The Evolution of Money

Evolution of money

Entrepreneur Jim Rohn famously mused, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” Mr. Rohn may have been more right than he knew because while time has infinite value, money, by itself, has none. Whether you’re holding a dollar, a franc, some yen, a metal coin, or a seashell, it has no value—not until someone wants it. This goes for anything that can be traded, but the reality is far harsher when it comes to the paper people carry in their wallets in the hopes of exchanging it for goods and services. At the same time, money is, in some ways, an important block in the foundation of modern society. Why? Let’s take a closer look at the evolution of money to find the answers.

A brief history of money

Bartering

Before people carried around pieces of paper that symbolized value, they would trade goods and services with each other to make transactions. Each possession had a relative value. This means that what it meant to the holder was not necessarily equal to what it meant to the person to whom they wanted to give it in exchange for something else.

Take, for example, a farmer who grew potatoes but needed tomatoes. The farmer may approach his friend who grew tomatoes and offer him 10 potatoes for 10 tomatoes. The friend may say, “Well, to part with these 10 tomatoes, I’m going to need 15 potatoes.” If the potato farmer agreed and had that many potatoes to barter, he would present them, make the exchange, and both parties would leave the transaction satisfied.

On the other hand, if the potato farmer approached a different farmer with the same proposition, the transaction may not go as planned. If the second farmer already grew potatoes, he may ask for something else. It could be corn, beets, or another type of produce. But the other farmer may also prefer a tool or some form of service from the potato farmer. Each transaction was, therefore, relative. Currencies, although abstractions of value, brought concreteness to previously relative transactions. One of the progenitors of modern currency was salt.

Salt

Salt itself used to be a currency (fun fact: this is how we got our name). Far more than a common seasoning, salt has been at the center of trade and culture for multiple millennia—to the point where the word “salt” is at the root of the word “salary.” Salt, as a flavor additive, has long been a valued commodity. The word “salad” comes from when the early Romans used to add salt to vegetables and leafy greens. 

Before the large mass-production of salt became commonplace, the production of salt was a time-consuming process. And as people figured out different ways of producing it, its production was limited to maintain its value. Therefore, people with a salt surplus had a coveted commodity.

The Egyptians used to use it as part of their religious offerings. This lead to salt becoming the currency of choice while trading with the Phoenicians. The practice continued for many centuries and spread across much of the developed world. Marco Polo, while traveling through China in the 11th century C.E., noted how the Chinese used to boil water to create a salt paste that, when formed into a cake, was worth two pence.

Bronze castings

As time progressed, around 770 B.C.E. the Chinese began developing bronze representations of the things they were trading. For example, if a farmer wanted to trade a hoe for a hammer, he would present a bronze casting of a hoe and give it to a carpenter—or someone else—in exchange for a small bronze hammer. The bronze statue could then be exchanged for the real thing. This solved the problem of having to physically transport large or cumbersome objects to places of trade.

Coins

Soon, it became more practical to use coins instead of little castings of valued objects. This approach maintained the convenience of being able to carry an item in your pocket and added an extra convenience: the ability to easily manufacture them.

The manufacturing of money was first performed in Lydia, which is now in the west of Turkey. This was the first mint. Inside, people manufactured coins that represented value. Around 600 B.C.E., Lydia’s ruler, King Alyattes, made the first official state currency. The coins were manufactured using electrum, which consists of a naturally-occurring combination of silver and gold. Each coin was stamped with a picture, and each picture represented a different value. Thus was born the concept of denominations. This system of minting denominated money helped facilitate a more efficient trading system, propelling Lydia to being a powerful, wealthy empire.

Paper

The Chinese made the switch to paper currency around 700 B.C.E. The distribution and use of the bills were carefully regulated by the emperor. In fact, on the bills, there was an inscription warning people that if they counterfeited the money, they would, literally, lose their heads.

After some time, banks began adopting the use of paper money. Inside the bank would be an amount of gold that corresponded to paper money the bank could issue to individuals with whom they did business. For example, if someone deposited half a pound, or eight ounces, of gold, at the bank today, according to the rates at the time of this writing, it would give them $15,197.60. The person would then be able to use that paper to purchase goods and services.

If the individual went and bought a new horse, perhaps spending $8,000 of his money, the person who sold the horse could take that paper money to the bank. The bank would then give the horse-seller $8,000 worth of gold. This gave birth to the modern concept of money, with gold as the underlying asset of value.

Currency-based conflicts

As more countries adopted the use of currency, some took advantage of the, admittedly arbitrary, value of money. They would do things that would cause the value of another country’s currency to rise. On the surface, this may sound like a good thing. However, when a currency is inflated, the cost of the goods within the country goes up. This inflation is due to the fact that more work has to be performed to produce the goods being traded. If someone were to do the same amount of work they did before the currency was inflated, they wouldn’t get paid enough to cover their bills. With goods that cost too much, a country wouldn’t be able to trade with others that could help them build the weapons and armies they needed to engage in war. Currency battles for the sake of weakening another nation continue to this day.

Credit cards

Similar to how going from bronze castings to coins made transactions easier, going from paper to credit cards made buying and selling more convenient for 20th-century consumers. With a credit card transaction, the money of the individual is still held within a bank, but the credit card is used to make the transfer. This is made possible due to two concepts: fungibility and transferability

When a unit of value is fungible, it has the same value as another unit with the same denomination. For instance, a $10 bill in Boston has the same value as a $10 bill in Los Angeles. And the same goes for an electronic transaction that provides access to $10 stored in a bank. Thanks to fungibility, an individual can put $1,000 into a bank and get a credit card that has a $1,000 spending limit. The transferability of money refers to the fact that money can be moved from one party to another. In a credit card transaction, this happens electronically.

The bank that supports a credit card transaction can also allow the person to spend more than they actually have by lending the individual money. The conditions of the loan agreement are contained within the credit card contract. In many cases, the individual may not have enough money in the bank to cover the transaction. Therefore, they agree to put at least that much, and often a percentage more, into the bank in exchange for the right to spend the money the bank lent them. The use of debit and credit cards and the process behind credit card payments are pivotal factors in the evolution of money. They set the stage for a crucial monetary concept: electronic payments.

Electronic payments

Electronic payments are at the heart of the culmination of the evolution of money. In many ways, electronic payments solve the original problem money sought to tackle more efficiently. When money was first conceived, it’s creators were trying to create an abstraction of value that was fungible, transferable, and easy to spend and accept. With credit and debit card payments, electronic transactions become commonplace while providing a solution for everything money was meant to be.

 However, one problem still remained: the middleman. If you have someone working as a go-between that generates wealth by charging you to spend money electronically, how can you guarantee a transparent, trust-worthy, error-free, corruption-free transaction? 

Enter cryptocurrency. With the onset of bitcoin, cryptocurrency became an efficient way to both provide an electronic, tradable abstraction of value and, once again, provide the world with a one-to-one, two-person transaction, devoid of a middleman. But the crypto movement wasn’t arbitrary. The signs have been there for years.

The historical signposts that pointed to cryptocurrency

Because cryptocurrency is such an innovative idea, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that it was born, not so much out of innovation but out of necessity. The modern monetary system has, in many ways, been broken for quite some time. For many decades, there have been signs pointing to the need for a better solution.

Interest rate manipulation

Perhaps one of the most powerful historic indicators of the need for an alternative to typical fiat currency was revealed in the 1970s. The interest rates, designed to help stabilize the United States economy, ended up doing the exact opposite. When the government manipulated interest rates to help slow the inflation of common goods, it ended up having the opposite effect. Inflation skyrocketed as certain goods saw huge leaps in their prices. While some people could afford to pay the higher costs, others couldn’t and had to go without essential items.

