From billionaire investor Mike Novogratz to celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Paris Hilton, bitcoin is increasingly becoming part of a mainstream investor’s wallet. It made bonafide millionaires out of those who took a bite early, and while discussions about the concept of an unregulated digital payment system rage on, there are a group of millennials who are thinking about a cashless future — and putting their money where their thumbs are.
They’re part of a different 1%, the small number of Americans who’ve not only heard of bitcoin, but are buying, selling, and trading it on their smart phones and laptops. What’s more, some millennials are using bitcoin as the basis for their long-term savings. And experts say that could shake the foundation that this country’s financial institutions have built their empires on.
Roshaan Khan, a 20-year-old senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, is one of those millennials. Khan recently invested in bitcoin and ethereum — another form of cryptocurrency — and is encouraging his friends to do the same.
“All of my net worth is in cryptocurrencies, because I see them as the best way to escalate my ability to be financially secure and pay off my student loans,” Khan said. “I like the idea of decentralization, the fact that there’s a lot less corruption and political ties. That idea appeals to me … Not having to go through banks. Having financial control over our lives again.”
Andreas M. Antonopoulos, the author of Mastering Bitcoin and The Internet of Money, is familiar with this mistrust. He says that the concept of money on the internet isn’t only obvious and appealing to millennials — it’s the one system, he argues, that hasn’t betrayed them.
“When you talk to millennials who have been thoroughly disappointed by every single social institution -- the government, the church, the politics, the parties -- they can’t trust anyone anymore,” Antonopoulos said. “They remember 2008, because it was the first big crash they’ve had, and many millennials have been unable to find work. They watched no bankers go to jail.”
Now that it’s time for them to start pushing around coins, millennials are choosing to do it digitally -- and on their own terms.
“It feels better to run my own savings plan by investing and reinvesting in new technology,” said Emil Thorsplass, a 24-year-old musician from Norway. “I still have my regular pension fund and my bills still have to be paid through a bank account, but cryptocurrency investments have become a central part of saving for me.”