I invested my life savings in a digital currency. Here’s how I lost it all
In the fall of 2017, I started to hear about cryptocurrency everywhere—the news, social media, even at my local barbershop. Bitcoin had skyrocketed from $900 to $10,000 per coin in under a year, making millionaires out of early investors. I was 37 and had never invested in anything, let alone digital currency, but I felt like I was missing out on a huge opportunity.
I started reading around and became enthralled with Ethereum, a cryptocurrency co-founded by a Torontonian named Vitalik Buterin. Ethereum’s units, called ether, can be used like bitcoin, to buy everything from virtual cats to party drugs on the dark web. But the platform itself has a bunch of other practical uses. Tech developers can post their apps for sale without being dependent on such profit-siphoning corporations as Apple or Google. And people can also use Ethereum’s “smart contracts” to broker independent deals, like the Idaho man who posted the deed to his house in order to sell without a pricy lawyer or agent. The more I read, the more excited I became, not only about the potential to make serious money, but about a utopian system that operates outside traditional financial structures.
In December of 2017, I bought five and a half ether at $900 each, investing $5,000. As a precariously employed freelance writer, this was a big deal. I promised myself I’d only make a single purchase and I wouldn’t check on prices for an entire year. Of course, I checked constantly. In the following weeks, Ethereum’s value jumped to nearly $1,800, which meant my $5,000 had grown to around $10,000, almost instantly. “Welcome to the wonderful world of crypto,” one friend said when I expressed my disbelief. I bought in again, adding around $2,000, which I couldn’t afford, but I was cocky.
I became an Ethereum evangelist. At parties, I’d preach the good word about how Ethereum would only get…