally I believe in the technology more than anything and that is why I decided to get some of my savings and invest in these three currencies. Blockchain technology and the idea behind a universal permanent ledger for transaction verification will be crucial for the development of future technological infrastructure in our everyday lives. This is one of the biggest reasons I am focusing my time and energy into studying this technology and investing in these currencies.

 

Why Constantly Tracking Your Income and Spending Will Give You More Focus on Financial Success.

If your life is anything like mine, there comes a time every month when you don’t know if you can actually afford anything. When you hand the bartender your credit card, you silently pray that it doesn’t get declined. This is usually around the time when you are waiting on a paycheck, have just paid off your credit card statements in full, but still owe your landlord rent for the month. During this time you have no idea of your financial standing and are too lazy and scared to look. So you continue to stress and you continue to pray.

As I looked into ways to eliminate this monthly stress, I read a lot of articles that focused on the importance of consistency, goals and budgeting, etc. I also began reading a book called ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg. In this book, Duhigg explains why we have habits in our lives and how the habits we keep become the distinguishing factors between failure and success. With motivation to change my habits and a goal to become more aware of my finances, I began a daily budget tracker. On March 1st, I made a commitment to track all of my finances to the penny, every single day.  

While this task might sound daunting to some of you, I can assure you it becomes second nature in no time. There are plenty of finance tracking apps out there, but I wanted to keep it simple and use Excel as I suggest you do as well. As you will see below, I created a table with the days of the month across the x axis and a list of income and debt sources along the y axis. Laying everything out has helped me become grounded in the reality of my financial standing, which has in turn motivated me to take more action towards achieving my financial goals.

How to go about tracking: Open your spreadsheet and then open all of your banking, credit card, stock trading apps on my phone. If you do not currently have electronic access to all of your funds (assets and liabilities), I would download these and keep them on your home screen With these open, simply input the data into the appropriate rows on the spreadsheet.

You can also build out a graph as I have done below, that will pull in your inputted data and adjust accordingly. Keeping tabs on your daily spending is a cool way of learning about who you are as a person and what you value the most, by what you spend most of your money on. So many of our purchases these days are mindless because we keep our finances out of sight and out of mind. This is why when we open our bank account after a month or so, we wonder where all of our money went. This routine allows me to see where my money goes every day and how my investments are growing. Saving money is a checks and balances system if you will. Through tracking, as you learn about your losses/gains on a daily basis you will be able to clean up your spending and increase your savings. The first step to financial success is confronting reality and taking responsibility for your spending.

Below are some screenshots of exemplary tracking.

May 1 May 2 May 3 May 4
Cash (estimate) $350.00 $328.00 $317.00 $298.00
Checking 1 $800.00 $788.00 $812.00 $806.00
Venmo $45.00 $45.00 $58.00 $62.00
Savings $1,500.00 $1,500.00 $1,500.56 $1,500.56
Brokerage $1,289.00 $1,290.00 $1,311.00 $1,298.00
401k $12,785.00 $12,790.00 $12,811.00 $12,806.00
Total Assets $16,769.00 $16,741.00 $16,809.56 $16,770.56
Credit card debt -$4,876.00 -$4,800.00 -$4,811.00 -$4,750.00
Student loans -$26,000.00 -$26,000.00 -$26,000.00 -$26,000.00
Total liabilities -$30,876.00 -$30,800.00 -$30,811.00 -$30,750.00
PNW -$14,107.00 -$14,059.00 -$14,001.44 -$13,979.44

Minimalism: A lifestyle for us all

Do you remember the apartment I mentioned in my last article? The one I moved in to, to pay $200 dollars less a month for rent? Well since signing in September, my monthly payment isn’t the only thing that has decreased significantly.

Back in August, at the peak of our desperation to find an apartment, my roommate urgently called me from an open house showing. I could hear the smile in her voice on the other end of the phone. “I think this is our place. It’s small, don’t get me wrong. The rooms are tiny. But the location is perfect and rent is unbeatable!” Before I had a chance to respond, my phone started buzzing in my ear as pictures of the place popped up on my screen. I put her on speaker and zoomed in on the images. The place looked livable from what I was seeing, but pictures had previously deceived us. I decided to leave work early and head over to catch the tail end of the showing.

