This post outlines the learning path I’ve been recommending for friends and family new to Bitcoin. You’ll start by watching a short video, then buying a few satoshis (the smallest unit of bitcoin). You’ll then learn more about Bitcoin, choosing what interests you from a curated list of research content. By the end, you’ll understand the main reasons for owning bitcoin, plus how to buy more and store it safely.
Here’s an overview of the guide:
- Introduction to Bitcoin
- Skin in the game & off the exchange
- What is money?
- Choose your own adventure
- I’m still having doubts
- Improve your self-custody setup
- Practice with testnet
- Buy more bitcoin
- Upgrade your opsec
- Join the community
- Next steps
- Mobile device (Android or iOS)
- Internet connection
- Email address
- Bank account
- 90 minutes to buy and custody your first satoshis
- A few days/weeks to determine if you want to buy more
- A few days/weeks to improve your bitcoin security
A bit about me for context:
- I’m a curriculum developer and educator.
- I fell down the Bitcoin rabbit hole last year.
- I’ve been giving tailored Bitcoin Q&A sessions to interested friends and family.
Bitcoin is different things to different people, which is where I tailored the Q&A sessions. The “Choose your own adventure” section of this guide reflects the broad topics that made Bitcoin click for my (North American) friends and family.
The Multifaceted Nature of Bitcoin
One of the primary reasons that Bitcoin is so contentious is because it is different things to different people.
Keep these guiding principles (inspired by bitcoin-intro.com) in mind as you work through the guide:
- Starting simply and improving is better than not starting at all
- It’s more engaging to use tools before reading a detailed explanation
- Control your bitcoin when you’re ready (learn non-custodial tools)
- Stay focused and avoid altcoins (use bitcoin-only tools & services)
Note: Some of the resources below may be affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you use that link to make a purchase.
Introduction to Bitcoin
I like starting with a general introduction. Watch this video to learn what bitcoin is, why it’s different from current systems you already know (like banking), and how it might affect all of us in the future.
- Introduction to Bitcoin: what is bitcoin and why does it matter? by Andreas M. Antonopoulos on YouTube (37 minutes)
Skin in the game & off the exchange
The best way to learn is by doing. First, you’ll buy a small amount of bitcoin through an exchange service. Then you’ll withdraw that bitcoin to a wallet on your mobile device.
A reminder of the basics (5 minutes)
- Some things you need to know on bitcoin.org
Get a wallet (15 minutes)
You’ll start with the Casa Wallet — a bitcoin-only software wallet that you can download on your mobile device. It’s a good option for first-time Bitcoiners and for securing smaller balances.
- Download the Casa App. iOS and Android links at the bottom of this support article.
- Sign up for a Casa account. (Consider signing up pseudonymously. These sections of the post are relevant for this guide: “Use a pseudonym or alias,” “Use an email that isn’t tied to your identity,” and “Use a VPN.”)
- Set up your wallet. Follow the instructions in this support article.
Buy some bitcoin and withdraw it to your wallet (30 minutes)
In this section, you’ll sign up for an exchange service, buy some bitcoin on the exchange, then send that bitcoin from the exchange to your wallet.
- Sign up for an exchange service. bitcoin-only.com has good recommendations.* (If your country is not listed there, try buybitcoinworldwide.com.) Fund your account with a small amount of money to start.
- Buy bitcoin on the exchange service. Again, a small amount.
- Withdraw the bitcoin to your Casa Wallet. Find and click the exchange service’s Withdraw Bitcoin button. Open your Casa App. Click Receive. Copy the address shown and paste it into the address field the exchange provided. Click to request a withdrawal. The exchange will send bitcoin to your Casa Wallet, which usually takes ten minutes to an hour depending on the exchange service and the activity on the Bitcoin network.
Congratulations! You now officially self-custody some bitcoin.
*If you’re in Canada, I recommend using Shakepay. (Note: that’s a referral link where we’ll both receive $30 if you buy $100 worth of BTC.) Their onboarding flow is streamlined and their feature set (user experience, fees, limited altcoin support, login security, etc.) make it the best option for beginners in Canada, in my experience onboarding my friends.
What is money?
Dive deeper into the question at the core of Bitcoin.
If you want a free resource, the first 36:26 of this discussion answers the question well, too:
Choose your own adventure
Bitcoin is different things to different people.
The goal of this section is to determine if you want to buy more bitcoin. Pick and choose from the topics (technology, finance, society, etc.) that interest you most.
- Price projections
- Law & Politics
The resources included are my personal favorites as of February 15, 2021. I’m open to feedback for topic and resource additions.
