Between Goldcoin and Bitcoin

Bitcoin… Monetary Nirvana?

If you don’t know what Bitcoin is, do a bit of research on the internet, and you will get plenty… but the short story is that Bitcoin was created as a medium of exchange, without a central bank or bank of issue being involved. Furthermore, Bitcoin transactions are supposed to be private, that is anonymous. Most interestingly, Bitcoins have no real world existence; they exist only in computer software, as a kind of virtual reality.

The general idea is that Bitcoins are ‘mined’… interesting term here… by solving an increasingly difficult mathematical formula -more difficult as more Bitcoins are ‘mined’ into existence; again interesting- on a computer. Once created, the new Bitcoin is put into an electronic ‘wallet’. It is then possible to trade real goods or Fiat currency for Bitcoins… and vice versa. Furthermore, as there is no central issuer of Bitcoins, it is all highly distributed, thus resistant to being ‘managed’ by authority.

Naturally proponents of Bitcoin, those who benefit from the growth of Bitcoin, insist rather loudly that ‘for sure, Bitcoin is money’… and not only that, but ‘it is the best money ever, the money of the future’, etc… Well, the proponents of Fiat shout just as loudly that paper currency is money… and we all know that Fiat paper is not money by any means, as it lacks the most important attributes of real money. The question then is does Bitcoin even qualify as money… never mind it being the money of the future, or the best money ever.

To find out, let’s look at the attributes that define money, and see if Bitcoin qualifies. The three essential attributes of money are;

1) money is a stable store of value; the most essential attribute, as without stability of value the function of numeraire, or unit of measure of value, fails.

2) money is the numeraire, the unit of account.

3) money is a medium of exchange… but other things can also fulfill this function ie direct barter, the ‘netting out’ of goods exchanged. Also ‘trade goods’ (chits) that hold value temporarily; and finally exchange of mutual credit; ie netting out the value of promises fulfilled by exchanging bills or IOU’s.

Compared to Fiat, Bitcoin does not do too badly as a medium of exchange. Fiat is only accepted in the geographic domain of its issuer. Dollars are no good in Europe etc. Bitcoin is accepted internationally. On the other hand, very few retailers currently accept payment in Bitcoin. Unless the acceptance grows geometrically, Fiat wins… although at the cost of exchange between countries.

The first condition is a lot tougher; money must be a stable store of value… now Bitcoins have gone from a ‘value’ of $3.00 to around $1,000, in just a few years. This is about as far from being a ‘stable store of value’; as you can get! Indeed, such gains are a perfect example of a speculative boom… like Dutch tulip bulbs, or junior mining companies, or Nortel stocks.

Of course, Fiat fails here as well; for example, the US Dollar, the ‘main’ Fiat, has lost over 95% of its value in a few decades… neither fiat nor Bitcoin qualify in the most important measure of money; the capacity to store value and preserve value through time. Real money, that is Gold, has shown the ability to hold value not just for centuries, but for eons. Neither Fiat nor Bitcoin has this crucial capacity… both fail as money.

Finally, we come to the second attribute; that of being the numeraire. Now this is really interesting, and we can see why both Bitcoin and Fiat fail as money, by looking closely at the question of the ‘numeraire’. Numeraire refers to the use of money to not only store value, but to in a sense measure, or compare value. In Austrian economics, it is considered impossible to actually measure value; after all, value resides only in human consciousness… and how can anything in consciousness actually be measured? Nevertheless, through the principle of Mengerian market action, that is interaction between bid and offer, market prices can be established… if only momentarily… and this market price is expressed in terms of the numeraire, the most marketable good, that is money.

So how do we establish the value of Fiat… ? Through the concept of ‘purchasing power’… that is, the value of Fiat is determined by what it can be traded for… a so called ‘basket of goods’. But his clearly implies that Fiat has no value of its own, rather value flows from the value of the goods and services it may be traded for. Causality flows from the goods ‘bought’ to the Fiat number. After all, what difference is there between a one Dollar bill and a hundred Dollar bill, except the number printed on it… and the purchasing power of the number?

Gold, on the other hand, is not measured by what it trades for; rather, uniquely, it is measured by another physical standard; by its weight, or mass. A gram of Gold is a gram of gold, and an ounce of Gold is an ounce of Gold… no matter what number is engraved on its surface, ‘face value’ or otherwise. Causality is the opposite to that of Fiat; Gold is measured by weight, an intrinsic quality… not by purchasing power. Now, have you any idea of the value of an ounce of Dollars? No such thing. Fiat is only ‘measured’ by an ephemeral quantity… the number printed on it, the ‘face value’.

