Business Music

Thoughts on Bitcoin and making money

I’ve been reading about Bitcoin a lot lately. It’s a very interesting concept… its a crypto-currency, its value is only worth as much as how much people are willing to accept it. The more Bitcoin is used, the more value it has and the more accepted it becomes. There are two ways to get Bitcoin: Mine them, or buy it at an exchange. Online Bitcoin exchanges post the currency value which fluctuates day to day, but Mt.Gox seems to be the biggest. Mining them is very interesting.

When you mine Bitcoins, you need a powerful computer that can compute the answer using the bitcoin algorithm to a computer problem. Once you get the answer, a block of bitcoins, depending on difficulty and time, is awarded to you. The more bitcoins that are out there, the higher the difficulty, the higher the difficulty, the less bitcoins you will receive relative to the time the computer spends on the problem.

So in 2011, Bitcoins were dirt cheap because not many people knew about them, and people were using their home computers and GPUs to mine them. Now though, more people know about Bitcoins, and the value of a Bitcoin currently is around $135. And specialized computers called ASICs are being developed to mine them. These manufacturers like Butterfly Labs and Cointerra are building computers designed specifically for Bitcoin mining, with up to 2 Terahashes per second.

So how much money would you make buying one of these machines, and start using them Jan 2014 (since they ship in fall 2013)? Well, the thing is with Bitcoin, its very volatile. How much its worth depends on how much people trust it. And the advantage of time. If someone had started investing in Bitcoin last year for example, when it was around $20, they would have made a lot of return, since now its $135 and it was even as high as $260 at one point. Therefore people who started mining earlier, even at the beginning of this year, would have alot of advantage and would have made alot of money. But now though, its kind of late to start. There’s comparison charts all over the web like this one.

The thing is, once these 500+ GH/s ASICs start shipping, the difficulty is going to increase massively, and its going to be much harder to get a return on investment. So, I would not invest in a miner now for that reason. At the beginning of this year, probably. But not now. But it might be worthwhile to purchase bitcoin currency now. If you think people will continue to accept Bitcoin at the rate it is now, then its worthwhile to purchase some, even at $135 a piece. The reason is because once more and more people start mining, each individual Bitcoin is going to be harder to get, making the supply of Bitcoin ever lower (actually the total circulation is capped at 21 million). Thus, because of lower supply and holding demand constant or higher, you can expect the value of Bitcoin to be higher in the future.

This brings me to a talk about money. I’m not the kind of person to care too much about money. Last year, I had $200,000 cash in the bank from my parents to help me finance my house, and in addition to my Intrade earnings, I could’ve used that money on various investments, but I chose to be a good son and not risk that money anywhere. If I had heard about Bitcoin back then and invested in it, at $20/bitcoin in Dec 2012, and $200k, that would be worth over $1.3m today. Or I could’ve invested in stocks/options like TSLA/PCLN/LNKD/NFLX/QIHU which have had monstrous returns this year. Anyways, the point is there’s always opportunities to make money, and I’m not really concerned about it too much. As long as I keep steady on my current job and do reasonable investments on properties and stocks, then I have a reasonably good chance of becoming a millionaire in the near future (take a look at this page).

In fact I have two stock option strategies to share: the first is called Straddle. Straddling a stock basically means you are betting that the stock will move in either direction. So you buy both a put and a call option on the same stock. If the stock moves in either direction, you hope that the return is higher than the premium you paid for both the put and the call. And that’s it.. pretty low risk option strategy.

The second is called Naked Put. Some people may say this is a high risk option strategy because you are uncovered, but the payoff graph is the exact same as a Covered Call, and its even better than that: With a naked put, you can be in a win-win. If you see a stock you really like, but the price is too high, sell a put contract on it, at the strike price you would like to buy it at. You get the premium for the put no matter what; and if the stock does go down to that price, you are obligated to purchase it; but that’s what you would have wanted anyway!! So I see naked puts as a win-win strategy.