Even though companies selling their goods to other Americans during a period of inflation may benefit, those exporting American-made goods suffer. Because it costs more to produce goods in the United States, companies have to charge buyers from other countries more. Consequently, some goods become unaffordable for international buyers and they look to other countries to get what they need. This impacts the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country suffering from inflation, hurting their overall standard of living. Because the government can choose to print money anytime it wants, regardless of whether or not there’s enough gold to support the printed currency, inflation in the modern system can easily spin out of control. As in the 1970s, it can start with a poorly adjusted interest rate and have global implications.

With cryptocurrency, the supply of each token is either limited or controlled by the currency’s governance team—a group of individuals and token-holders who make decisions using a voting system. This helps control the inflation of each cryptocurrency. Also, because the currency isn’t hindered by national borders, you have one common means of purchasing goods and services, and its value is the same regardless of where you are.

The housing crisis

The financial crisis of 2007 was another bellwether for the global economy because it highlighted the corruption that can occur when you have profit-hungry “middlemen” involved in transactions. When someone wants to buy a home, they often have to get a loan from a bank. The bank decides who they will lend the money to, as well as how much they will make that person pay, in interest, for the right to use that money. In theory, the system makes sense. However, as the world saw in 2007, when the banks, hungry for profits, abuse the system and those involved, it can have far-reaching implications.

If the interest rate at which money is lent isn’t decided by a bank but by mathematical equations that take into account real supply and demand factors, the lenders can only earn more by lending more. Manipulating interest rates for the bank’s bottom line would be a thing of the past. Cryptocurrency also addresses the problem of predatory lending. The economic crash was partially a result of banks lending money they knew couldn’t be repaid—and then selling the problematic loan to another, unsuspecting, bank. When transactions happen between two people instead of three, the middleman, and his potentially greedy ambitions, are removed. Cryptocurrency, therefore, eliminates some of the major causes of the financial crisis of 2007.

SALT Lending: A historical turning point in the evolution of money

Throughout history, the utility, divisibility, verifiability, and fungibility of salt made it a perfect asset to be used as a method of trade and currency around the world. Through the products and services at SALT, the legacy continues. SALT is now bridging the gap between cryptocurrencies and traditional lending. 

Even though cryptocurrencies are, in many ways, a superior monetary solution, they are still not yet widely accepted. With SALT, holders of crypto can get loans using their digital assets as collateral. You can then spend the USD or stablecoin you get any way you’d like. SALT empowers those in the cryptoverse, allowing them to turn the most innovative monetary solution since, well, salt, into liquid assets.

Learn more about SALT loans today!

The stable makeup of stablecoin

stablecoin, man with laptop staring at different fiat symbols

In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto released the Bitcoin white paper, introducing the concept of a decentralized currency to the public. From that time on, many have turned to cryptocurrency for an alternative to traditional fiat currencies that offers decentralization, transparency of exchange, and ease of use—especially when it comes to international exchanges.

However, along with the plaudits have come disadvantages, notably the volatility of digital assets relative to the US Dollar. The perceived value of a specific cryptocurrency by investors can lead to wide fluctuations in the value of Bitcoin, Ether, and other types of crypto. This, in turn, can make cryptocurrency more difficult to use as a medium of exchange or store of value.

Enter stablecoins, an inherently less volatile option being considered the best of many worlds. They provide a desirable link between the stability of fiat currency and the decentralization and efficiency of cryptocurrency.

What are stablecoins and where did they come from?

Stablecoin is a catch-all phrase for cryptocurrency that is pegged to specific reserves or other asset types. More specifically, stablecoin is divided into four groups:

  • Fiat-collateralized stablecoins: Cryptocurrency assets secured against real-world currencies, such as USD Coin (USDC) and Gemini Dollar (GUSD).
  • Commodity-collateralized stablecoins: Cryptocurrency assets fixed against commodities, such as oil, gold, and silver. One example is Pax Gold (PAXG), which is one of the collateral types available on SALT’s platform.
  • Crypto-collateralized stablecoins: Algorithmic stablecoins that mint dollar equivalents based on the value of the crypto provided to backstop each unit.
  • Non-collateralized stablecoins: Stablecoins that automatically adjust its aggregate supply to maintain a certain price or pegged asset. 

The first stablecoins, BitUSD, and NuBits, came online in 2014 and were collateralized through various other cryptocurrencies. Also released in 2014 was RealCoin (now Tether), the first crypto to be backed by so-called “real” assets. Active dollar-based stablecoins today include Paxos Standard, TrueUSD, USD Coin, Tether USD, and Gemini Dollar.

How to use stablecoin for a crypto-backed loan

Though it might not be a strong addition to an investment portfolio, stablecoins are useful in many ways. For example, at SALT Lending, as a provider of crypto-backed loans, we accept stablecoins for:

  • Making direct payments on crypto-backed loans. Reimbursement via stablecoin is nearly instant, with minimal time lag between payment and acceptance.
  • Maintaining a more stable loan to value ratio on a loan, by boosting stablecoin holdings as part of overall collateral.
  • Depositing stablecoin at any time to protect the cryptocurrency collateral value during a market downturn. Stablecoin payments can be made outside of normal banking hours or holidays, unlike cash or fiat payments, meaning borrowers can manage loans without the need for a bank.

SALT also offers loan payouts via stablecoin or fiat currency. The advantage of a stablecoin payout is that only a stablecoin address is required, no bank account is needed.

The potential of stablecoins

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts see value in stablecoins given their decentralized properties, ability to facilitate better payment rails for global commerce, accessibility in unbanked jurisdictions, and programmability to streamline business operations.

Meanwhile, more traditional institutions are researching stablecoins for their potential in cross-border lending and overseas transactions without conversion into fiat, or sovereign currency. The Bank of Canada mentioned the use of stablecoin in its 2020 vision, focusing on it as a part of emerging payment technologies. Meanwhile, The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released guidance indicating that national banks are free to hold reserve currencies for stablecoin.

While much of the world continues to rely on fiat currency for financial operations, digital currencies have been quickly disrupting this archaic financial infrastructure. Of those currencies, stablecoins could bridge the divide between cryptocurrency volatility, decentralized ownership, and providing banking solutions in otherwise untouched jurisdictions.

For more information about cryptocurrency loans and stablecoins, contact SALT Lending.

How to use a crypto-backed loan

how to use a crypto-backed loan, man writing on note pad 10 ways to use a crypto loan

If you need access to a loan, you’re probably considering the lineup of traditional options like credit cards, personal loans, business loans, and home equity options. They all base your ability to borrow off of your income, credit, and possibly your assets. But one option that isn’t as widely-talked about is a crypto-backed loan. It’s a new way to borrow that doesn’t factor in your credit and income as no personal guarantee is required. Instead, it’s a loan simply secured by your crypto assets. So how can you use a crypto-backed loan from lenders like SALT?

10 ways to use a crypto-backed loan

1. Pay off credit card debt

Credit cards have a place in our economy and can help you rack up rewards, but with interest rates up to 29%, they aren’t typically the best option for carrying balances. Crypto-backed loans, on the other hand, give borrowers a flexible way to access lump sums of cash with interest rates starting as low as 5.95%. 

If you have crypto, you can get a crypto-backed loan and use the proceeds to pay off high-interest credit card balances, consolidating them into one payment and potentially lowering your cumulative interest rate.

pay off credit card debt, image of man holding credit card

2. Make a large purchase

Whether you’ve been planning to make a purchase for a while, or an emergency popped up and took you by surprise, the proceeds of a crypto-backed loan can help you cover it. For example, say you want to take a family vacation to Hawaii. Instead of putting the flight and all the trip expenses on a credit card, you can take out a crypto-backed loan and then pay for everything in cash. This can help you avoid higher interest rates and any negative impact on your credit score.

