Cryptocurrency Investing Tips
Here are some basic tips and tricks for investing in and trading Bitcoin (and other cryptos). We cover how to avoid fees, what orders to use, and more.
To keep it simple, let’s jump right to some Bitcoin investing and trading tips and tricks:
1. Use an exchange, not a broker. You’ll save money on fees. For example, buy and sell with GDAX and not Coinbase.
2. When you buy/sell via an exchange, try to use limit orders (try not to use market orders). On some exchanges, like GDAX, limit orders have lower fees than market orders. On GDAX, limit orders are free as long as they don’t fill immediately. Meanwhile, market orders result in a .3% fee, which is better than the 1.4% that Coinbase charges but not as good as 0%, especially if you are day trading. If your exchange rewards you for using certain order types, aim to use them.
3. Figure out if you want to go long or short. Are you going short with every penny you have to invest, or are you going to go long with some and short with some? Long-term investors will pay a lower tax rate if they can hold for over 12 months, but as a trade-off, they WILL have to sit through corrections (likely seeing their balance go down 50% plus on paper as often as they see it go up). Short-term investors can avoid corrections if they are nimble, but they’ll owe taxes on the profits from each trade they do along the way (see: how taxes work with cryptocurrency to understand how the long term and short term capital gains tax work with cryptocurrency).
4. If you are going long, consider building an average position (for example via dollar cost averaging or value averaging). There is no better way to avoid making a poorly timed trade than buying incrementally instead of all at once and thereby buying an asset at its “average” price over time. If you don’t have a really solid grasp of technical indicators and the way the volatile crypto markets work, consider averaging out of positions as well. Averaging isn’t just financially conservative, it is important psychologically. Taking too big of a position at once can be emotionally difficult to deal with (and can thus lead to bad decision making) given the historic volatility of the cryptocurrency market.
5. Consider laddering your buys and sells. In others words, instead of buying or selling everything in one chunk, set incremental buy and sell orders to buy when the price goes down and sell when the price goes up.
6. If you take only one thing away, take away the advice to average and ladder into and out of positions. These two related techniques will help you to avoid mistiming the complex and volatile cryptocurrency market. Learn about dollar cost averaging and laddering.
7. Remember Cryptocurrency is a 24/7 Global Market. In other words, the market never sleeps. Since you do, consider automating your investing strategy using limit orders, stops, or even using APIs (via “trading bots“).
8. Dad advice: Aim to buy low, sell high; try not to buy high, sell low. Look at the price trend, if we are at the highest point it has been in the past 24 hours (days, weeks, etc), that is inherently riskier than buying at a short term low. It can make sense to buy as the price starts to break out, but buying after a breakout at a new high while filled with excitement is a little “irrationally exuberant.” This is to say aim to “buy the dips” and often “the best time to buy is when there’s blood in the streets… even if it is your own.” Conversely, the worst time to buy is often (but not always) right after the price has shot up and everyone is manic. If you do buy high, and it ends up dropping shortly after, consider HODLing (to “HODL” is to Hold On for Dear Life as the price goes down. It is what you do when you buy high and then neglect to set a stop or if you are going long and can’t or don’t want to cash out yet). Buying the dips and holding can be dangerous in a bear market, and it can put pressure on you to sell low if you overextend, but its still often better than FOMO buying the top. Sometimes it can be wise to sell for a loss or to buy when the price is at a local high, but knowing when this is the case requires a rather high skill level. Thus, although rules sometimes are best broken, start by aiming to buy low and sell high.Two last points 1. Knowing when to take a loss is hard, buying the dips and holding is easy. 2. The dips WILL happen, you must be patient and ward off FOMO!
9. You cannot “buy the dips” if you have all your money to invest already invested. LET US STRESS THIS POINT! The point should be obvious, but it bears repeating over and over. It is tempting to go all-in, but that limits your options. Consider always having some funds to the side to buy an unforeseen downturn. Even if you want to “go all-in” on crypto… leave yourself at least a little money to the side just in case. If you are all-in and the price takes a hard downturn, it takes lots of options off the table. It is hard not to go all-in when a coin goes down 60% – 80% over the course of weeks or months, but sometimes they go down even more than that, and it is wise to always prepare for the worst case.