Anyways, there always opportunities to make money, and so I’m not too worried if I miss out on some of them; I realize there is always more in the future. Did you bet on Obama winning the election on Intrade last year? Did you invest in Bitcoin in 2011? Did you invest in any stock in 2009? Did you invest in Shanghai/Seoul properties in the 1990s? Did you invest in the US housing market in 2010? Did you buy AAPL stock in 1990s? Did you buy call options on TSLA at the beginning of this year? Working part time on IT consulting? Buying iPhones in US and selling them in China for a markup? Stocking up on gold in 2008? How about writing a book about how to make money? How about selling an app in the App Store that links you to your book about how to make money? All of these could’ve net you a massive profit. But point is, its always about timing, and available capital. Its hard to estimate timing, but as long as you take the risk, there is always opportunity to make money and get rich. And the more money you have, the more money you can afford to risk, and thus the more you can make. That’s what I’ve learned through all my financial knowledge.

I uploaded some videos recently, including reviews of the Ouya and Wikipad and cover of Bruno Mars:




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10 Ways to Make Money

You miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t take. You’re rejected by 100% of the girls you don’t ask out. You are rejected by 100% of the companies you don’t apply for. If you are afraid of failure, then you’ve already failed. Those who dare to fail greatly, often achieve the greatest success. Life is too short not to take risks. The greatest risk is to not take any risk at all. So take that opportunity. The only thing standing in your way is fear. And the only thing we should fear, is fear itself.

Over 2 years ago, I wrote a post describing how if you live modestly, graduate debt free, have dual incomes with a spouse, and invest in stocks and real estate, you could be a millionaire by age 36. That is completely doable. To me, money is something that takes a while to save up, but once you work enough for money, you can get money to work for you.

I was born into a relatively poor family. My dad was a farmer and my mom was a city girl. We luckily had the opportunity to move to Canada when I was young. But even then, my dad had to work very hard to make ends meet. It wasn’t easy for us. My parents had to work hard to get where they are. And when I see today’s international students, sent to America from China/Korea/Japan, loaded with cash and whose parents invest in real estate and buy expensive cars for them, I don’t think they realize how money is made. When you are born into wealth, you don’t know how to make money. When you start from the bottom and work your way up, then you know how to earn money.

1) Study a major and find a job that is in high demand. According to this article, the best jobs right now are Nursing and Software Development. Therefore, you should study Computer Science or Medical Science, because those fields are in high demand and have high salaries. This is the first step. Find a good occupation. Making enough initial capital requires working for several years to save up money.

2) Invest your money. Invest your money in a basket of risky and non risky assets. Ideally, invest 75% into stocks (small cap and mid cap) and 25% into government bonds. Bonds are guaranteed returns, so they are always safe. Stocks will provide high return but require more risk. Each paycheck, after the necessary budgets are accounted for, should go into investing. This is how your money will make more money. If you know something about investing, take some workshops for foreign exchange trading in London (or wherever you are) to broaden your knowledge and portfolio. As you get older, shift more into bonds / T-bills, so it becomes safer. This also includes other areas such as minerals, energy, foreign exchange, BitCoin, mutual funds, ETFs, derivatives, money market vehicles, etc.

3) Buy real estate. Now is a great time to buy real estate. Houses are very cheap right now, because of all the foreclosures and the recession. Investing in real estate means you can repair the house and furnish it, then rent it out, and hire someone to manage it for you. You can buy many properties this way, and ones in favorable locations such as Florida, Hawaii or SoCal will have high demand. Trouble is, real estate requires a lot of initial capital to work with (several hundred thousand), but property has historically been the best way to accrue wealth.

4) Start your own company or freelance. Entrepreneurship is risky, but rewarding, especially for software engineers and web developers. It’s very easy to start a web business, develop a web or mobile application, develop a facebook, xbox, steam or iPhone game or kickstarter project, and start making money off it. Find a niche for your product that caters to people. Market it. Develop it. Expand it. There is great consumer demand right now for mobile applications, mobile games, and for emerging markets like India and China. These can all be exploited (for example taking an idea abroad). The opportunity is out there, but it requires a lot of time, effort, money and risk to do this.

5) Exploit supply and demand. This is what most dealers and scalpers do, they find the hottest products out there, and find out who wants them the most, and make profit based on people’s emotions. For example, Apple products are almost always hot around the day of release. When the new iPhone5S and PS4 got released, the demand was much higher than supply and people who took advantage of this just turned around and sold them to other people who wanted them more, at a higher price. Or take advantage of products not being available in other countries until much later, like China, and sell them on the black market.

6) Write a book. These days its so easy to publish your own book on the marketplace, because of Kindle and the other eBook platforms. I could conceivably just wrap up all my blog posts in a book, publish it, and make some spare money from that. This is the approach a lot of famous people go once they retire (politicians, diplomats, athletes, musicians, etc).