- Book: Inventing Bitcoin by Yan Pritzker (free PDF, mp3, and ebook formats available) (2–3 hours)
- Article: It’s the settlement assurances, stupid by Nic Carter (24 minutes)
- Whitepaper: Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System by Satoshi Nakamoto (15 minutes to a few hours— it’s dense in the best way)
- Podcast: BTC007: Bitcoin Disrupting Payment Clearing Houses w/ Jack Mallers on The Investor’s Podcast Network (52 minutes)
- Podcast: BTC009: Bitcoin Engineering w/ Core Developer Jimmy Song on The Investor’s Podcast Network (1.5 hours)
- Podcast: Becoming a Bitcoin Core Developer with Amiti Uttarwar on What Bitcoin Did (1 hour)
- Podcast: BTC005: Bitcoin & Michael Saylor — A Masterclass in Economic Calculation on the Investor’s Podcast Network (2.5 hours)
- Podcast: BTC008: Bitcoin & Macro Mastermind Discussion w/ Lyn Alden & Luke Gromen on the Investor’s Podcast Network (1 hour)
- Article: The Fraying of the US Global Currency Reserve System by Lyn Alden (2 hours)
- Podcast: Preston Pysh on Why Currencies Fail on The Breakdown Podcast (1 hour)
- Book: The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking by Dr. Saifedean Ammous (10–12 hours)
- Book: The Price of Tomorrow: Why Deflation is the Key to an Abundant Future by Jeff Booth (5–7 hours)
- Video: Bitcoin Macro Strategy with Michael Saylor and Ross Stevens (1 hour)
- Podcast: SLP235 Niall Ferguson Bitcoin & Monetary Revolution on the Stephan Livera Podcast (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, web) (55 minutes)
- Tweet thread: Bitcoin valuation frameworks by Vijay Boyapati (2 minutes)
- Letter: A note about Bitcoin by James O’Beirne (15 minutes)
- Articles: Modeling Bitcoin Value with Scarcity (S2F) (live chart), Efficient Market Hypothesis and Bitcoin Stock-to-Flow Model, and Bitcoin Stock-to-Flow Cross Asset Model by PlanB (30 minutes)
- Podcast: BTC012: Bitcoin On-Chain Analysis w/ PlanB and Willy Woo on The Investor’s Podcast Network (1 hour)
- Article: The Bullish Case for Bitcoin by Vijay Boyapati (included in this section because it covers the price path of a new money) (41 minutes)
- Podcast: BTC002: The Case For Bitcoin w/ Vijay Boyapati on The Investor’s Podcast Network (Vijay’s up-to-date commentary) (57 minutes)
- Video: Why Bitcoin matters for human rights, in two minutes by Alex Gladstein (2 minutes)
- Article: Bitcoin can put a dent in income inequality by Anthony Pompliano (15 minutes)
- Podcast: @gladstein — Bitcoin — It’s A Machine That Turns Greed Into Freedom on Once BITten! (Spotify, Apple Podcasts) (50 minutes)
- Podcast: Isaiah Jackson, “Bitcoin and Black America” Author, on the Intersection of Race, Crypto & Government on The Wolf Of All Streets (55 minutes)
- Letter: Bitcoin’s Use of Energy (section in Stone Ridge 2020 Shareholder Letter) by Ross L. Stevens (6 minutes)
- Article: The Last Word on Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption by Nic Carter (13 minutes)
Law & Politics
- Video: Meltem Demirors Congressional Testimony on Bitcoin (opening statement, complete testimony) (22 minutes)
- Podcast: Caitlin Long On Federal Banks and Bitcoin on The Pomp Podcast (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube) (1 hour)
- Podcast: Senator Lummis on Bitcoin and Government on The Pomp Podcast (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube) (30 minutes)
- Podcast: The World’s First Crypto Bank with David Kinitsky & Marco Santori on What Bitcoin Did (1 hour)
I’m still having doubts
There are usually two kinds of doubts at this stage: not convinced to buy more and/or not confident about storing a larger amount.
I’m not sure if I want to buy more bitcoin
These resources clear up common misconceptions about Bitcoin.
- Podcast: BTC001: Bitcoin Common Misconceptions w/ Robert Breedlove on the Investor’s Podcast Network (the rest of the episode, i.e., 36:26 onwards) (1.5 hours)
- Article: 7 Misconceptions About Bitcoin by Lyn Alden (38 minutes)
If you’re still not convinced, consider holding your initial buy so you’re at least off of zero.