10. Bitcoin (BTC) is King/Queen; Don’t Get Overly Optimistic About Altcoins. Those who invest in BTC tend to get itchy fingers when BTC stagnates and alts go up. Sure, going into IOTA or ZCash can be a brilliant move at times… at other times you’ll be holding the bag while everyone moves back into BTC. Stick with coins you know and like, but consider always being partly in BTC (not 24/7, but in general). This advise applies somewhat to Ethereum as well, but first and foremost BTC is the center of the crypto economy.
11. Learn to value coins in BTC. Ether aside, Bitcoin is the current primary currency of the crypto economy (i.e., its what you have to use to buy most altcoins). Those new to crypto tend to value things in dollars. Meanwhile, even seasoned cash traders value coins in dollars. However, enough crypto traders will value coins in BTC for it to matter. If you aren’t aware of the BTC charts, you won’t be able to properly understand the trends everyone else is analyzing and reacting to. You don’t have to make getting more BTC your goal, but you must have the BTC prices of altcoins on your radar. There are times when all coins move up, but altcoins steadily lose value against Bitcoin. Those who know will be the first to dump altcoins for Bitcoin; this will set off a vicious cycle that can result in the stagnation of altcoin prices.
12. Altcoins and Bitcoins tend to react to each other. Sometimes they do the opposite of each other and sometimes they do exactly the same thing. It is not rare to see Bitcoin go down while alts go up (and vice versa). This is because almost everyone who has alts has Bitcoin, so they tend to move out of Bitcoin when it goes down and move into alts (and vice versa). Almost just as often as this is the case it isn’t the case. Many times, all coins will go up or down together (generally following Bitcoin’s lead). This dance often results in Bitcoin outperforming altcoins, however every x months we will see an alt boom where alts outpace Bitcoin quickly. If you can time that, great. Try to spot it coming and there is big money to be made. Meanwhile, alts can be tricky to just HODL, as they tend to lose value against fiat and BTC in the off season. Learn more about the relationship between Bitcoin and Alts. In a word, alts are generally more volatile than Bitcoin.
13. Speaking of the last two points, realize that crypto tends to be pattern based and tends to go in cycles. See “the cryptocurrency rotation” and “market cycles” for an in-depth look at what this means. You want to be in a coin before it starts its rotation, and then laddering out as its rotation ends. Likewise, in a perfect world you want to be in for the bull part of a market cycle, and out for the bear part. Near impossible to spot these trends in advance, but with experience you should be able to spot them as they occur and manage your positions accordingly.
14. Consider Diversifying. With the above advice in mind, there is nothing worse than getting frustrated with BTC, moving to ETH / alts and missing a BTC price spike, then moving back into BTC and missing the ETH spike. This is very easy to do given the rotation, and the natural urge to “FOMO buy.” If you have some of your funds in all the coins you trade, you’ll avoid missing out on a unicorn (a term one can use to describe an odd event, like a giant price spike in a short amount of time). If you diversify, especially when prices are low across the board, you’ll avoid some of the urge to jump into one coin mid or late into a run and out of a coin just before it goes on its run. In other words, although it isn’t the most profitable tactic, diversifying is good for one’s sanity in a number of important ways.
15. Learn Technical Analysis. Technical Analysis (TA) is the analyzing of price and volume data and trying to predict future trends based on that. If you know how to read a chart, you’ll be better able to understand how things like candles, moving averages, RSI, and the order book can clue you into good spots to buy and sell. Crypto defies logic all the time, but basic indicators are still helpful to understand. TIP: You don’t have to be good at TA, you can just follow others who are. Fibonacci support and resistance levels, moving averages (try 12, 26, 9 MACD on 4hr candles), RSI, and a few other popular indicators are vital to wrap your head around. All the pros use these, and all the big players have bots who run strategies based on these (complex versions of these at least). You can’t afford to ignore TA if you are going to trade crypto and not just invest in it. I suggest you get familiar with tradingview.com ASAP.