By NICKOLAS ZAKHARIA, LUCY MAJSTOROVIC and JANE NATASHA
Not all cryptocurrency enthusiasts fit in with the conventional image of the young, bullish techie casually invested in Bitcoin.
Martial arts instructor Ivan Rakitic, 48, has joined a handful of Gen X investors snapping up digital currencies such as Bitcoin to fund their retirements.
Mr Rakitic has been teaching martial arts for 30 years and is a black belt in multiple martial arts styles.
He says cryptocurrencies are attracting middle-aged investors like himself because they’re a way to break out of the monotonous 9 to 5, and take control of their retirement without the interference of banks.
“I think people around my age are looking where they can put their money into something that can be secure and where the banks aren’t involved,” he says.
“I just think [banks] have been ripping us off for a millennium, and if someone else and I can trade between ourselves, all the more power to us and less to them.”
The cryptocurrency market is notoriously millennial-dominated with almost 60 per cent of Bitcoin investors under 35, a CoinDesk report found.
Mr Rakitic knows he won’t be able to teach forever and is using cryptocurrency to prepare for the future with a simple investing strategy.
“My whole idea is to buy whatever amount it is and just leave it there … in time, it will hopefully go up.”
Lalita Ponnuthurai, 24, studies commerce and engineering while working part-time at a data analytics consultancy, and actively managing a portfolio of digital currencies all at once.
Ms Ponnuthurai is frustrated by the glaring gender imbalance in cryptocurrency investing.
“It’s a real turn off that you go to meetups … it’s probably 80 to 90 per cent guys and it’s just not a very welcoming environment,” she says.
Ms Ponnuthurai is one of very few female faces in the cryptocurrency market – only 5-7 per cent of cryptocurrency investors are women, Forbes reported in late 2017.
She says she this gender disparity may have stemmed from the under-representation of women in the tech industry.
“It’s a lot easier to invest now because we’ve got more user-friendly exchanges coming out, but I can imagine back in 2008 you probably would have needed to have a decent amount of computer science knowledge to even buy some,” she says.
Ms Ponnuthurai started exploring the world of crypto after a friend bought into Ethereum, a popular digital currency, when it was priced at $12. Now it sits at almost $900.
Recently she spent less time trading and more time learning how to program smart contracts and researching blockchain technology.
“I’d definitely want to find a long-term job in it,” she said.
Joel, who did not want his surname used, has been able to retire as a multi-millionaire at 27 largely because of his cryptocurrency investments.
After graduating with an engineering degree from Melbourne University, Joel was unable to find a job in his field and was left working two part-time jobs to make ends meet. He made his first investment just over a year ago.
“I would not say it’s by chance as I have followed the cryptocurrency scene very meticulously since I first read about it,” he said.
“Bottom line, it wasn’t pure luck.”
Sceptical investors such as Warren Buffett and JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon have dismissed Bitcoin as a fad, Fortune reported in January.
However, Joel believes digital currencies and the blockchain technology behind them will only grow more with time.
“Even when cars were first invented, people didn’t truly believe [they] would replace horses as the norm,” he said.
“And yet look where we are … [they’ve] proven to be a core part of modern society.”
He now lives a quiet life, enjoying his time with family and friends.
“Retirement life at 27 years old. What can I say?”