3. Home renovations and improvement projects

From a burst water pipe to an unexpected HVAC repair, homeownership can be expensive. While it’s advised to have a rainy-day fund just for these occasions, even the best savers may find the final bill just out of reach. You may also feel reluctant to drain your emergency savings account to put your house back in order. A crypto-backed loan can quickly get you the cash you need.

man painting home, complete home renovations and improvement projects

4. Paying off medical debt

If you’re still opening bills every month thanks to that one time you broke your arm ten years ago, you are not alone. About 32% of American workers have medical debt and more than half have defaulted on it. Medical debt can be crippling to an otherwise healthy budget, and with payments lower than with other types of financing, it can take years and years to pay off. 

A crypto-backed loan may be just what you need to get that hospital or clinic to stop calling, and it’s often much cheaper than putting all of that debt on credit cards. Further, if your personal credit is maxed out, a crypto-backed loan can open up a new avenue of borrowing for you. 

pay off medical debt and bills, image of hospital and money

5. Planning a wedding

Even if you don’t want to spend too much on your big day, the average wedding in the US costs just shy of $40,000. From the dress and the venue to the flowers and catering, many expenses add up. Temporarily trading your crypto for cash can help you cover the big day without digging into savings or driving up your credit utilization. Cash payments to vendors can also sometimes get you a discount on services, giving you yet another reason to consider grabbing that crypto-backed loan before saying, “I do.”

plan and pay for a wedding, image fo couple and a wedding cake

6. Buying a house or real estate

Have you considered buying a property outright without the hassle or extra fees of a mortgage? A crypto-backed loan may be just the ticket to closing on that house deal. You’ll also be at an advantage as a cash buyer in an increasingly tight housing market; the seller may be more than happy to give you the deal since there are no additional lender hoops for either party to jump through. Cash obtained from a SALT loan is also free of those “extra” charges, such as loan origination fees.

Buy a home or real estate, new home

7. Starting a business

Even the simplest online businesses have startup costs. A crypto-backed loan can help pay for the costs like forming an LLC, building a website, and getting your first product manufactured. Don’t let another year pass with the excuse that you just don’t have the funds. If you have crypto assets, this can be the year you get your dream business going.

8. Upgrading mining equipment for mining operations or individual miners

Crypto miners have to evolve to survive, and that means investing in the latest, most powerful equipment. Being that you’re already involved in the crypto sphere, crypto-backed loans are a natural choice that can help you stay competitive and get every coin you can. Plus, it’s an investment that can help you not only pay off your loan and get your crypto back but also earn more.

upgrade mining equipment for bitcoin and crypto mining

9. Fund ongoing operational business costs

While new businesses benefit from getting a funding jump-start, existing companies can often use a little extra cash flow too. Whether you want to hire new employees, invest in marketing, expand your product offerings, or something else, business owners of all types are turning to crypto-backed loans to diversify their borrowing and take advantage of low rates through short-term loans.

fund or pay for operational costs

10. Reinvest or trade crypto

Serious crypto investors often need fiat to acquire more crypto. A crypto-backed loan that gives them access to cash can help them do so. With the crypto markets showing promise, and the rates on SALT loans very low, it’s easy to see how smart investors can make the numbers work in their favor to expand their crypto enterprises.

invest in crypto

SALT crypto-backed loans: Flexible funds with no personal guarantee

Whether you only need a few thousand dollars or a large lump sum, SALT loans can give you access to $5,000 or more in USD or Stablecoin. Secure your loan easily, with a single crypto asset, or through a combination of SALT-approved currencies. You’ll always know how your assets are doing, as SALT’s secure system and unparalleled customer support ensure that you can check in on your assets at any time. There’s no credit check needed, either. Once you deposit your collateral assets onto the SALT platform, you’ll be well on your way to getting the cash you need for whatever move you want to make.

How to Protect Your Anonymity Against Crypto Dusting Attacks

Understanding the nature of dusting attacks and airdropping can help you determine the best way to protect yourself and your crypto holdings from hackers and scammers.

Since Bitcoin’s debut to the public more than a decade ago, supporters have praised the benefits of cryptocurrency transactions including decentralization, transparency and anonymity. While these benefits certainly have their advantages, crypto’s nature also opens you up to a level of risk that has been realized through activities like dusting attacks and airdrops that often go completely unnoticed if crypto holders don’t know what to look for. Fortunately there are steps you can take to protect yourself from malicious entities interested in deanonymizing you. Understanding the nature of dusting attacks and airdropping can help you determine the best way to protect yourself and your crypto holdings from hackers and scammers.

The blockchain: Not as anonymous as you might think

Many people mistakenly think bitcoin is private. It’s anonymous, yes, but not private. A transaction is made up of input(s) and output(s). When you spend, you are creating a transaction using your address as an input. When you receive, your address is given an amount of bitcoin, which becomes the output. All of this transaction information (including the addresses involved, amounts and times of the transactions) are recorded on the blockchain. As that ledger is 100% transparent and public, so are your transactions. Any uninvolved party (people who have not transacted with you directly) examining the blockchain can see the cryptocurrency being received or spent — they just won’t know it’s you spending or receiving it because the owners of the addresses are not revealed. If the person you’re transacting with knows who you are however, they may be able to associate your blockchain wallet (and future transactions) with you, as anonymity only applies when referring to non-involved parties. And even still, a non-involved party may not know who you are from the beginning, but by watching blockchain activity, they may be able to figure it out if your wallet is maliciously “dusted” and use this information to deanonymize you in the future.

Dusting: Revealing your identity, one satoshi at a time

When you use bitcoin to pay for something, one or more addresses (UTXOs) are selected that most closely match the amount due and you receive an output UTXO with your change. For example, if you were paying for something equal to $400 and you had three UTXOs in your wallet equal to $5,000, $5, and $399, you could use the UTXOs equal to $399 and $5 and would receive a UTXO back worth $4. All of this information is recorded on the public ledger.

With dusting, a hacker or scammer sends very small amounts of a cryptocurrency (dust) to a large number of addresses. If you receive dust, you will have a UTXO in your wallet with a very small value. As you spend from your wallet, the attacker watches to see when the dust UTXO is picked up. When it is, they take note of all the other UTXOs that go along with it as well as what addresses they go to. When these entities study transactional patterns long enough, they can eventually identify all the addresses linked to your wallet, which means they can figure out how much crypto you have. If your account is of interest (you have large sums), they can work on figuring out it belongs to you, which can make you a target for anything from scams and phishing campaigns to cyber-extortion threats.

One reason dusting is so insidious is that the amounts of crypto sent to accounts are so very small; they are smaller than the minimum transaction fee required to use cryptocurrency. Most times, the dusting amounts are calculated in units known as satoshis; one satoshi equaling 0.00000001 bitcoin. Given the minuscule size of dust, the chances are pretty good that many people won’t notice them as they casually scan their cryptocurrency total.

Airdropping: Free tokens, potential scams

Airdropping is similar to dusting in that it adds small amounts of crypto to your wallet. But airdropping’s purpose is far less ominous. Companies that airdrop want to use you to spread the word about their great new cryptocurrency. As such, they will send free coins or tokens to your address (found on the public blockchain). Sometimes they send them free and other times they ask for something in return (like a tweet about the company and its currency). You might also actively encourage airdrops to your wallet in hopes that the new cryptocurrency will ultimately have a large payout. There are hundreds of airdrop lists and websites, all eager for your interest.

