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How Cryptocurrency Actually Brings in Money for People


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    You saw the many cryptocurrency-related Super Bowl ads, and maybe you found them weird, or deeply dystopian, or just disturbingly familiar. Nevertheless, perhaps you believe the blockchain has financial rewards left to reap and want to jump in, or you’ve already got some of your money tied up in cryptocurrencies via companies like Coinbase and FTX that were advertising during the big game.

    What now? Keeping track of the ups and downs of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other crypto coins and actively trading on those fluctuations can be a full-time job. Day-trading, basically. And jumping into NFTs, the digital baubles you can mint, buy, or sell, is still daunting for many.

    For many crypto traders who are in it for the medium to long haul, there are some other ways to make money on cryptocurrency that’s just sitting in your crypto wallet: staking and yield farming on DeFi networks. “DeFi” is just a catchall term for “decentralized finance”—pretty much all the services and tools built on blockchain for currencies and smart contracts.

    At their most basic, staking cryptocurrency and yield farming are pretty much the same thing: They involve investing money into a crypto coin (or more than one at a time) and collecting interest and fees from blockchain transactions.

    Staking vs. Yield Farming

    Staking is simple. It usually involves holding cryptocurrency in an account and letting it collect interest and fees as those funds are committed to blockchain validators. When blockchain validators facilitate transactions, the fees generated go, in part, to stakeholders.

    This type of hold-for-interest has become so popular that mainstream crypto dealers like Coinbase offer it. Some tokens, such as the very stable USDC (pegged to the US dollar), offer about .15 percent annual interest rates (not too different from putting your money in a bank in a low-interest checking account), while other digital currencies might earn you 5 or 6 percent a year. Some services require staking to lock up funds for a certain period of time (meaning you can’t deposit and withdraw whenever you want) and may require a minimum amount to draw interest.

    Yield farming is a little more complicated, but not that different. Yield farmers add funds to liquidity pools, often by pairing more than one type of token at a time. For instance, a liquidity pool that pairs the Raydium token with USDC might create a combined token that can yield a 54 percent APR (annual percentage rate). That seems absurdly high, and it gets stranger: Some newer, extremely volatile tokens might be part of yield farms that offer hundreds of percent APR and 10,000 to 20,000 APY (APY is like APR but takes into account compounding).

    The rewards, which add up 24/7, are usually paid out as crypto tokens that can be harvested. Those harvested coins can be invested back into the liquidity pool and added to the yield farm for bigger and faster rewards, or can be withdrawn and converted to cash.

    If it sounds too good to be true, you’re not wrong. Yield farming is riskier than staking. The tokens that are offering such high interest rates and fee yields are also the ones most likely to take a huge slide if the underlying token suddenly loses a lot of value. There’s a term for that: “impermanent loss.” What you put into a yield farm might end up being worth less when you withdraw based on the market value of the token, even if you made a bundle on fees.

    Some DeFi services offer leveraged investing, which is even riskier. By adding a 2X, 3X or higher multiplier to your yield farming investment, you’re basically borrowing one type of token to pair with another and paying a collateral you hope will be recovered by a high APY. Bet wrong, though, and the entire holding can be liquidated, resulting in only a percentage back to you of what you originally invested.

    Those new to yield farming should avoid low-liquidity pools. This is measured in the DeFi world as “TVL,” or total value locked, which tells you how much total money is invested in a particular liquidity pool, currencies, or exchanges.

    And, as with any type of digital network, DeFi services are vulnerable to hacking, bad programming, and other glitches and problems beyond your control. Getting good, consistent yields may require more work than you’re willing to do for “passive” income; watching the value of tokens and jumping from one type of yield farm to another can get good results, but it’s not unlike trying to time the stock market. It can be very risky and could require more luck than skill.

    Where to Start

    If you want to start staking or yield farming, the place to begin is by seeing if a crypto exchange you’re already using offers these options. Binance, FTX, Coinbase, TradeStation, Kraken, and other financial services that do crypto may offer staking of currencies, including Ethereum, Tezos, Polkadot, and Solana.

    On the yield farming side, PancakeSwap, Curve Finance, Uniswap, SushiSwap, and Raydium are just a few services offering the ability to swap tokens, add to liquidity pools, and invest in yield farms. They are typically accessed via crypto wallets that connect to the service and allow you to add and withdraw funds.

    Gains on yield farms can be wildly inconsistent, and the rise of new tokens with super-high APY rates can often tempt new yield farmers into pools that quickly pump and dump. But many traders who are holding crypto funds long-term are finding staking and yield farms with more stable coins to be another tool in the toolbox for getting a return on their holdings.


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