Trying to Find My Mother’s XRP Did Not Go Well
Eight years ago, I bought XRP. I’d been living in China for a while. When you live abroad, especially in China, it can be hard to move money back and forth to the states. So, lamenting about it in a bar one night, some guys told me about Bitcoin. They showed me their wallets and told me I should buy some to transfer money back home. The next day I looked it up, saw that one Bitcoin was $5, and thought: “what the fuck is this? Hell no.”
I forgot about it. Then, in 2013 Bitcoin started getting into the news. The price was rising, and I remembered those guys in the bar. I remembered seeing Bitcoin at $5 and was horrified to realize the dumb mistake I’d made. Oh well. A family friend told me about this new cryptocurrency called XRP. I decided to throw some money at it. At the time, I told my mother it might be worth something someday, using Bitcoin as an example. My mother said, “fuck it” and gave me a bit of her money to put in. Then, we forgot about it for five years.
As 2017 rolled into 2018, that little bit of money had turned into a lot-a-bit of money. I was working in the crypto space at the time and had managed to relocate my private key. I had my crypto safe and sound. My mother, on the other hand, was semi-fucked. She’d forgotten her passwords, lost her private key, and had no idea how to get it back. She spent weeks and weeks trying every password she could think of, and finally, after a month, she cracked it. She had access to her XRP. I got her to print out her private key and keep it safe, along with all of her account info. In 2017, like now, it felt like the crypto boom would last forever. It didn’t. We didn’t sell. But at least her XRP was safe.
Last week, I contacted my mom to let her know that XRP was up again, and she might want to consider selling. Also, I told her about the XRP fork and needed to set up her wallet to receive FLARE Network’s Spark Tokens. (Yes, I’m a good son). We scheduled a time to Zoom since I now live in Korea. I told her to get her account info together so I’d be able to hop on, add the wallet, and hop off. And, if she wanted to sell, I told her I could do that too.
So, we hop on, and, of course, she’s not sure where she kept her paperwork. We catch up while she searches. “Is this it?” she asked, finding her account number. No, I told her I needed her password. No luck. However, she did find her private key. Ta-da! I logged onto my account and added her wallet to mine. This was when she started to get a little uncomfortable.
“So, you just have my money now?”
“Well, I’m your son, so it’s okay.”
“But what if you weren’t my son. If you had this little number thingy, you’d be able to just take my money like that?”
I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess so.”
And she was right to be concerned. Aside from my mother’s constant fear over losing that slip of paper, if someone were to find her private key, they’d have her money, no customer service, no 1–800-HELP! number to call. It’d be gone. She could get past the volatility and the weird hoops she had to jump through to access her crypto, but the idea that I could snap it into my wallet just like that bothered her.
I’ve gotten used to it, I realized. I am pretty careful with my account info. I’m educated on different types of wallets and making sure to use an authenticator for exchanges. Still, I make mistakes. Recently SONM migrated to a new address, and the MASQ tokens I got from holding Substratum once upon a time went buh-bye when I tried to send them to an exchange without realizing they’d migrated as well. I’m involved in the space, but I’m not constantly surveilling it for things that might impact my holdings.
My mother struggled with XRP — a well-established cryptocurrency with lots of help out there for navigating it. Still, how would she, your average person, average investor, be able to know that she needs to migrate her currency to a new address or set up a wallet to accept a fork. These things seem normal to people in the crypto-space who are all trading back and forth with each other, but anyone who thinks the average investor will feel comfortable with all of this nonsense is barking mad.
I’ve spoken to my mother a few times since then, and with things like DOGECOIN skyrocketing or plummeting based on the whims of Elon Musk, energy consumption concerns, and the fact that the loudest people in the crypto-space tend to be overly aggressive near-delusional douchebags, she’s thinking about selling and giving the money to her broker — who she can call, and talk to, who remembers her passwords and account information, and who can help her to understand when something needs to be changed (instead of her not-a-fucking-investment-advisor son).
All of this makes it harder and harder for me to sit and try to tell her it all will work out in the end. “It’s growing pains, people don’t understand, but they will.” I don’t even believe that. I believe there is a lot of potential in cryptocurrency, but the ceiling will be there as long as these hurdles exist.
However, my mother, always the optimist, did point out, “At least it’ll be a lot less paperwork for you if I die."