7) Collect rare collectible items and sell them. Some people have gotten rich from suing companies in court from collecting rare collectible items, keeping them for a period of some decades, and selling them. This is obviously not a fast way to make money, and it depends how rare and valuable the item is, but it’s relatively easy to do. Vintage/rare cars, guitars, art, stamps, coins, baseball cards, even computers, have risen in value tremendously if you purchased them 30+ years ago.

8) Be a contractor, tutor or consultant. If you have expertise in a business or field that most people don’t have knowledge about, then this is another way of making money. Start charging for your knowledge, offering advice, and it could become a successful endeavor. This is the approach some people when they are middle-aged and have a specialized amount of skill/knowledge in some areas.

9) Gambling. This is obviously not a very safe approach, and very risky, but it can make you money, so I’m putting it here. Go to Vegas, or somewhere where gambling or betting is legal, do some statistics (for sports betting), or strategy (for blackjack), and hit the tables. You might win, and you might lose, but its an option.

10) Use your talent to become famous. This is the most risky method. But there are those lucky few who have the God given talent and/or good fortune to become discovered. Musicians, Composers, Comedians, Actors, Writers, Directors, Athletes, Artists, Pro gamers all fall into this category of making money. Lately it has become easier because of Youtube to become discovered, but still very rare. However, if you have a unique talent such as singing or writing songs, acting, or playing football, this method will easily lead into the millions of dollars. Usually only charismatic people can make money this way, and it requires a lot of skill and luck.

And that’s 10 ways to make money! A person could conceivably, have a lot of those practices at the same time. You could be a superstar who is working a day job on the side, investing in real estate and stocks, AND having your own company! Think Dr.Dre, Jay-Z or Magic Johnson. Read Think and Grow Rich for more details on growing wealth. The most important thing, I think, is that people think money is the solution to all of life’s problems. Money cannot mend a broken friendship. Money cannot bring back a deceased family member. Money cannot get you the girl of your dreams (unless that girl is materialistic). Money cannot make you more charismatic. Money cannot make you taller, younger or more handsome. Money cannot make you undo your past mistakes. Money cannot cure cancer or other such diseases. Money is merely a means of surviving, and it’s not as difficult to earn it as people think. And most of all, Money cannot buy love or happiness.

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United States real estate market

Smart people don’t work for money, the money works for them.

A few posts back, I mentioned the living costs of California compared to Ontario. Those are based on the assumption that you will rent. Renting is perhaps the least wisest financially, in ways that you live. The money goes to the landlord and you will never have anything to show for it. Rent a place 10 years, and that’s 10 years worth of money gone.

However, the best way to live is to own a property. Housing is the least volatile and most durable consumer good. The collapse of the US housing market bubble therefore, represents a golden opportunity for investors like myself to get in. Basically, it was stock adjustment. Poor regulation and Sub-prime lending led to consumers buying homes they couldn’t afford. They defaulted on their mortgages, and since they were no-recourse mortgages in the US, banks and investment firms lost a ton of money. The stock of houses were too high, they had to be foreclosed and banks had to get rid of these toxic assets fast – so they sell the homes at breakneck prices.

My parents just bought a condo in Toronto for $37x,xxx and the first thing I thought was ‘what a waste of money’. Thing is, they could’ve bought 3 or 4 condos in the US for the same amount of money. Take a look around ebay, craigslist, any online site, and you will see that many condos sell for under $100,000 in the US (good luck finding one in Canada). I’ve seen townhouses and condos for as low as $20,000 in Las Vegas (see here). Certainly, if I were my parents – I would have invested my money into several properties in the US – California, Nevada, Florida, etc. Those areas are all experiencing massive foreclosures because they were heavily affected by the housing boom. I believe that an initial investment could yield much money in the future. If you were to buy those properties, hold on to them for couple years, then sell them – massive profit is there to be made. You hire a property manager and get those places rented out in the meantime to account for maintenance fees and property taxes.

Alas, my parents are not as risk-taking as I am. All it would take are a few phone calls, flights here and there, and good business know-how. My dad still has not rented our apartment out – it’s been over 2 years! I could never let a potential money-making opportunity slip away. Hmm…maybe I should have specialized in Commerce from the beginning =(.

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