I want more bitcoin, but I’m not confident I can store it safely
That’s normal —Bitcoin has a learning curve. Read the rest of this guide to see if you’re up for learning how to self-custody a meaningful amount of bitcoin. If you’re still not confident, do not proceed to the next step. Buy some custodial bitcoin, then learn more. Some custodial options:
- Buy bitcoin through an exchange service and trust them to hold it for you. See bitcoin-only.com for options in your country. I also like Kraken and Gemini (note: referral link where we’ll both receive $10 if you buy $100 worth of BTC) for this use case because of their investments in security.
- Buy a bitcoin investment vehicle: the world’s first Bitcoin ETF is BTCC, which is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. GBTC is a popular option in the United States. Watch out for their premiums.
- Buy bitcoin on CashApp or PayPal.
Improve your self-custody setup
If you want to own a meaningful amount of bitcoin, you’ll likely want to upgrade your self-custody setup. First, review your current self-custody setup. Then learn about possible upgrades to that setup.
- Review your current self-custody setup: Casa Single Key Wallet (3 minutes)
- Learn about possible upgrades: Best practices for securing large amounts of bitcoin using multisig with Hector Rosekrans and Jesse Bookspan (52 minutes)
In my experience learning then teaching, moving to a Casa multisignature setup is the next step for new Bitcoiners that want to self-custody larger amounts. Casa’s friendly user experience, documentation, and support make taking this next step less intimidating.
Multisignature (multisig) refers to requiring multiple keys to authorize a Bitcoin transaction, rather than a single signature from one key.
The resources below are for setting up a Casa Gold membership. It’s free to try for 30 days, then it’s $10/month. It also requires you to purchase a hardware wallet, which are around $100.
- Buy a hardware wallet that is compatible with Casa: Ledger Nano X, Trezor Model T, or Coldcard mk3 are all good options with various tradeoffs. Use Ben Perrin’s Bitcoin hardware wallet guide to pick the one that best suits you. (1 hour)
- Sign up for Casa Gold: Casa Gold Trial (5 minutes)
- Follow Casa’s instructions: They’ll send you everything you need upon signing up, including how to set up your hardware wallet. Watch this video (How to set up Casa Gold) if you’d like to see the multisig setup process before signing up. (1–2 hours)
Practice with testnet
Bitcoin transactions are irreversible, so it’s wise to practice using your wallet before you self-custody a meaningful amount of bitcoin. Fortunately, an alternative Bitcoin blockchain called testnet exists for learners and developers to experiment. Testnet coins (TBTC) are separate and distinct from actual bitcoins (BTC) and do not have real value as an asset.
Follow the steps in the post below to send and receive TBTC with your Casa multisig wallet:
- How to send and receive testnet coins (TBTC) by me (45 minutes)
Buy more bitcoin
I tell my clients to do their own homework (from my research and others) and risk manage their position size relative to their level of conviction and unique financial needs/goals.
A 1%-5% allocation has become increasingly mainstream in this macroeconomic environment. You limit your risk while still having exposure to bitcoin’s massive upside.
Once you’ve decided your allocation, follow the same process in the “Buy some bitcoin and send it to your wallet” section of this guide, except send it to your Secured by Basic Multisig wallet instead of your Secured with Single Key wallet. There are clear sections in the Assets tab of your Casa App to denote which is which.
Note that you’ll still have the initial bitcoin you bought in your single key wallet. You can keep it there for easy sending/spending, or send it to your multisig wallet for long-term storage.
Join the community
Twitter is one place where the Bitcoin community gathers. hive.one provides an algorithmically ranked list of accounts to follow. I also compiled a list of the people in this guide.
The community is supportive if you engage genuinely.
This is where I’m at right now. I don’t have any personal experience learning or teaching next steps to form an opinion, so I’ll point you towards bitcoin-intro.com. Here’s what I’m experimenting with next:
- bitcoin best practices — bitcoin core + specter + coldcard guide by Matt Odell
- Setting up my nodl
- Finishing Grokking Bitcoin by Kalle Rosenbaum
- Experimenting with Michael Flaxman’s 10x Security Bitcoin Guide
If you have feedback to improve this guide, let me know in a comment or DM me on Twitter. I’ll update the guide periodically as the Bitcoin canon evolves.
The content above provides education as to general privacy and security practices when using bitcoin. Should you choose to apply the practices described with bitcoin you own now or may purchase in the future, you do so at your own risk, and I shall in no event be liable for any financial loss suffered. Nothing shall be construed as providing consulting, financial advice, or general advice as to securing bitcoin.