While the purpose of airdrops is often benign, problems come up when hackers and scammers reach out for more than your public wallet address. If you aren’t careful, you could be at risk from the following:

  • Private key theft. Private key theft takes place when an airdrop entity asks for the private key to your wallet. You should never give out your private key. While more savvy crypto users can spot such a scam, those new to cryptocurrency trading could fall victim to it.
  • Trolling/information collecting. Sometimes nefarious airdrop websites are used, not to promote currencies, but to gather data — such as email, wallet addresses or even social media information — that can be sold to third parties or used for future phishing attempts.

Protect your crypto from malicious dusting and airdrop attacks

Because cryptocurrency transaction information is public knowledge, it’s important to protect yourself, your holdings and your anonymity. In addition to ensuring anti-spam and anti-viral protection for your wallet, consider the following steps.

If you think you’ve been dusted, don’t move the dust. Look for wallet apps that allow you to “mark” small, unknown deposits in your wallet to prevent them from being used for other transactions.

Monitor your balance — 100% of the time. If wayward satoshis suddenly show up in your cryptowallet, you might have been dusted. It’s a good idea to find a wallet app with a push notification, which tells you when you receive new funds.

Don’t give out private information — ever. If a website — or other airdrop entity — wants more than your wallet address in exchange for tokens or coins, it’s a red flag. Be as wary of handing out your cryptocurrency information as you would be of providing fiat bank account log-in data.

Keep your anonymity in place

None of the above is meant to suggest that cryptocurrency trading or usage is dangerous. It is, however, a reminder that while transactions can be anonymous (when actually conducting a transaction you may potentially be revealing information about who you are to complete it, which can then be associated with your wallets), they aren’t private. Unfortunately, scammers and hackers are taking advantage of the very public blockchain technology to determine the identities of those behind cryptocurrency transactions.

The good news is that knowledge is power. You can protect yourself from malicious entities and preserve your anonymity by being aware of attacks like dusting and taking preventative action. Doing so will better protect you and your holdings while helping to ensure you don’t become victim to phishing or cyberextortion threats.

SERIES: The Most Confusing Economics Concepts Explained: Inflation vs. Deflation

Inflation and deflation are common economic terms that can be a bit confusing. They aren’t always addressed in school, but they affect our lives in so many ways. While the causes and consequences of inflation and deflation can be complicated, their definitions are surprisingly simple. Here is what you should know about these two terms and their role in a greater economy.

What is inflation?

In the simplest terms, inflation occurs when the price of goods and services goes up over time. It can happen slowly, over decades, or with sudden and devastating effects. Not every economist agrees on the reasons for slow, gradual inflation. It’s often tied to factors like market demand or the availability of certain goods and services.

Inflation in action

A current example is the inflated price of backyard swimming pools, pool filters, and pool maintenance supplies. With COVID-19 precautions closing many local swimming pools, more people than ever decided to put up backyard pools this summer. This increase in demand forced the price of pools and supplies up; another factor was the scarcity of some pool supplies since they have traditionally been manufactured in countries that slowed or shut down production due to COVID. The combination of increased demand with a short supply led to a deep inflation in the cost of these goods.

Hyperinflation

There’s more to the story, however. When both the cost of goods goes up, and the value of the local fiat goes down, it’s often referred to as “hyper-inflation,” especially when both happen in a short time frame. Unlike standard inflation, which experts aren’t always able to attribute directly to a source, economists tend to agree on the cause of hyperinflation.

The most common cause is a sudden and excessive growth of a country’s money supply. How does this happen? The Fed usually plays a role in making more money available in a strangled economy. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for governments to step in and tinker with interest rates or offer economic cash infusions (stimulus payments) in an attempt to stop the financial bleed that frequently happens with long periods of hyperinflation. Unfortunately, the bandaids for hyperinflation can often make problems worse.

How can you know if we’re in a period of inflation or hyper-inflation?

While the Fed aims for a rate of 2–3% per year inflation, this isn’t always manageable. Venezuela, for example, has seen inflation rates of 200,000% in a single year, an obvious sign of hyperinflation. It doesn’t have to be that severe to be counted, however; experts define anything above a 50% annual inflation rate to be a form of hyperinflation.

What is deflation?

The exact opposite of inflation, deflation, is the decrease in the cost of goods and services. It is usually accompanied by an increase in the value of the fiat. While some see this as a pleasant situation, deflation can be difficult for lenders who rely on climbing interest rates to make money on the cash they lend. Too much deflation or inflation can hurt essential industries. It can also harm consumer confidence over time, as people can get used to seeing prices go lower and actually hold on to their money waiting for the absolute best price. This can further aggravate the deflation cycle, something we saw during the Recession of 2008.

Remember, the role of government, unemployment, natural disasters, and technological advances can impact the cost of products we buy. Further, in the U.S., inflation doesn’t always happen across the board; consumer categories such as food and housing may see inflation over time, while items like electronics or clothing may see deflation during the same period. While consumers can’t always do much to affect inflation or deflation, we can better prepare our investment portfolios to secure our individual economic futures.

Game Theory and Bitcoin: the Miners’ Perspective

Competition drives markets. In traditional financial markets, however, competition is limited to the production of goods and the buying and selling process. With Bitcoin, competition plays a far-deeper role. The minting of new bitcoin, as well as the processing and verification of transactions, are all made more efficient, accurate, and secure, thanks to competition. It’s no surprise, then, that game theory plays a pivotal role in the inner workings of the Bitcoin ecosystem.

A brief explanation of game theory

Game theory models the strategic interaction between players in a scenario with set rules and outcomes where the players are rational and looking to maximize their payoffs. In effect, it’s a more detailed, nuanced way of looking at how incentives affect how things get done.

For example, if your job is to shovel 100 pounds of stone into a hole and you’re all alone and have all the time you want, there’s no game theory involved. On the other hand, if someone else is given the same task and you’re each working with the same pile of stones, the dynamics of the situation change.

They change further if only the person who shovels the most gets paid. And, naturally, if you get paid according to how much you shovel, the outcome of your actions would change in yet another way. Each of these situations will be impacted by game theory and its many models.

Although Bitcoin seeks to espouse concepts like “fairness,” “transparency,” and others that are often incongruent with competition, game theory still plays a primary role in the Bitcoin universe.

How does game theory apply to Bitcoin mining?

Bitcoin mining involves solving math problems that are used to create new bitcoin and verify transactions. To continue with the stone shoveling example, if you have as long as you want to move the pile of stones, you may choose to take your time. Your shovel may move slower than if someone else were involved in the task because then the speed at which you shovel would determine whether you get paid more, less, or at all.

The fact that multiple miners compete to verify transactions and generate coins gives Bitcoin an inherent efficiency: The job gets done faster. To dig a little deeper, three types of game theory driving this process include zero-sum theory, congestion theory, and the Nash equilibrium. Let’s take a closer look at how these concepts work.

Bitcoin mining and zero-sum theory

Zero-sum theory dictates that the “winner” gets the spoils and everyone else walks away with nothing. In the mining of bitcoin, the first person to solve a problem gets the value associated with completing the task. Everyone else gets nothing. If you could take a snapshot of the nanosecond a particular hash is found, you would see one user getting rewarded for their work and the others getting nothing.

However, because the Bitcoin system requires so many problems to be solved all the time, in reality, many miners can earn a relatively steady income. The strategies they use are governed by two other game theory concepts — the congestion theory and the Nash equilibrium.

Bitcoin mining and congestion theory

Congestion theory stipulates that the amount each player gets depends on the resources they choose and how many other players choose the same resources.

For example, imagine there are two stations with trains heading to the same destination, and each train can hold only 10 people. One train station is five miles closer to the destination. If there are 100 people, and everyone goes to the closer station, one train will have to go back and forth 10 times. On the other hand, if some of the passengers go to the closest station and others go to the station farther away, there will be less congestion, and everyone will arrive at the destination sooner.

