Leave Your Country, Take Your Wealth

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The Global Citizen

About a decade ago, I use to live a near-nomadic existence. Before settling in DC, I lived abroad for seven years. I mostly lived in China, but I did some stints in South Korea and Germany as well.

As an expat, I was horrible at handling my money. Sure, I made enough to pay off the interest of a Sallie Mae loan, and save a couple of hundred dollars, but that was it. If I knew about bitcoin or cryptocurrency perhaps I could have better handled my money.

Payment Headache

I graduated with a ton of student loan and credit card debt. When I arrived to China, I was about $24,000 in the hole. Because the RMB is not convertible, I had a hard time obtaining and sending dollars. In order to exchange dollars for RMB, I would have to wait outside a bank and wait for a “money man” to provide me dollars at exorbitant fees. When I finally was able to get my hands on some greenbacks, it was time for Western Union to take an additional cut of my money.

Today, there are bitcoin-based companies that are addressing the pain point of sending money cheaply and easily. If I was now teaching English in the Philippines I could easily transfer my money from bitcoin to dollars using a service called Coins.ph. Coins.ph is free, and doesn’t include a “money man” or hefty fees. Coins.ph is a wallet and an exchange, which means I can store bitcoin and then go on the exchange and convert bitcoins to USD. Alternatively, if I wanted to send dollars to an account, I could transfer my money from coins.ph to coinbase.

In Germany, I could have used a service like Coinbase.  I would then proceed to use the dollars to pay off my debt. Not sure if there’s a way to pay off student loans using bitcoin, but if you know of a company that offers this server, please leave a comment below!

Cryptocurrency as a Wealth Vehicle

I had a hard time creating wealth as an expat. I had saved some money in China (English teaching was lucrative back in the day) but I was unable to make my money grow. Taking a cursory glance at expat forums, it looks like I’m not the only one.

Turns out, cryptocurrency is a fine way to start the process of building wealth! Before I begin, I must emphasize that I think the best way to go about investing is to have a diversified portfolio. I’m not advising that ALL of your assets should be in bitcoin. Also should mention that I’m not an expert, so take everything I say with a healthy grain of salt!

The easiest way to build wealth through cryptocurrency is to just buy bitcoin and hold. In 2016, bitcoin by far was the best performing asset. The price of a single coin soared to over 100%. It is not the best idea to buy high, but it would be good to buy a modest amount of bitcoin. It is an even better idea to research altcoins and find an up and coming cryptocurrency. My bets are on ether and zcash. Ethereum smart contracts (which uses ether) are slowly becoming more prevalent.  I would also invest in zcash because of its ability to make financial transactions private. There is growing demand for this feature, and I think now would be a good time to explore zcash.

You can purchase altcoins on exchanges such as Shapeshift, Bittrex, or Poloniex.

One Big Note

I have to admit when I first started writing this post, I planned on writing in full detail how easy it was to send money from China. I did some digging and discovered the most common way to send bitcoins is through an exchange called BTCC. Wasn’t clear on how to send money, so I emailed support. Long story short in order to send bitcoin I needed:

  • passport
  • official proof of residence
  • visa

These are similar requirements for sending money via Western Union.

This was a big blow to say the least.  But keep in mind that there are multiple ways to send bitcoin in China. I did not explore how to send bitcoin via messaging apps like QQ or WeChat, which are probably less restrictive than the BTCC exchange.

 

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