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How to learn about crypto

Key takeaways

  • The crypto industry is continuously evolving, and its technical concepts aren't always easy to understand.
  • The good news is that there are resources that can help you learn crypto fundamentals and stay up to date.
  • Below, we explore how to start building your crypto knowledge at Fidelity and beyond.

Crypto is constantly changing. From volatile price swings and new projects to new regulations and headline-making news, it seems like something big pops up in the crypto world every day. This can make learning about it daunting, especially when the underlying technology isn't always easy to understand.

Even so, there are resources that can help you get up to speed at your own pace. Let's explore some smart ways to learn about crypto.

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1. Find trustworthy, knowledgeable sources

First, remember that not all crypto sources are created equal. Crypto is a new space with evolving regulatory clarity, and a lot of news and opinions are spread through social media. This means there may be a higher chance that the information you read is false or misleading. Bottom line: Don't believe everything you read.

So what qualifies as a trustworthy source? For beginners, it may be best to learn the basics from established crypto providers. These sources typically offer articles, videos, and other learning materials on how crypto works.

Another resource to consider might be YouTube, which offers whiteboarding and other forms of helpful visual explanations that make advanced concepts easy to digest. However, note that the quality of information is variable here, as anyone can make a YouTube video, regardless of their level of experience. If you choose to explore this route, don't take any single source as truth without doing further research.

In general, always read content from multiple platforms to get different perspectives. This may help you avoid getting caught up in overly optimistic or pessimistic viewpoints. Many will try to convince you that the prices of specific cryptocurrencies are guaranteed to go up (usually because they currently hold the assets in their portfolio), while others are adamant crypto is doomed to fail no matter what.

Getting perspectives from all sides may help you dodge unreasonable claims.

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Read about the fundamentals, tax considerations, factors to consider before buying crypto, and more.

2. Build confidence with the basics

When it comes to the fundamentals, prioritize learning how the following concepts work:

As of now, most crypto projects are built on these concepts, which makes them foundational. While they can be complicated, learning their nuances will make new crypto developments and innovations much easier to understand.

Throughout your research, you're likely to come across advocates who argue that crypto is revolutionary and here to stay. In light of this, make sure to also spend time researching the arguments against crypto. Knowing why some are skeptical can be equally helpful when it comes to understanding the fundamentals as well as the risks of investing in crypto. It can also help you better decide if buying crypto is right for you.

Once you've mastered the basics, the next step is to get up to speed on the following concepts:

These concepts are currently blockchain's most popular use cases, many of which aim to solve real-world problems. They're considered important by many because most of the innovation in crypto currently revolves around them. Read crypto news and you'll likely see these terms appear over and over again.

3. Learn the logistics

Once you're confident with the basics, the next step is to get an idea of what's involved when it comes to buying crypto.

Unlike traditional assets, crypto may be more susceptible to market manipulation than securities, and crypto holders do not benefit from the same regulatory protections applicable to registered securities. Also, the future regulatory environment for crypto is currently uncertain. And remember, crypto is not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

With that in mind, there are several key concepts that may help you better safeguard your crypto if you decide to buy some down the road.

  • Keep your crypto secure. Unlike traditional assets, crypto requires special considerations to make sure your access to your holdings isn't stolen or lost. Make sure you understand how crypto wallets work, which exchange you're buying through, and how to follow basic cybersecurity rules.
  • Ways to choose a custodian. Custodians are responsible for safeguarding your access to your crypto. Not all custodians are trustworthy, and government regulations are still evolving.
  • How to send crypto between wallets. One of crypto's main use cases is that it's possible to send assets to anyone with an internet connection—no third party needed. However, if you accidentally send them to the wrong address, you may lose access to your assets forever. Make sure you understand the best practices, which can help prevent this situation.
  • Potential tax implications. Buying and selling crypto could result in capital gains or losses. Tax regulations are still evolving as well, but make sure you understand the big picture on how your holdings are currently treated.

4. Plug in to the news

In crypto, news usually breaks first on social media platforms. One of the best ways to learn about crypto is to follow crypto founders and thought leaders on social media.

Unlike that of many Web 2.0 companies, founders of crypto projects are often active on social media, where they provide regular project updates and interact with users. Outside of bitcoin, many development teams behind some of the biggest cryptocurrencies, DeFi ventures, and exchanges treat the social media platform like their personal blog.

Note, however, that anyone can start a crypto project and claim the title of "crypto founder." Therefore, take everything you read with a grain of salt. As the last few years have shown, crypto founders can exaggerate the value of their projects in order to artificially manipulate prices in their favor.

It may also be worth following certain thought leaders, as there are some who provide helpful commentary on the implications behind news. Keeping up with them can accelerate your learning curve. With that said, you should view thought leaders who actively promote certain cryptocurrencies or projects with a critical eye, as they may be trying to use their leverage to artificially pump up the value of their own holdings.

In general, remember that not all social media sources are created equal. Crypto is a new space with evolving regulatory clarity, and social media can just as easily be used as a tool for manipulation. Bottom line: Think twice before acting on any information you receive through social media.

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5. Monitor crypto prices regularly

It's important to know that crypto prices have historically been volatile. Even if you're now convinced blockchain technology is the future, remember that the industry is still new, and that the value of individual crypto projects can both rise and fall dramatically.

To get a feel for the crypto market, consider regularly monitoring the price of bitcoin, the first and largest cryptocurrency. Seeing its price movements can help you get a sense for what it would be like to hold bitcoin in a portfolio.

Also consider monitoring a few cryptocurrencies with a market cap below $1 billion. These are smaller coins that can be even more volatile than bitcoin, and may be more likely to drop to 0 in value. This can be done through Coinmarketcap.com and can give you a better sense of how risky some niches of crypto can be.

Then read up on why it's so volatile, and how factors like evolving government regulations, correlation with central bank activity, and world events could influence its price.

Beyond the basics

If you've learned the fundamentals, understand that crypto prices can be rollercoasters, and still think crypto may be right for you, the next step might be to buy a small amount to get a better feel for how it works.

Given the volatile nature of the market, consider limiting your purchases to only an amount you can afford to lose. If you're buying solely for educational purposes, you can consider starting with a negligible amount, like $5. This may be enough first-hand experience to understand what kinds of price swings to expect.

If you're not yet confident, however, continue monitoring the news and watching the ups and downs of crypto prices. This can help provide a real-world point of reference for your knowledge of the basics, as well as help build your confidence over time.

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Crypto as an asset class is highly volatile, can become illiquid at any time, and is for investors with a high risk tolerance. Crypto may also be more susceptible to market manipulation than securities. Crypto is not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. Investors in crypto do not benefit from the same regulatory protections applicable to registered securities.

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