In Bitcoin mining, many of the decisions of the miners depend on congestion theory. If there was only one miner, all the spoils would go to her or him. On the other hand, Bitcoin is open to all, so each miner has to decide whether they will get in the game — and add to the congestion — knowing that more people are bound to get in the game, decreasing their chance of winning.

Once a miner decides to get involved, they then have other decisions to make regarding the equipment they choose. Faster equipment provides an advantage, similar to getting on the closer train. However, the quicker the equipment, the more electricity it takes to run, which increases the cost of mining.

If a miner’s earnings won’t sufficiently offset the cost of electricity, they may choose not to get involved. They may also choose to forego setting up a mining system and join a mining pool instead, where the electricity costs are absorbed by multiple participants. Congestion theory dictates which “train” each miner takes, as well as when and how they get involved.

In addition, the way the decisions of each miner affects the others is governed largely by another game theory concept: the Nash Equilibrium.

Bitcoin mining and the Nash Equilibrium

In the Nash equilibrium, named after mathematician John Nash from the movie A Beautiful Mind, each “player” recognizes that while they have similar goals, not everyone can get exactly what they want. Therefore, some will choose to settle for a less-desirable outcome, satisfied with the fact that they are at least getting something. All players agree to proceed, happy to share the spoils.

For example, continuing with the stone shoveling scenario, you may be stronger and faster than the other shoveler. Both of you agree to shovel for the same amount of time, but you get 70% of the money while the other shoveler only gets 30%. The other person could protest, but realizing that something is better than nothing, they agree to the terms. At this point, an equilibrium is established. At the end of the day, you both earn money and walk away satisfied.

The worldwide community of miners also follows Nash equilibrium principles. Some miners have more money than others and can afford to purchase the latest mining computers, capable of solving specific hashes faster than older models. Other miners may not have as much money, but they live in areas where electricity is less expensive. They can, therefore, spend less than wealthier miners who live in areas where electricity is more costly. Some live in places where it will never be profitable to mine, so they join a mining pool instead.

Each miner recognizes that their limitations dictate how much they will get. At the same time, all agree to participate, satisfied with their portion at the end of the day — even if it’s just a small fraction of a bitcoin.

How miners are incentivized

Zero-sum theory, congestion theory, and the Nash equilibrium only work because of the ways miners are incentivized and dissuaded from cheating the system. Before mining rewards are approved, the technical infrastructure enforces the “trustless” nature of the Bitcoin network. If miners do not adhere to protocol rules, their block submission will be rejected by other nodes in the blockchain. All network nodes including other miners verify the ledger entries packaged into a new block. If entries are considered invalid, or the block hash doesn’t meet network requirements, the miner’s result will be rejected and the 6.25 BTC will be awarded to another miner.

While the block rewards are enticing at current BTC valuations, there are other financial implications that compel miners to either continue or suspend network operations. No miner will win the worldwide competition each time a new block is added (~every 10 minutes), so they must weigh the probability of profitable successes. There are other factors to consider, too. For example, some miners may decide to bow out when electricity becomes too expensive. Others however, may have a longer time horizon and decide to accept the risk of energy expenditure, calculating that miner attrition will increase their chances of winning new block rewards. In other words, fewer miners in the network means more chances for the remaining miners to profit. For those adopting this viewpoint, the potential of solving enough blocks to maintain business profitability outweighs the risk of any short-term loss related to high energy costs.

How bitcoin is distributed

Every block consists of many small transactions. When a block is mined, the winning miner is awarded 6.25 bitcoin plus all transaction fees for each transaction they were able to package within the block. The more blocks you are able to solve, the higher your reward. In other words, you get a bigger piece of the pie. Hunger for more slices of pie incentivizes miners to purchase more powerful equipment or move to areas with lower electricity costs.

Game theory and the surety of the Bitcoin network

The Nash equilibrium helps motivate miners to do more than generate new bitcoin. Each miner has no choice but to play a role in making sure the network functions as it should. This is a part of the “pile of stones” each miner agrees to shovel.

In a Nash equilibrium, although the individual participants would like to either get more rewards or a different type of reward, they agree to settle with getting something of value rather than nothing. The Bitcoin network compels miners to play by an agreed set of rules to add transactions to the distributed ledger, or their work will be summarily rejected. At the same time miners add security to the network by expending expensive energy that chains each new block to the preceding block via a well established mathematical algorithm.

Each miner is, therefore, a generator of new bitcoin liquidity as well as an auditor, checking the details of network transactions. Even though each problem solved involves a zero-sum game and congestion theory dictates how each miner approaches the task, everyone works in a happy Nash equilibrium.

In the end, game theory is an underestimated, yet essential, element of the Bitcoin network. As each miner plays their role, historical transactions are kept secure and new transactions unanimously approved, which helps maintain Bitcoin’s position as the number one digital currency in the worldC

 

SALT Stabilization: How it Works

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I’ve Been Stabilized. What’s Next?

When your Loan-to-Value ratio (LTV) exceeds 90.91%, we stabilize your loan by converting all of your volatile assets into stablecoin (USDC).

At this point, you will notice that your USDC wallet reflects the total US Dollar value of your combined portfolio. Each collateral wallet balance will show $0. Don’t panic!

How Do I Convert Back to My Original Assets?

To get your original assets back, you will need to manage your LTV and restore the health of your loan to a safe state (83.33% LTV or lower). To do this, follow these steps.

  1. Navigate to the Loan Status page or click “Manage LTV” in the notification module on the dashboard.
Image for post 2. Manage your LTV by either depositing more crypto or making a one-time payment in the Manage LTV Module. Image for post

3. We recommend curing your LTV to a healthy state (<70%), but as long as you have managed it to 83.3% or below, you will be eligible to convert.

4. Navigate back to the Loan Status Page. You will see that your LTV has dropped, but you are still being held in Stabilization Mode.

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5. In the Manage LTV module, you will notice that you are now eligible to convert. Click “Convert Now” to convert back to your original assets or to a mix of any assets we accept as collateral.

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6. The convert tool will default to the percentages of your original collateral mix. You may edit this and convert back to a different collateral mix if you’d like.

7. Click “Next” to review the details of your conversion and then click “Convert Now” to confirm. Once confirmed, you will have successfully reverted back to your asset mix of choice.

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Still have questions about stabilization?

Please call our support team at +1 (720) 575–2272.

How to Grow Your Business Capital Through Cryptocurrency

By Annabelle Pollack

Disclaimer: Buying cryptocurrency is risky. This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute investment or financial advice.

Cryptocurrency is reshaping the finance and business worlds. Not only has it challenged conventional thinking, but it has provided new avenues for entrepreneurs and business owners to start and grow their businesses in these uncertain times. Many of them have turned to crypto as a way to raise initial capital or to fund ongoing operational costs. If you’re seeking creative ways to grow your business capital through cryptocurrency, there are a few ways to go about it — the most important thing when it comes to getting involved with crypto is doing your research to identify the best avenue for achieving your business goals.

Choose the right cryptocurrency for your business

When it comes to determining which cryptocurrency is the ideal fit for your business, you have several options from which to choose. At the moment, there are already more than 1,000 unique cryptocurrencies in which you can transact. But just as there are blue-chip stocks, a guide to cryptocurrencies by FXCM details how some digital currencies are considered the “gold standard” of the industry. At the top is Bitcoin, which is regarded as the first incarnation of cryptocurrency and is projected to have a market capitalization of $1 trillion in the near future. Next is Ethereum, whose $83 billion market capitalization is poised to expand in the coming years due to its growth potential in the online sphere. Then, there is Litecoin, and its surging market cap of over $18 billion. Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin are seen as the strongest investments, with Yahoo! Finance noting how a high market cap is indicative of high investor activity. All three are extremely liquid, too, which means they can be easily sold at the market price. Each cryptocurrency is different and may boast specific features that others do not. Some factors to consider as you’re choosing a cryptoasset for your business are security, privacy, transaction speed, block times, market cap, liquidity, and the blockchain upon which the cryptocurrency is built. Once you identify which factors are most important to you, you can narrow down your options and choose the crypto(s) best suited for your business.