She wasn’t lying, the apartment was very small. Standing with the realtor in the kitchen, the most spacious room in the entire place, I brought up the questions he didn’t want to answer. “So what exactly are the dimensions of these rooms? I need to make sure my bed will fit.” He lead the way to the smallest bedroom without a closet, folded open the crooked, shutter style doors and let me walk in. “The room you are in now is 7×7 feet.” I pulled out my phone and Googled the dimensions of a queen size bed. “Okay, it looks like it will just barely fit. Queen beds measure about 5×6.” We both giggle sighed and shrugged our shoulders.

When I made the decision to live in this apartment, I knew I was going to have to get rid of over half of my belongings. I knew I did not have room for all of the clothes, furniture, decorations and other STUFF I had been living with for years. What I didn’t understand at the time was that the terms of this commitment would change my life for the better. Now even though I only have a bed in my room, a wardrobe consisting of only the clothes I feel good in and a fridge with only the food I will eat within three days, I am more satisfied than before.

Over the holiday break, I watched the documentary Minimalism on Netflix. It was amazing hearing neuroscientists and other striving minimalists describe what I have been experiencing for months. One minimalist explained, “every possession serves a purpose that brings me joy…when I look around I have to justify to myself, does this add value to my life, and if it doesn’t I have to be willing to let go.” Letting go of things that do not have utility can be difficult, especially if we have an emotional attachment for whatever reason. Speaking from experience however, the letting go is the hardest part. Living life with less has not only helped me save money, but has allowed me to shift my focus toward my relationships and my personal goals.

So this year I challenge you to first watch the documentary, and then begin taking small steps to become more of a minimalist. No, you do not need to move into a smaller space to start living this lifestyle. I do however, encourage you to choose quality over quantity. Let go of anything in your life that isn’t serving you right now and begin valuing and caring for those things that do. Needing less will not only make you richer in the bank, but richer at heart.

Mind Over Money

When I graduated in the spring of 2015, I thought I had it all figured out. I had some money saved, a job lined up and an apartment to move in to. College had been a blast, but I felt mature and ready begin my life as a real adult. I was going to succeed and it was going to be a breeze.  

Now, a year and a half later, I sit here writing my first post for my brother’s finance blog. See, I used to think this blog was dumb. I didn’t understand what BeatingBreakEven really meant and always thought my brother was wasting his time talking about money so much. But after switching jobs in June for a salary raise and signing a new lease, for rent that was $200 dollars less a month, I realize I am exactly where he was. I am broke, have no concrete plans for my future and am extremely unsure of myself.

In the past few months I have been thinking a lot about my life and who I want to be. I’ve thought about what to do next in my career, thought about what city I want to move to and thought about how to save more money. I’ve also spent a lot of time contemplating my inner motives, my deepest fears and my varying levels of self esteem. In this process of psychological discovery, I have begun to understand just how powerful our minds really are. They can be our biggest tool for success and the biggest obstacle.

I have started to experience first hand how becoming more aware of my thoughts and psychology can really help me achieve my goals. I mean don’t they say that you can achieve anything you put your mind to? Mastering your mind will not only make you a happier person, but will keep you on track to reaching your long term goals. Since many of my goals are financially based at the moment, I went through last month’s credit card statement to recount my recent purchases. Besides food, almost everything I bought was unnecessary. Nails, makeup, new shoes, drinks at the bar, etc. Practically everything on there were things I bought to feel better about myself. For many of us millennials, our credit card statements are a long list of our deepest insecurities resurfacing as impulsive spending habits. It’s actually pretty scary. Working through my insecurities and understanding the motives behind my purchases has started to help me say no to a lot of things I normally would have swiped for without thinking twice.

If we want to change our spending habits, we first have to change our thoughts. Seems simple and intuitive on the surface, but our minds are really unexplored territory for many young adults. We millennials do not spend enough time understanding our needs, wants and desires and instead, act on impulse as a way to band aid our immediate emotional challenges. We are impulsive because we do not take enough time to think and we spend because we don’t want to feel. We really need to learn how to understand our thoughts and be okay with our emotions, so we can make healthy, logical financial decisions.