Ask most people to imagine a typical cryptocurrency enthusiast and they’ll probably picture a young man. And by and large, they’d be right. Despite female engagement being at an all-time high, 90% of all Bitcoin is held by men. There’s also research showing that 94% of crypto buyers are Gen Zs and Millennials. In truth, however, the picture is far more complex than that.
That same piece of research, for example, shows that Gen X crypto buyers have invested far more aggressively than their younger counterparts. Another survey, meanwhile, suggests that nearly half of all Baby Boomers and Gen Xers own cryptocurrency. One Australian exchange also saw 15% upticks in people older than 60 and 65 buying Bitcoin in 2021. Some investors have even gone so far as to label Bitcoin – the oldest and most popular of the available cryptocurrencies – “Boomer Coin”. While that’s partly down to the currency’s age, it’s also because of a perception that it doesn’t have the same level of “cool” as other, younger cryptocurrencies.
One thing that is clear, however, is that cryptocurrencies are a lot more accessible than they once were, even more so with FinTech platforms such as upnup that make cryptocurrency accessible to anyone who swipes a bank card to make a purchase. With that, we could see a generational shift that results in Boomers and Gen Xers embracing cryptocurrencies in much larger numbers.
Digging into investment patterns
Before trying to establish exactly what that might look like, it’s worth taking a deeper dive into existing investment patterns.
Take the stat showing that Gen X crypto buyers invest more than Gen Z and Millennial investors, for instance. The study it comes from found that Gen X investors bought an average of US$9 611 crypto in 2021, while Millennials bought US$8 596 and Gen Zers bought US$6 120. In some respects, that’s not overly surprising. Purely by dint of being older, Gen X investors are likely to be further along in their careers and have more disposable income to invest in cryptocurrencies.
It does, however, run counter to some of the narratives around younger people investing in cryptocurrencies. With traditional investment vehicles failing to provide the same returns to younger people as they previously did to older investors, the theory goes, they’ve been far more willing to pursue alternative investments. The amounts spent by Gen X investors show that they clearly have an appetite for risk (and reward) that matches and even exceeds those of younger investors.
It’s also worth noting that, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boomer and Gen X investors increased their Bitcoin holdings nine-fold.
An easier buy
There are a number of reasons for this increased crypto investment activity among older people. One factor may be that, over the years, cryptocurrencies have simply gained more mainstream acceptance. As a result, they’ve become an acceptable part of any properly diversified portfolio.
That sense of acceptability has only been reinforced as regulators have come to grips with cryptocurrencies. While early crypto-utopians hoped that it would be forever unregulated, mass adoption was never likely if that were the case. Most people want to know that they have some form of protection before they leap into an investment.
The entrance of regulators has helped businesses in the cryptocurrency space too. One of the most visible examples of this is the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) urging banks not to close the accounts of cryptocurrency exchanges.
Perhaps the biggest change, however, is that cryptocurrencies have become more accessible. In the early 2010s, buying Bitcoin (and doing anything with it once you’d done so) was fairly complex. Today, it’s something that can be done in a matter of seconds using an app.
This improved accessibility is one of the reasons we were able to launch upnup. It, in turn, is making it even easier for people to buy cryptocurrency – either by “rounding up” their spending on things like groceries and fuel or by transferring a set amount from their bank accounts every month. It’s an approach that requires no more technical know-how than any other app and one which, we hope, will make cryptocurrency ownership and investment far more widespread across all sectors of South African society.
The mainstreaming of crypto
It may take some time (if it happens at all) before rates of cryptocurrency ownership among Gen Xers and Boomers catch up to Gen Zs and Millennials. What should be clear, however, is that things are changing rapidly and that ownership of cryptocurrencies is becoming more mainstream across all age groups. And that’s something that anyone who truly believes in the transformative power of cryptocurrencies should welcome.
By Tony Mallam, Managing Director, upnup