Buy and Trade Crypto

Once you’ve done your research, identified your cryptocurrency of choice, and learned the ins and outs of the industry, you can evaluate whether you’re confident enough in your knowledge to move forward with buying and trading digital currencies. That being said, it’s essential to prioritize safety and security regardless of whether you’re trading frequently or buying for the long term. A good way to do that is to find a reputable online cryptocurrency trading platform that can help you buy and trade crypto, as well as help protect your investments. Some trading platforms even offer crypto CFDs (not available in the United States) that don’t require a special wallet or exchange account, but will ask you to speculate on the direction of their price movements instead. You can also invest in several coins at the same time, as doing so may help you mitigate the risk that comes with putting all your eggs in one basket. This way, you’re more likely to see your business capital increase.

Get a crypto-backed loan

In an instance where you need cash but are unwilling to part with your crypto entirely, consider taking out a crypto-backed business loan. As the name suggests, this type of loan is secured by cryptocurrency, offering a way for you to get cash or stablecoin without having to sell your cryptoassets. The amount of cryptoassets you’ll be required to put up as collateral is contingent on a few factors including your loan amount, loan duration, and Loan-to-Value ratio (LTV). If this option appeals to you, a SALT loan might be just what you’re looking for. SALT accepts a dozen coins as collateral including Bitcoin, Ether, and Litecoin, and you can choose one or more of the offered collateral types to secure your loan. SALT also offers flexible loan terms, allowing you to choose your desired loan-to-value ratio from 30%-70% (amount borrowed divided by the value of your crypto), the duration of your loan (3–12 months), and whether you’d like to receive your loan proceeds in fiat or stablecoin. Interest rates are competitive, too. By taking out a crypto-backed loan, you can secure the funds to start a new business or operate and improve an existing one without selling your crypto.

Accept cryptocurrency payments

Another way that a business can generate further capital is to accept payments via cryptocurrency. For instance, Business2Community claims that businesses can lower the transaction fees involved during payment transactions due to the high number of peer-to-peer processing networks accepting popular coins. Compared to traditional methods like wire transfers and check payments, cryptocurrency can be a lot faster and more efficient. In addition, cryptocurrency transactions can be conducted directly between the business and the customer on the blockchain, which avoids the potential for third-party scams and external payment disputes. By accepting cryptocurrency payments, businesses can simultaneously grow their capital and streamline payment processes.

While there are significant risks that accompany cryptocurrency investments, doing your research and being diligent can help you significantly grow your business capital and fund new developments. Exploring different payment options and looking into specific coins can help you become more knowledgeable when it comes to determining the best way for you to start or operate your business.

 

The Evolution of the Crypto Market and its Role in Asset-Based Lending

Originally published in ABF Journal

Cryptocurrency is a disruptor. Not only has it changed the way we conduct business, but it has changed the way we think. The most obvious manifestation of how cryptocurrency has disrupted our thought patterns is in the way we think about money — about who issues it, how to transact with it, how to put it to work and how to keep it safe. It also has changed the way we think about our government, our right to privacy and our financial freedom. What’s less obvious is how cryptocurrencies are disrupting the way we think about and participate in asset-based lending. The advent of Bitcoin catalyzed the creation of a myriad of cryptocurrencies, many of which became viewed as assets, yet at the time, there was no way for crypto investors to unlock the value of these assets without selling them. This is the problem SALT’s founders set out to solve in 2016 and in doing so successfully, made asset-based lending as we once knew it a thing of the past.

Creating a New Asset Class

As Bitcoin began to experience wider adoption following its release in 2009, it became clear that some investors were purchasing crypto to trade on a daily basis while others were choosing to invest long-term, viewing Bitcoin more as an asset than as a spendable currency. As more investors adopted this long position and began to think of cryptocurrencies as an asset class in their own right, the term “HODL” emerged in 2013 on a bitcoin-talk forum and has since become one of the most commonly used words in the crypto vernacular. This HODL culture has grown significantly over the years and has evolved to where investors are buying, selling and trading these assets not only for themselves but on behalf of others. This activity has taken the form of crypto portfolios and crypto funds, which offer access to this new asset class for individuals and allow them to diversify their portfolios while eliminating some of the overhead of learning how to purchase and safely hold cryptoassets. By providing a way to collateralize cryptoassets to secure a cash or stablecoin loan, SALT provides opportunities for individuals, businesses and capital providers to build and preserve wealth.

How to Lend Cryptoassets

As the first-ever crypto-backed lender, SALT has developed the technology and processes required to successfully lend against cryptoassets, giving borrowers a way to unlock the value of these assets without selling them. Take Bitcoin for example. It’s one of many cryptoassets we accept as collateral on our platform, yet it makes up more than 80% of the collateral securing our loan book.

What makes Bitcoin a strong form of collateral? The answer lies in Bitcoin’s combined characteristics. Like gold, Bitcoin is scarce, fungible, divisible, transferable and durable. It is also extremely liquid given it is traded on global exchanges every day. Additionally, as a decentralized asset, Bitcoin is highly secure. All of these properties make Bitcoin both a viable asset and a highly efficient form of collateral that has piqued the interest of some of the largest financial institutions in the world.

One thing to note is Bitcoin’s volatile nature, which can pose challenges specifically for the ABL market. However, SALT’s risk management technology effectively manages this volatility. Our technology includes real-time loan-to-value (LTV) monitoring, margin call and liquidation triggers, real-time notifications and the safekeeping of assets through institutional grade custody solutions. For example, our loan-to-value (LTV) monitoring system tracks the prices of assets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, providing borrowers with the ability to monitor the health of their loan in real-time. If, during periods of heightened volatility, a borrower’s collateral declines in value and their LTV breaches our margin call threshold, we protect the borrower by issuing a margin call that prompts them to take action to restore the health of their loan. Actions borrowers may take include paying down principal or depositing additional collateral to recalibrate their LTV to an appropriate level (70%). If no action is taken and asset prices continue to decline, SALT has the ability and the right to liquidate collateral assets to preserve lender capital. The overcollateralized nature of our loans combined with our risk management technology and ability to liquidate assets enables us to protect the lender, and as a result, we’ve experienced zero losses of principal to date.

Choosing a Crypto-Backed Lender

SALT’s business model is attractive to crypto investors (e.g. traders and asset managers) and businesses (e.g. mining operations and exchanges) for a few reasons. First, we provide access to liquidity, offering loans ranging from $5,000 to the millions. Typical use cases include businesses seeking working capital to fund operational costs and large capital expenditures, or investors seeking leverage, diversification or risk management. Second, since our model is asset-based and requires overcollateralization, we do not rely on a borrower’s credit profile and can fund loans within 24 to 48 hours, assuming the borrower meets our strict AML/KYC requirements. Third, customers know their assets are safely and securely held with institutional-grade custody providers for the duration of their loan. Fourth, our loan process is straightforward and customizable. We allow borrowers to lend against a single cryptoasset or a portfolio of cryptoassets and offer flexible loan terms, including durations ranging from three to 12 months, LTVs up to 60% for individual loans or up to 70% for business loans, and competitive interest rates ranging from 5% to 12% depending on the borrower’s jurisdiction, loan amount and LTV. While we are no longer the only crypto-backed lender in the world, we are one of the few that incorporate a human element into our business model. Unlike completely automated lenders, SALT offers both phone and online support, and assigns each customer a loan support specialist at the time of loan origination. These human touches positively impact a borrower’s experience with the platform; they know that by choosing SALT, they will always have the option to speak with someone about their financial needs.