Bitcoin is farther away from being the numeraire; not only is it simply a number, much as Fiat… but its value is measured in Fiat! Even if Bitcoin becomes internationally accepted as a medium of exchange, and even if it manages to replace the Dollar as the accepted ‘numeraire’, it can never have an intrinsic measure like Gold has. Gold is unique in being measured by a true, unchanging physical quantity. Gold is unique in storing value for thousands of years. Nothing else in reach of humanity has this unique combination of qualities.

In conclusion, while Bitcoin has some advantages over Fiat, namely anonymity and decentralization, it fails in its claim to being money. Its advantages are also questionable; the intent is to limit the ‘mining’ of Bitcoins to 26,000,000 units; that is, the ‘mining’ algorithm gets harder and harder to solve, then impossible after the 26 million Bitcoins are mined. Unfortunately, this announcement could very well be the death knell of Bitcoin; already, some central banks have announced that Bitcoins may become a ‘reservable’ currency.

Wow, sounds like a major step for Bitcoin, does it not? After all, the ‘big banks’ seem to be accepting the true value of the Bitcoin, no? What this actually means is banks recognize that they could trade Fiat for Bitcoins… and to actually buy up the 26 million Bitcoins planned would cost a meagre 26 Billion Fiat Dollars. Twenty six billion Dollars is not even small change to the Fiat printers; it is about a week’s worth of printing by the US Fed alone. And, once the Bitcoins bought up and locked up in the Fed’s ‘wallet’… what useful purpose could they serve?

There would be no Bitcoins left in circulation; a perfect corner. If there are no Bitcoins in circulation, how on Earth could they be used as a medium of exchange? And, what could the issuers of Bitcoin possibly do to defend against such a fate? Change the algorithm and increase the 26 million to… 52 million? To 104 million? Join the Fiat printing parade? But then, by the quantity theory of money, Bitcoin would start to lose value, just as Fiat supposedly loses value through ‘over-printing’…

We come to the key issue; why search for a ‘new money’ when we already have the very best money, Gold? Fear of Gold confiscation? Lack of anonymity from an intrusive government? Brutal taxation? Fiat money legal tender laws? All of the above. The answer is not in a new form of money, but in a new social structure, one without Fiat, without Government spying, without drones and swat teams… without IRS, border guards, TSA thugs… on and on. A world of liberty not tyranny. Once this is accomplished, Gold will resume its ancient and vital role as honest money… and not a moment before.

All About Digital Money

Would we be better off without paper money and coin? Some say yes, and some say no and the debate rages on. Government tax collectors would prefer only electronic or digital money – it’s easier to control and easier to keep taxpayers honest – but are those gains worth the drawbacks? I mean what’s wrong with cash – you can spend it anywhere, you can pay your babysitter, go to a garage sale, or stop at a lemonade stand – all of which are part of our underground economy by definition and harmless uses of transferring money.

Then there are the illegal things, no one uses digital money because it leaves a trace, so you cannot use it to buy things you are not allowed to buy or that someone else is not allowed to sell. Does it thus, make sense to get rid of the money that allows illegal transactions, shut down the entire underground economy and if we do, will our society and civilization be better or worse off for that solution? Let’s discuss this shall we?

Yes, a digital currency would be similar to regular currency and really we are almost there already anyway. If we go to “digital units” and change the paradigm to cover the needs of people who contribute who are not rewarded fairly now, then we will get more of what we reward, as is the famous axiom. A technocrat would enjoy this conversation and the thought of micro-managing the exact worth of every job, but technocrats are not so good at considering their own created unforeseen consequences as they pave the road to hell.

The reason humans use money now is simply because things and choices are more complicated than they were in the past when our species were only hunters, gatherers and traders. Let me explain; you see, if I make hammers and you need one, but you only have cattle, then you cannot cut off the tail of your cow to buy my hammer, so instead you give me $11 and you can sell your cow in the future for $1100 and give me the one-percent of it so you can build a new barn.

Money and currency is nothing more than units of trade thus, make things easier, that’s why it exists, but I do not like the bashing of currency, digital or otherwise, where many believe it is the root of all evil. I respectfully disagree. Please consider all this and think on it, as this topic does affect your life.

