Why you might want to own some bitcoin (and how to do it responsibly)

A curriculum developer’s guide to learning Bitcoin in 2021

You can store bitcoin on this lil guy.

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:

Prerequisites:

Time commitment:

A bit about me for context:

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.

Keep these guiding principles (inspired by bitcoin-intro.com) in mind as you work through the guide:

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.

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)

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.

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.

The Receive button displayed in the Casa Wallet.

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 $10 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.

What is money? Magic Internet Money answers that question in the context of Bitcoin as it relates to cryptography, economics, finance, governance, and more.

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.

The resources included are my personal favorites as of February 15, 2021. I’m open to feedback for topic and resource additions.

Technology

Finance

Economics

Price projections

Society

Law & Politics

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

How you’ll feel the instant you send your first meaningful amount of BTC without practicing.

Follow the steps in the post below to send and receive TBTC with your Casa multisig wallet:

Buy more bitcoin

First, decide how much of your portfolio you want to allocate to bitcoin. The following is evergreen investment content from Lyn Alden (in tweet form, in audio form):

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.

Upgrade your opsec

If you haven’t already, upgrading your online operational security (“opsec”) is a good next move.

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.

Next steps

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:

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.

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