The Evolution of the Crypto Market and Tokenization

Since SALT’s founding in 2016, the crypto lending market has grown exponentially. According to a report from Credmark, the crypto lending market reached $8 billion in total lifetime loan originations as of Q4/19 and has since surpassed $10 billion following Q1/20. These numbers not only indicate the growing demand for liquidity among crypto holders but also the growing interest among capital providers to get involved in the crypto market. For example, we’ve witnessed an influx of both crypto native (BitGo Prime and Genesis Capital) and traditional financial institutions (Silvergate) that provide leverage and liquidity vehicles at the institutional level.

Another thing to consider regarding the evolution of the crypto market is that as the world becomes tokenized, the very definition of the term “crypto market” is changing. With the emergence of companies like Paxos and Harbor, we’re beginning to see increased tokenization of real-world assets like gold and real estate. At SALT we already accept Pax Gold (a gold-backed cryptoasset) as collateral on our platform and our vision for the future goes well beyond our current collateral scope.

The Role of Alternative Investments

As crypto becomes more widely accepted, a growing number of people are assessing their own risk profiles and determining the best way for them to participate in the crypto market. For those with lower risk profiles, the market has evolved in recent years to offer individuals or businesses indirect exposure to this new asset class. As previously mentioned, crypto portfolios and crypto funds are part of this evolution along with alternative investment companies like Cadence (portfolio company of Coinbase Ventures). Cadence is a securitization platform for private credit that grants access to exclusive high yield, short term investments traditionally reserved for institutions. In February 2020, we partnered with Cadence to offer prospective investors the opportunity to gain exposure to cash flows associated with a portfolio of underlying loans collateralized by cryptoassets. The first note of $500,000 was oversubscribed in five days and we have since worked with Cadence to issue $2.9 million in notes to investors to date. As more companies like Cadence provide structure, liquidity and indirect exposure to alternative asset classes like crypto, we expect to see even greater demand from investors seeking attractive risk adjusted returns.

Opportunities for Institutional Investors

There’s no doubt cryptocurrency has changed the way we think about asset-based lending. It has formed a new asset class and also has catalyzed the trend of broader tokenization — a trend that will inevitably expand the universe of collateral options and have a meaningful impact on the ABL industry. If you’re a decision maker at an institution and are interested in learning more, email [email protected] to discuss opportunities to build and preserve wealth in this rapidly evolving industry.

The Role of Federal Reserve: What It Can and Can’t Do

From business closures to event cancellations and stay-at-home orders, the coronavirus pandemic has had its way with the United States. Millions are unemployed, and millions of small businesses struggle to stay afloat in the punishing economic downturn.

The Federal Reserve, or “the Fed,” has been making headlines as it tries to limit the pandemic’s economic damage, including by lending $2.3 trillion that the government called for in its relief package, dubbed the CARES Act. This action has left many Americans wondering where the Fed got so much money, what the Federal Reserve can and can’t do, and what power the Fed has over our nation’s economy.

What Is the Federal Reserve, anyway?

It’s essential to define what the Fed is to understand its role in our economy. The Federal Reserve is America’s central banking system. Before the Federal Reserve, people panicked their bank would fail when a neighboring one closed its doors. Hordes of customers would run to withdraw their money, ultimately causing those banks to go belly up, too.

After a particularly terrible panic in 1907, Congress stepped in to create the Federal Reserve in 1913 through the Federal Reserve Act. The initial goal was to avoid these bank runs and provide banks with emergency funding. But today, the Federal Reserve System takes other measures to ensure the health and stability of the economy and a secure banking system.

How does the federal reserve work?

The Federal Reserve Act created a decentralized bank that functions without government financing or approval but still protects both public and private interests as a mixed organization.

It has three key entities:

1. Board of Governors

At the heart of the Fed is the Board of Governors, made up of seven officials appointed by the government and confirmed by the Senate. It acts as an independent federal agency, and its job is to direct the monetary policy — the money supply and interest rates. Its goal is to make sure we maintain a stable economy.

2. Reserve Banks

There are 12 Federal Reserve Banks spread throughout the U.S., each one having nine directors. Six directors are elected by commercial banks and three by the Board of Governors, protecting interests from both parties.

Reserve Banks are structured similarly to private corporations. They oversee member banks and carry out the monetary policy in their region. Reserve Banks act independently, but the Board of Governors supervises their actions.

These banks also have other vital roles like distributing currency to other banks, placing money into circulation, acting as a bank and fiscal agent for the U.S. government, and providing critical information about their local, national, and international economies to the Federal Open Market Committee.

3. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC):

The FOMC is a committee comprising the Board of Governors, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York President, and four members from the other 11 Reserve Banks, who serve for one-year terms.

The FOMC’s primary role is to determine whether the Federal Reserve should buy or sell government bonds, known as Open Market Operations (OMO), to maintain the economy’s stability. It also establishes a target federal funds rate, which is the interest rate banks charge one another for overnight loans.

Where does the Federal Reserve fit into the government?

The role of the Federal Reserve within the government can seem confusing since it has public and private aspects. The Fed is accountable both to Congress and the public and maintains transparency in all its operations.

Ultimately, the Fed is a product of the government because it was created by an act of Congress, which still oversees the whole system and can amend the Federal Reserve Act at any time.

But Congress created the Fed to work autonomously and to be shielded from political pressures by using a privatized structure for the Reserve Banks. It also keeps a hands-off approach by letting the three entities carry out their core responsibilities independently of the federal government.

Can anyone override Federal Reserve decisions?

There isn’t a formal legal power that can supersede the Fed’s monetary policy decisions. Still, the Federal Reserve Act allows the Treasury to “supervise and control” the Fed where jurisdictions overlap.

But the Treasury hasn’t needed to do this because a system of checks and balances keeps the Fed’s operations transparent and answerable to the public and Congress. Just because the Fed can influence the economy, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to follow the rules.

Independent public accounting firms audit Reserve Banks annually. The Board of Governors also gets audited by its Office of Inspector General and an outside auditor. The Board of Governors annually publishes the results on its website.

The House of Representatives and the Senate hold the Fed accountable by requiring it to report twice a year on its monetary policy and economic decisions. Fed officials also deliver speeches throughout the year to the public so that everyone understands the reasoning for its decisions and actions.

Does the Federal Reserve print money?

If you’re a Bitcoiner, or you spend a decent amount of time on Twitter, you’ve most likely seen the “money printer go brrrr” meme that went viral in March of this year. It cropped up in response to the Fed’s announcement on March 12, 2020, that it would offer $1.5 trillion in short-term loans to banks to help combat “unusual disruptions” in financial markets as a result of the coronavirus. The meme, while more of a social commentary than an accurate depiction of the Fed’s responsibilities, expresses frustration regarding the government’s role in inflation and the devaluation of the US Dollar — as evidenced by the meme’s numerous likes and shares, many Americans share this same sense of frustration. While the meme is accurate in many ways, it unintentionally brings to light the common misconception that the Fed prints money. In reality, printing money is the responsibility of the U.S. Treasury. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing prints paper currency, while the U.S. Mint makes coins. The Treasury oversees both offices.

While it doesn’t print money in the literal sense, the Fed does buy cash as needed from the Bureau at cost to put into circulation, but the monetary base in circulation and at central banks typically stays the same.

The Fed manages the money supply by creating and destroying money. It swaps old, ragged bills for fresh ones or adds and deducts from digital balances. But it also manipulates the amount of money in circulation. The FOMC decides on whether to add or remove cash from the economy by buying or selling government bonds and other securities. This influences the amount banks will lend out and keep on deposit, which then affects interest rates.