Things You Should Know Before Hire Financial Planner

Unlike someone calling himself a CPA or a physician, just about anyone can call himself a “financial planner” or a “financial advisor” regardless of their educational background and professional experience. Moreover, not all of them are unbiased in their advice and not all of them always act in their clients’ best interests.

To ensure your financial planner is well-qualified in personal finances and impartial in his advice, consider the following five things:

1. Planning Credentials: Having a highly-regarded credential in financial planning, such as Certified Financial Planner (CFP) or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS), confirms that the professional you intend to work with has acquired the education and experience necessary to serve as a financial planner. CFP and PFS credentials are awarded to only those individuals who have met the certification requirements of education and experience in planning for personal finances. In addition, they have to pass the certification examinations and agree adhere to the practice standards and continuing education requirements.

2. Subject Matter Expertise: Financial planners are planning professionals, not necessarily subject matter experts. For example, a financial planner will be skilled in tax analysis and planning,but unlike a Certified Public Account (CPA) or an IRS Enrolled Agent (EA) he might not necessarily be a subject matter expert when it comes to tax rules Similarly,a he could be skilled in chalking out an investment plan, but unlike a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) he may not be an authority in the subject of investments. Work with a financial planner who is also a subject matter expert in those areas of personal finance that are important in achieving your financial goals.

3. Client Specialization: Not all financial planners serve all types of clients. Most specialize in serving only certain types of clients with specific profiles. For example, a personal planner may build his expertise and customize his services to serve only those individuals and families who are in certain professions, or a particular stage of life with specific financial goals and net worth. Ask whether the planner specializes in serving only certain types of clients with specific profiles to determine whether he is the right fit for your situation and financial goals.

4. Fee structure: The fee structure largely determines whose interests he serves best – his client’s or his own. A Fee-Only professional charges only fees for their advice whereas a Fee-Based professional not only charges fees but also earns commissions, referral fees and other financial incentives on the products and solutions they recommend for you. Consequently, the advice from a fee-only one is more likely to be unbiased and in your best interests than the advice from a fee-based financial planner. Work with a professional whose fee structure is conflict-free and aligned to benefit you.

5. Availability: He or she should be regularly available, attentive, and accessible to you. Ask the planner how many clients he currently serves and the maximum number of clients he is planning to serve in the future regularly. This clients-to-planner ratio is one of the key factors in assessing your planner’s availability to you in the future. Also, ask which planning activities are typically performed by the planner and which ones are delegated to a para planner or other junior staff members. Lastly, make sure the planner is easily accessible via phone and email during normal business hours.

Once you have shortlisted a few well-qualified and unbiased financial planners in your local area, consult the ones who offer a FREE initial consultation first. During the initial consultation, assess the planner’s availability and any other professional attributes you are seeking in your financial planner.

Having a well-qualified and unbiased financial planner by your side is extremely important in your journey towards your financial goals. When searching for one, consider the planner’s professional credentials, client specialization, subject matter expertise, fee structure, and availability to select the right financial planner for your needs.

All About Financial Portfolio Management System

One of the biggest threats that most Portfolio Managers face is the prevalence of legacy systems.

Over the past three decades, investment advisors have been empowered by the advent of technology from simple spreadsheets to complex home-grown systems. From that time to the present, the industry has seen exponential growth and with it, enormous complexity. Challenges include round-the-clock trading in markets from New York to Sydney, varying accounting standards, shortened settlement cycles, and of course, increased regulation and security issues to name a few. As if that were not enough, technology seems to change every day leaving many legacy systems struggling to keep up with customer demands. Cheaper, faster, smarter, and more efficient norms are expected – they cannot be the exception. Failing systems can sharply undermine your company’s ability to service its customers and maintain its market share, much less grow the business.

In this age of big data, business intelligence, and data analytics, legacy systems can represent a massive risk to your business. If day-to-day operations require the ability to manage process, distribute, and accurately report financial data, being behind the curve is not an option. If this sounds familiar, it is time to ask, “How did we get here?” and more importantly “How do we get out?”

Here are the seven signs that will tell you if you have a decaying system and how it must ideally operate:

1. Facing difficulties while managing data due to disparate systems?

Maintaining data in different systems or manually moving move data from one system to another will lead to inconsistency and errors. Is your data quickly identifiable, consistent across multiple systems, complete, accurate, and reconciled among different systems? If your answer is a NO to these questions, you must reevaluate your platform. Your system must be able to eliminate manual data flow, update all the data with a single change, deliver timely and accurate reporting including intra-day, and make data easily traceable.

