You can now book a flight, pay for a taxi, drinks or dinner – all using Bitcoin. Getting a salary in Bitcoins does not look like anything fantastic anymore. What are the odds that Bitcoin can be adapted to serve social purposes, namely reshaping national welfare systems? We recently looked into how Bitcoin can be applied for distribution of universal basic income.

We are facing fairly similar issues in the pension system as we do with the UBI system. 

In case of voluntary retirement schemes it might look interesting to include Bitcoin in investment portfolios. Joel Lehtonen from Prasos says:

“Actually, this is already possible in Finland or most parts of Europe in general. You can sign up for a plan at the voluntary pension fund, and include any stocks or funds as part of your retirement investment portfolio. Then you can pick in Bitcoin ETN such as XBTE which is traded in Nasdaq Stockholm.”

Bitcoin here is just one of the options among others to turn a profit from your retirement investments. Lehtonen believes that there may be more interesting use-cases from a technical point of view in using blockchain technology to make the retirement schemes more transparent to participants and the general public as well.

Keir Finlow-Bates, CEO at Chainfrog says: “If your state pension system offers a basic flat pension that’s the same size for everyone, then it’s the same as UBI system, but limited to pensioners. If your system has some kind of proportional to contributions made during your lifetime component to it, then it gets more complicated because you have to keep track of those contributions over a long time. Although you could do this by kicking off a Blockchain now or in the near future, who knows what state-of-the-art computer accountancy systems will look like in ten, twenty, or fifty years. Today’s Blockchains and associated support tooling are going to look pretty basic compared to those of the future.”

Bitcoin-based retirement

Wall Street Journal has recently featured a revolutionary retirement strategy offered by BitcoinIRA.

BitcoinIRA is a Bitcoin-based retirement investment company that allows people investing with actual Bitcoins for their IRA. Unlike other Bitcoin investment funds, BitcoinIRA offers an opportunity for individuals to control their deposits with no holding fees, annual management fees or performance fees, as well as it gives them an opportunity to withdraw once the term is over.

The platform collaborates with leading fintech professionals to provide secure and high-quality Bitcoin investments. Edmund C. Moy, Chief Strategist at BitcoinIRA, says:

“We are the only ones that put “Real” Bitcoin into your Roth IRA. If Bitcoin goes from $1K to $10K you will not pay taxes on that growth if you hold the investment for the required amount of time by the IRS. When many on Wall Street are predicting 1000 times growth the tax savings will be huge.”

He explains that BitcoinIRA business models promote the long-term investment into Bitcoin reducing the overall volatility. He continues:

“If I were a wealth manager, it would be my fiduciary duty to diversify my client’s portfolio with Bitcoin or at least have the conversation with them.”

In Bitcoin IRA’s most recent investment report, Moy expressed a positive outlook for Bitcoin’s price in 2017:

“Bitcoin IRA had a great 2016. On average our clients are up over 40 percent as Bitcoin continues to be one of the best performing asset classes available. We are seeing much less volatility in price and more regulation in the industry. Having our business model validated by the Wall Street Journal has us very excited for 2017.”

Bitcoin price risk

Despite our overall excitement about Bitcoin price growth, it still remains a very speculative investment, involving a high degree of risk. There is a high chance that investing in Bitcoin you can eventually lose all or a substantial part of investments.

In 2013, Jack Tatar, former Financial Advisor and current CEO of GEM Research Solutions, as well as the author of the book "Safe 4 Retirement: The Four Keys to a Safe Retirement", embarked on an exciting experiment and made an investment of $25,000 into the so-called Bitcoin Investment Trust.

Later, he shared his experience writing about how he lost one-half of his investment due to the drop in Bitcoin price. The story attracted so much interest, Tatar himself didn’t believe that any author was ever called “stupid” or an “idiot” so frequently. So, is it possible to utilize Bitcoins as a retirement strategy or is it still too early for this kind of use-case of cryptocurrency?

Alternative investing

An across the board low-risk strategy does not make the basis of intelligent pension investing. A number of factors should be taken into account – the age of the individual, the expected retirement age, the anticipated income required to maintain the standard of living, as well as a projection of the number of years the retired person will need to rely on those savings before they expire.

Gavin Smith, CEO at First Global Credit explains:

“When you are young, you can have more capital in riskier ventures, then as you get closer to retirement, scaling risk back in favor of generating income becomes more appropriate. So, in the same way, that people might put a portion of their retirement funds into gold, Bitcoin can be used in a similar way as it has the appreciation potential characterized by gold investment without many of the downsides like the cost of storage and etc.”

Smith thinks that to those of us who believe in the future of cryptocurrency taking a long-term position in Bitcoin, meaning not divesting when the market has a significant correction. Buying Bitcoin is buying an option on any high yield investment. In this case, the downside risk is limited to the price of the option, the upside potential, however, is practically limitless at this point.

Risky but attractive?

Perhaps, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can be considered as alternative investment options. However, the truth is that it has its flip sides one should be aware of.

Retirement advisors consider Bitcoin risky, volatile, unregulated and unsuitable for long-term investments. Financial regulators are still uncertain how to classify Bitcoin and therefore how to treat Bitcoin investments. Besides, Bitcoin is completely unregulated and uninsured.

We all get so excited seeing its rise in value, however, we also witnessed some dramatic declines. If the majority of its value can disappear in a few seconds, how can it become something to depend on in a decade?

Let’s go back to the story of Jack Tatar. At the end of 2015, things started to be different for his investments as the price of Bitcoin started to grow. In the summer of last year when Bitcoin was over $700, Tatar shared his excitement by saying that it has been the best investment in his retirement account.

Would you include Bitcoin in your retirement investment portfolio?