That being said, where the misconception holds some truth is in the way the Fed puts more money into circulation; the Fed can’t print money, but it does have the power to essentially create money out of thin air. As a banker’s bank, it does so by making “large asset purchases on the open market and adding newly created electronic dollars to the reserves of banks.” In exchange, the Fed receives large amounts of bonds including US Treasury securities, mortgage‐​backed securities, corporate debt and other assets. Rather than paying for these bonds in cash or gold bars, the Fed instead credits the account of the bank selling the bonds so that digital money moves from one place into the other.

The process is like taking out a personal loan of $10,000 at the bank. The bank doesn’t give you a suitcase full of cash. What you get is a credit that shows up as some numbers on a screen, reflecting your new account balance.

Because the Fed operates digitally, it can create money with a few keystrokes and use it to purchase assets or lend money. On a televised interview with “60 Minutes,” Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said, “To lend to a bank, we simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account they have with the Fed. So it’s much more akin, although not exactly the same . . . to printing money, than it is to borrowing.”

The Fed did this when it promised to lend Americans $2.3 trillion, as called for in the CARES Act for economic relief and stability across the nation for those who were struggling because of the pandemic.

What can the Federal Reserve do or not do?

If the Fed can make money but not print it, what other actions is it able to take or is prohibited from taking?

What can the Federal Reserve do?

The Fed is an emergency lender for banks in financial distress, so it can lend money to failing banks to keep them afloat. But the Fed’s core responsibility is to manage the money supply, which has far-reaching effects on regulating the financial market.

It’s permitted to use four main tricks to change the amount of money in the economy:

1. Changing the reserve requirement

The Fed dictates what percent of deposits banks have to keep on hold. It usually ranges from zero to 10 percent and is currently set at zero because of COVID-19. The more banks have to keep on reserve, the less there is to go out into the market.

2. Changing interest rates on reserves

The Fed pays commercial banks interest rates on their required and excess reserves, a rule that went into effect in 2008. When the Federal Reserve wants to speed up the economy, it lowers the interest rate so that banks have less of an incentive to hold on to money.

3. Changing the discount rate

The Fed encourages and discourages banks from borrowing money from it by raising or lowering its lending interest rates. When the discount rate is low, banks borrow more to lend to each other and the public.

4. Conducting open market operations

The FOMC decides how many bonds to buy or sell. When it wants more money in the market, it buys these bonds from banks to put more money into their account. When it wants to slow down the economy, it sells the bonds to take away bank money.

This is the Fed’s most common tactic to influence the economy. For example, from 2008 to 2009, it bought over a trillion dollars of government bonds to inject money into the stumbling financial market. This lowered interest rates on short-term loans to almost zero percent.

But the recession went too deep. So, the Fed did something it hadn’t done before. It started buying long-term assets from banks in a process that’s known as quantitative easing (QE), boosting the money supply further and stimulating lending and investment.

What can’t the Federal Reserve do?

The Fed can only indirectly influence the nation’s economy. This means it does not have the power to take any of the following actions:

Set the federal funds rate

The federal funds rate is the amount of interest banks charge to lend their excess cash reserves overnight to each other. Banks frequently do this to meet the Fed’s reserve requirement.

While the Fed can’t set this number directly, the FOMC sets a target federal funds rate depending on what direction it wants the economy to go. Then, it works within what it’s permitted to do to influence banks and reach the benchmark rate.

Set the prime rate

Banks use the prime interest rate for commercial and consumer borrowing for things like credit cards and personal, car, and home equity loans. Banks often set the prime rate based on the Fed’s target federal funds rate.

Hike up mortgage and student loan rates

Mortgages and student loans are long-term assets whose rates are determined more by market-driven factors than FOMC decisions.

That said, the Fed purchased mortgage-backed securities to lower long-term rates on mortgages in 2008 so that banks wouldn’t need to borrow from each other to meet the reserve requirement. But these actions still affect federal funds rates significantly more than mortgage and student loan interest rates.

Use taxpayer money to fund its operations

The Fed doesn’t get any funding from taxpayers because its money comes from interest accruals on government securities and treasuries purchased through its OMO. There are other sources, too, such as foreign currency investments. After paying its expenses, the Fed turns any extra money over to the U.S. Treasury because it’s not operated for profit.

What’s the potential impact of the Federal Reserve’s powers on the economy?

Although the Fed can only work behind the scenes to stabilize the economy, it exerts a massive influence on its operations.

For example, the Fed can speed up or ease the economy by manipulating the money supply to increase or decrease consumer spending. It starts by influencing bank lending rates through selling and buying government bonds.

When banks have more excess reserves, there’s more to lend to the public, so interest rates are lower. Lower interest rates encourage people to borrow money, which is then spent on goods and services. More consumer spending generally means a better economy, while “even a small downturn in consumer spending damages the economy” and can even lead to a recession. Below is how the Fed’s actions impact specific aspects of the economy.

Interest rates

The Fed uses a trickle-down effect to influence interest rates. Remember, they can’t set federal funds or prime interest rates, but they can bend them to their will through OMO.

The Fed buying back government bonds from banks leaves more money for banks to play with while selling them means banks have to be more cautious about lending out their reserves. The economics of supply and demand shows excess cash in the market will drive down the interest rates banks charge to each other and the public, while a lack of money has the opposite effect.

The Fed also raises or lowers the discount rate and reserve requirements to change the interest rates commercial banks ultimately offer customers.

Inflation and deflation

When federal funds rates drop because of the Fed’s actions, prime rates usually drop with them. Consumers then borrow money for business and personal purposes to take advantage of lower interest rates. With greater amounts of money in their pockets, people spend more on goods and services, creating a spike in demand.

The larger demand pushes wages and costs higher to meet the production necessary to keep up with supply, causing a ripple effect. Prices increase across sectors, leading to reduced purchasing power. This is inflation and explains why a dollar today is worth less than a dollar last year.

Some annual inflation is good. It’s a sign the economy is doing well because consumers are spending. The Fed has a target core inflation rate of two percent. When inflation goes above or below the benchmark amount, the Fed steps in and works within its limits to move the needle toward inflation or deflation.

International relations

Although directing the U.S. monetary policy for the nation’s economic benefit is a crucial part of the Fed’s job, it also has foreign concerns.

Financial crises within our borders often have a global impact. The 2008 recession strained international markets because many countries have at least some assets and liabilities dominated by the dollar, causing them to sometimes borrow and lend in dollars.

To address the dollar scarcity, the Fed started swapping currencies with foreign economies in dire need of U.S. currency — over 583 billion dollars’ worth — at a predictable and fixed rate to keep struggling foreign banks afloat and prevent their economies from plummeting.

Sometimes the Fed also works with foreign central banks to set new banking regulations, as it did after the Great Recession.

Private bonds

As the pandemic continues to threaten the nation’s physical and financial health, the Fed is getting creative with its strategies, as it did in 2008 when it began buying long-term assets from banks.

Historically, the Fed has only purchased government securities. This time it’s buying 250 billion dollars’ worth of corporate bonds through exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to keep business up and running and workers employed. While this is good news in the short term, the long-term effects of this unprecedented move on the economy are uncertain.

The Federal Reserve: A system of the People, by the People, and for the People?

The Federal Reserve’s power and influence over our economy leaves many asking if it’s an unconstitutional entity. Though Congress takes a laissez-faire approach to the Federal Reserve, the system teeters between public and private domains.

The effect of its present monetary policy decisions on the future economy could determine which direction future reform sways. It could also decide if the century-old institution modernizes into a structure more accurately reflecting the concerns and voice of the people, and one maintaining greater transparency while ensuring the long-term economic stability of the nation.