2. Are your client communications professional?

Investors expect your reporting to be clear, concise, and highly customized to their needs. This statement holds especially true for institutional investors. Organizations that can meet these expectations will have an immense competitive advantage over those that cannot. If your current system does not deliver the level of reporting your clients expect, you will run the risk of falling behind.

Your client expectations are not limited to the form and content of reporting, but also to how you deliver information. They expect instant access to real-time information, be it through a web portal or a mobile platform to stay relevant and highly competitive, your systems must be flexible enough to send and receive communications via any channel of your client’s choosing.

3. Struggling to cope with complex global investments?

Dealing with multiple regional and global investment regulations such as UCITS V and VI, Solvency II, AIFMD, and EMIR is a daunting task. All these regulations require you to maintain reliable, accurate, and transparent data. To comply with these regulations, you need Workflow Management, Data Management, and accurate reporting. Data, managing risk, and maintaining accuracy is critical to comply with regulatory reporting requirements.

With the increase in data sources and data complexities, your organizations need solution providers who can help you manage your data. Your system must not only be scalable but also provide actionable business intelligence in a format that is easily understood.

4. Finding it hard to achieve Integration of disparate systems?

Real integration is not a matter of simply connecting systems – your systems must be able to talk to each other seamlessly. Manually moving data from one system to another affects your efficiency, thereby, increasing the risk of errors. Integrating disparate systems not only reduces these risks but also improves efficiency by ensuring that back office and front office personnel can view transactions, cash positions, and holdings identically. This ensures that the entries are recorded accurately in your Investment Book of Records (IBOR).

Many organizations use multiple systems for accounting, reporting, reconciliation and managing client information. If different vendors have provided these systems, making them talk to each other could be a challenging process. If you have workarounds or portfolios that reside outside of your legacy system, it is time to rethink its usability. Your system must allow centralized and standardized portfolio management activity. In an end-to-end portfolio management solution that is built on open architecture, the work of multiple systems is consolidated into a single platform. Such a solution will allow easy access to third-party systems or any other system that is built in-house, thereby enabling you to reduce technology footprint while driving greater efficiency.

5. Escalating legal and compliance costs?

A 2013 survey of Chief Technology Officers suggests that one of the biggest operations and technology challenges that asset managers face is to comply with the current and future regulatory requirements. The complex regulations make outdated reporting systems more of a liability than an asset. The compliance costs of regulations such as AIFMD, UCITS V, and VI, or FATCA-are overtaking many budgets. Additionally, aggregating data from different systems for compliance reporting is a risky and resource-consuming process. To reduce these risks and costs simultaneously, your system must be prepared to deliver consolidated reporting, by leveraging automation, integration, and standardization of data from various sources. Your systems must also eliminate the manual compilation of data for reporting, thereby increasing efficiency and cutting associated compliance labor costs while ensuring integrity, consistency, and reducing your operating risk.

6. Being scrutinized by Investors’ due diligence?

After surviving the global economic crisis of 2008, institutional investors have become extremely wary of due diligence, leading to immense scrutiny of operations. The 2008 crisis exposed operational risks – the risk of failure that not only involved market forces but also the lack of infrastructure and controls. Investors have also become increasingly tech-savvy; they are asking the right questions and know what to find. To remain competitive in this vital market, your system must stand up to the intense investor scrutiny. You must show that you have the controls in place to manage the risks efficiently and that you are already adhering to well-organized processes. If Investors sense any gaps in your workflow and find that you are dependent on manual processes and workarounds, they will take their money elsewhere.

7. Legacy systems are not supported, serviced, or enhanced in the way you expect?

A product is only as good as its provider. Is you provider paying enough attention to you after the sale with 24/7 support? Does your provider have a track record of continuous product updates? Do they provide product training? Are they attentive to your suggestions or new ideas? Your provider must provide long-term support if you want your new system to last. Your product must be scalable, flexible, and must be built on open source technologies. In addition, your provider must not only help you set up but also ensure that your systems perform optimally without any disruptions. A relationship is a two-way street; as such, providers must be able to respond to your issues quickly, and also help your business adopt new functionality as and when it is needed.

Invest in your growth

A portfolio management system is the heart of your business. With a weak system, your business can be at serious risk, and you may not have the time to address it before it fails completely. Investing in technology will give you greater efficiency, reduced risks, and help you make informed decisions. Your provider, therefore, must have a proven track record of being committed to long-standing services, continuous improvement, and support you as you grow.